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Session Update: Restorative Justice for Veterans

A bill that would create statewide guidance for courts to redirect veterans into rehabilitation programs instead of jail came before the Senate Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Thursday, January 21. Several veterans testified that Veterans Restorative Justice programs, already available in some areas of the state, save money, stop the cycle of domestic abuse and allow service men and women a chance to change their life's direction without a stain on their records.

Senator Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the bill's author, said the program will "keep [veterans] out of prison and send them down a path of treatment and rehabilitation, so that they can be reintegrated fully back instead of being housed in a state prison somewhere." The measure passed unanimously and was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Session Update: New Vehicle Emission Standards Questioned

Minnesota’s proposed adoption of California’s ‘clean car’ emission standards through an administrative rulemaking process was met with both skepticism and praise during a joint meeting of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance and Policy committees. Representatives of the Minnesota Pollution Control Board presented the rationale for the move to members during a virtual hearing Wednesday, January 20.

Members raised a number of concerns about the proposed change, including the higher cost to consumers, a lack of recycling programs for old batteries and bypassing the legislature in the rulemaking process. Senator Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point and Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, pointed out that Minnesota’s large size and cold winters make electric vehicles a poor choice. Senator Jennifer McEwen, DFL-Duluth, spoke of the need to adopt cleaner car standards in response to climate change.

Session Update: Senate Passes Remote Marriage License Waiver Extension

Couples seeking to wed may continue to obtain a marriage license without an in-person appointment, thanks to a bill passed unanimously on the Senate floor Tuesday, January 19. A previous waiver eliminating the requirement that at least one person appear before a deputy registrar for a marriage license expired January 15. Senate File 26 would retroactively extend the waiver to May 31, 2021.

The bill's author, Senator Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, told members that more conversations are needed to consider whether this waiver, and others, should become permanent. "It may be one of the blessings of this pandemic that streamlines and modifies our way of governing on some of these administrative functions," he said.

Senate President Election, Responding to U.S. Capitol Riot, Expanding Rural Broadband, New Senator

On this week's program, Senator Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, is once again elected President of the Senate. Meanwhile, responses to the unrest at the U.S. Capitol and reaction to the demonstrations at the Minnesota Capitol and the Governor's Mansion hijack a usually amicable forum between Governor Walz and legislative leaders.

The Governor’s Task Force on Broadband recommends continued funding for the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Program. Senator Tom Bakk, I-Cook, has authored a bill to do just that. He joins Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke to explain the importance of broadband expansion and to reflect on his decision to leave the DFL and form an independent caucus.

Finally, the newest Senators are getting settled in as we continue our series of conversations with newly-elected members. Senator Ann Johnson Stewart, DFL-Wayzata, joins Shannon to talk about how her career as a civil engineer and educator will contribute to the work of the Senate.

Session Update: Raising the Penalty for Harming Law Enforcement

Persons who intentionally harm law enforcement officers would face stiff penalties, under a measure outlined at a State Capitol press conference Thursday, January 14. The bill, SF 82, would require a minimum life incarceration sentence for a person convicted of attempted first-degree murder of a police officer, judge, prosecutor or correctional officer.

Bill sponsors Senator John Jasinski, R-Faribault, and Rep. John Petersburg, R-Waseca, were joined at the event by Waseca Officer Arik Matson , who was injured in a near-fatal shooting in January 2020, and his wife Megan.