Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare marked its 120 anniversary with a celebration day at the State Capitol on Tuesday, April 25. In 1897, the Minnesota Legislature helped establish the nation's first hospital specializing in care for children facing complex medical conditions.
According to Dennis Jolley, Vice President of Institutional Advancement, each year Gillette services over 25,000 patients, mainly children who face complex, rare or traumatic neurological or muscular skeletal conditions. Jolley said, "It was very forward thinking in 1897 to say, 'we can help these children and include them in public life and community.'"
Today, Jolley emphasized, Gillette is independent of the state, but benefits from legislative funding of the Medical Assistance Program. "A significant number of our children qualify for Medical Assistance because of their disability," he explained, adding that it benefits not only Gillette, but all children's hospitals.
Bill Bans Support of Israeli Boycotts
by Steve Senyk
A Palestinian-led movement, known as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), that encourages the boycott and sanction of business dealings with Israel and Israeli companies garnered legislative attention Monday, April 24. The Minnesota Senate debated H.F. 400, sponsored by Senator Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, which precludes the Legislature and state agencies from contracting with a vendor who discriminates against Israel or Israeli businesses.
In urging support of his proposal, Limmer said the Senate would be moving in the right direction, "to stand firmly, united, against the center of discrimination that's been motivated by an international, global movement, and it's beginning to show its face in the United States."
During the debate, members spoke in support of HF 400 while expressing concerns over Israel's settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Senator John Marty, speaking in opposition of the measure, urged caution in supporting HF 400. "How are you supposed to protest, if not by boycotting or divesting?" he asked the Senate.
The bill passed the Senate on a 57-8 vote and is returned to the House, where it passed earlier.
Prohibiting Wage Theft, Minnesota Senate Building Awarded
Produced and Moderated by Shannon Loehrke
According to state officials, over 39,000 Minnesotans experienced wage theft, totaling $11.9 million dollars in lost wages. On Tuesday, April 18, the Senate Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth held an informational hearing on a bill that would prohibit the practice. The bill's author, Senator Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, joins Capitol Report Moderator Shannon Loehrke to discuss his proposal.
Also on the program, the Minnesota Senate Building was awarded the Design Build Institute of America's Upper Midwest Region, 2017 Project of the Year Award. Department of Administration Commissioner Matt Massman and Greg Huber of Mortenson Construction talk about the significance of the award.
Finally, housed within the new Senate Building is an historic George Steck baby grand piano. Shannon looks at the significance and history of the instrument, which invites legislators, lobbyists and citizens to play.
APRIL 18 to APRIL 21 WEEK IN REVIEW
by Charley Shaw, Senate Public Information Office
Upon return from the Passover/Easter recess on Tuesday, the Senate appointed conferees to serve on the conference committees that will negotiate various parts of the 2018-2019 state General Fund budget. Five senators were appointed to each of the budget conference committees. They are paired with the same number of House conferees.
The conferences committees will work to resolve differences in the omnibus budget bills that the two chambers passed before the break. In initial meetings this week, legislative staff explained the House and Senate versions of the bills. In the weeks ahead, lawmakers will work to reach an accord on the budget, which begins July 1. The following are the House and Senate conferees:
Reforming Teacher Licensure
The Senate on Thursday passed legislation that restructures the state's teacher licensure system. HF 140, sponsored by Sen. Eric Pratt, R-Prior Lake, passed as amended on a vote of 44-21.
Pratt successfully amended the bill to contain the contents of SF 4, which creates a tiered system for teacher licensure. The measure attempts to address a 2016 report by the Legislative Auditor that found that the state's teacher licensure system is broken and needs significant changes.
Senate Passes Bill Requiring State Labor Standards
By Shannon Loehrke
A bill that would override a local government's current authority to set local labor standards, such as requiring private employers to pay a specific minimum wage, cleared the Senate on a 35 to 31 vote. The bill, HF 600, sponsored by Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, would prohibit local governments from establishing a minimum wage, setting paid or unpaid leave requirements or dictating benefits.
In his closing argument for the Uniform State Labor Standards Act, Miller said, "Eight hundred fifty-three cities and eighty-seven counties within the state of Minnesota. As you can imagine, a patchwork of inconsistent labor standards, from city to city, or county to county, or both cities and counties, would be extremely confusing, and a significant burden on Minnesota's businesses, especially small businesses."
The city of Duluth has spent several years studying the efficacy of setting local wage and benefit ordinances. Senator Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, spoke against the measure. "We have not vetted these issues. We have not talked about why it is and why it is not important for a local community to enact a higher minimum wage. We have not talked about why it is or why it isn't important for a local community to establish an earned safe and sick time ordinance. All that we've talked about is stripping away local government's ability to make their own decisions," he said.
Senate Panel Approves Legacy Funding Plan
by Steve Senyk
A bill allocating funds raised through the constitutionally-dedicated sales tax for legacy projects gained the approval of the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday, April 19. Sponsored by Senator Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, the measure funds projects supporting environmental improvements, parks and trails, clean water and the arts.
Specifically, the bill allocates $104.5 million dollars for the outdoors; $211.6 million dollars for clean water; $89.76 million dollars for parks and trails; and $123.36 million dollars for the arts and cultural heritage.
Senator Chris Eaton, DFL=Brooklyn Center, attempted to amend the portion of the bill supporting clean water proposals by funding the Clean Water Council's recommendations and additional projects. According to Eaton, the Senate bill "would hinder our state in reaching the clean water goals." The council was created to submit recommendations to policymakers designed to protect Minnesota's water resources. "Seventy-nine percent of urban Minnesotans and seventy-eight percent of rural Minnesotans indicated a concern about the pollution of their drinking water. It is inappropriate to use the clean water fund for general operational support of the Soil and Water Conservation Districts. People voting for the Legacy Amendment expected clean water funds to be spent on improving our water and did not envision spending 10 percent to fund office supplies with these dollars," she said.
Senator Ruud said, "The Clean Water Council Fund is in the red and we thought it fiscally prudent not to start new programs until we had this fund in the condition that we needed it to be, a healthy fund." She explained that the Legislature can consider additional projects once the fund is healthy.
The bill was sent to the Senate floor for further action.
Preventing Wage Theft
By Steve Senyk
The Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee dedicated a hearing Tuesday, April 18, to review a proposal, SF 1329, designed to curb wage theft in Minnesota.
According to bill sponsor Senator Bobby Joe Champion, DFL-Minneapolis, about 39,000 workers in Minnesota every year have their wages stolen from them. He explained that wage theft occurs when employers fail to pay employees for work performed. Examples he cited include when an employer violates minimum wage, prevailing wage or overtime protections; an employer makes unlawful pay check deductions; an employer forces employees to work off-the-clock; an employer classifies employees as independent contractors to avoid paying workers compensation and unemployment insurance.
To address the issue, Champion's proposal would ensure that workers know by whom they are employed and when they will work and be paid. It also raises penalties for wage theft.
Proponents of the measure, mainly workers who experienced wage theft, spoke of the harm brought to their families. Shawn Larson, who is a minority owner of a Shakopee-based construction company, said, "In the construction industry, it is a well-known fact that there are companies that skirt the laws in order to improve bottom lines." He cited examples of companies paying cash, refusing overtime, and "sometimes flat out not paying their employees."
Cam Winston of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce said that "wage theft is terrible." However, he said, the bill should not become law. "There are so many burdens put on good businesses that are doing the right thing, that are paying their employees, that we don't think this bill is good policy," he said.
The committee did not take action on the bill.
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