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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Joe McDonald (R)

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Report from the House

Thursday, February 20, 2020


Here are some quick notes from the House as we near the end of our second week in the 2020 legislative session.

Most of our time at this point in the session is being spent in committee meetings as hearings are conducted for bills in the preliminary stages of the legislative process.

The biggest news from the House floor this week is that a proposal to allocate funds for depleted loan programs which aid farmers was unanimously voted down by the majority and blocked.

The Rural Finance Authority runs out of funds for loan programs on Friday, according the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. House Republicans attempted to replenish those funds with $50 million to eliminate uncertainty for farmers and help them prepare for the upcoming growing season.

Albeit we are 99-percent sure to replenish these funds at the end of session in late May, farmers need these programs now. The House majority indicated it is working to fix this problem, but not at a pace that I or many farmers and those who support them would prefer.

I supported this effort to declare urgency and allocate funds today to ensure the farmers in Wright County can prepare for the upcoming growing season. Farmers already are facing challenging times and we could have provided some reassurances today but, unfortunately our efforts were blocked by the majority.

In other news, House Republicans on Monday rolled out a package of proposals aimed at improving public safety in Minnesota communities in response to a rise in violent crime on Metro Transit vehicles and in many parts of the Twin Cities.

These “Safety in our Cities” bills target many of the issues driving crime in the Metro area, including gang and drug trafficking activity, as well as the need for additional officers and tools for law enforcement to combat crime on the Light Rail and in communities.

Last year saw an all-time high in serious crimes committed on Metro Transit light rail and the Star Tribune recently reported that two-thirds of neighborhoods in Minneapolis saw an increase in overall crime in 2019 – including a 70 percent spike in the Minneapolis Downtown East neighborhood. St. Paul saw a doubling in the homicide rate in 2019, much of it connected to gang violence. In addition, Minnesota’s Violence Crime Enforcement Teams saw major increases in the amounts of meth, heroin, and cocaine compared to 2018 – much of it being trafficked by gangs and produced and smuggled into the United States by Mexican drug cartels.  

Proposals include:

  • A bill that would require cities with regional or statewide sports and entertainment facilities to have adequate law enforcement, or risk losing Local Government Aid (LGA) from the state.
  • A bill to boost penalties for gang members who use firearms in commission of a crime. Currently, prosecutors are not pursuing gun charges against criminals who commit crimes using guns because the penalty level is not high enough.
  • A bill to boost funding for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) for gang and drug trafficking efforts.
  • A bill that would increase enforcement of fare evasion, increase sworn officers for Metro Transit police, and install interactive cameras on light rail platforms.
  • A bill that would prohibit cities from disarming officers in good standing.

Public safety is government’s top responsibility and the statistics show we need to do better. When my son and his two friends were with me at the Capitol, they wanted to ride the light rail downtown and I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. What an unfortunate and sad state of affairs we have come to with our safety in the Twin Cities. We need to do everything we can to get back to safe cities again. Minnesotans deserve better so it is time to acknowledge the facts and demand improvement. The package of bills we put forward will help us do that.

Until next time, have a good weekend and here’s a link to a brief video where I share more from the Capitol, including mention of some bills I am authoring to provide tax relief.



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