Minnesota’s next two year budget is taking shape as the Republican-led Senate and DFL-led House finalize their respective budget proposals. Senate Finance Chair Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, and House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler join Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to provide details on their budgetary priorities.
The Minnesota Supreme Court recently overturned a sexual assault conviction because the victim was voluntarily intoxicated, thereby failing to meet the threshold for mental incapacitation under state law. Lawmakers are now considering closing this loophole, and the Senate Judiciary Committee heard compelling testimony this week.
Finally, Senate photographers A.J. Olmscheid and Catherine J. Davis provide some recent images captured during this historic legislative session.
A provision that would close the loophole that deters rape victims from obtaining justice if they were raped while intoxicated came before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday evening, April 7. The committee heard emotional testimony from victims whose cases were not prosecuted because the women had voluntarily consumed alcohol prior to being assaulted.
A number of advocates testified in favor of reforms stemming from the work of the Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform Working Group. The actions of the committee are the result of a recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision that overturned a sexual assault conviction because the victim was voluntarily intoxicated, thereby failing to meet the threshold for mental incapacitation under state law.
Some or all of the reforms will likely be included in the Judiciary omnibus budget and policy bill.
Measures to close loopholes and strengthen sexual assault laws were presented to the press by a bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers Wednesday, April 7. The provisions in HF 707 / SF 1683 result from the work of the Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform Working Group created by the legislature in 2019. A recent ruling by the Minnesota Supreme Court which overturned a sexual assault conviction because the victim was voluntarily intoxicated has sparked lawmakers to push for quick action to modify the law.
In addition to addressing definitions for mental incapacitation and intoxication, the legislation would also offer protections to the youngest teenagers, prohibit educators from engaging in sexual conduct with children and create a new sexual extortion crime.
According to the DFL lead of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, this bill is the number one priority of the bipartisan, bicameral caucus. “We believe that now is the time and the opportunity to address these issues,” he said.
The House Public Safety and Judiciary Committees have approved the legislation. The Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee will consider the “mental incapacitation” language for possible inclusion in the omnibus budget and policy bill at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 7.
Details of the Senate’s $19.8 billion omnibus E-12 education funding proposal came before the Senate Education Committee Tuesday, April 6, as lawmakers enter the final stretch of the legislative session. Education Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said the mission of the bill, SF 960, is simple and clear – prioritizing getting kids back in school through efforts that are student-focused, innovative, mandate-free, parent-involved, literacy driven and efficient.
Education advocates provided both positive and negative assessments of the proposal. Heather Mueller, Commissioner of the Department of Education, praised the bill’s effort to increase teachers of color, provide more rigorous coursework and prevent the shaming of students with lunch accounts in arrears. She voiced concerns with the overall size of the funding package, including the lack of resources for pre-kindergarten programs, student support personnel and ethnic studies. Other testifiers raised concerns with provisions to ban transgender students from participating in sports aligning with their gender identity and to close the Perpich Center for the Arts.
The Education Committee meets again at 3:00 p.m. Wednesday, April 7, to vote on the bill.
Introducing competition to the state’s process for procuring prescription drug plans for state employees is the intent of a measure introduced by a bipartisan pair of lawmakers Friday, March 26. Authored by Senator Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, and Representative Michael Howard, DFL- Richfield, the bill would allow the state to share bid information submitted by Pharmacy Benefit Managers (PBMs) to find the lowest cost for a prescription drug plan, thereby providing cost savings to Minnesota taxpayers.
According to Benson, SF 2178 / HF 2327, is modeled on a 2016 New Jersey law, which saved that state billions of dollars in prescription drug costs. Cautioning that Minnesota’s savings will not be as significant because Minnesota is a smaller state with fewer state employees, she said, “We think that both our state employees and the taxpayers of Minnesota are going to benefit from this innovative idea.”