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

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Legislative update

Monday, March 11, 2024


I would like to start this newsletter by sharing some very good news: The House recently provided overwhelming bipartisan support for a bill to resolve the issue which had caused the removal of school resource officers from various districts around our state.

This issue arose an omnibus education bill (HF 2497) was enacted into law at the conclusion of the 2023 legislative session, imposing new prohibitions on the use of force in schools, banning certain physical holds by “an employee or agent of a district, including a school resource officer, security personnel, or police officer contracted with a district."

While I would have much rather fixed this problem months ago – even before the new school year began – it was better late than never. The bill we approved excludes SROs as employees or agents of a school district, excludes SROs from the prohibitions on prone restraints and physical holds, revises the “reasonable force standard,” mandates school districts and charter schools use only trained SROs, and establishes new training and model policy requirements for law enforcement.

The House approved the bill (H.F. 3489) 124-8 and it now awaits action in the Senate, as soon as today.

In other, not so great news, concerns have arisen regarding the House majority’s infringement upon our religious freedoms – a most cherished right upon which our nation was founded.

Before last year, when gender identity was included (or subsumed) within the MHRA definition of sexual orientation, the still-existing religious exemption for sexual orientation covered gender identity claims as well. When a new, separate definition of gender identity was created last year, there was no corresponding religious exemption added. 

When faith groups first expressed concern over this issue, some assumed this was an oversight, and the department and majority would support a fix to restore the status quo as it existed from 1993-2023. But that fix is missing from the department’s bill presented this year, which is why, at the request of Minnesota’s faith community, an amendment was crafted to rectify this situation.

The amendment simply restores the religious exemption in the MHRA protecting religious organizations and faith-based schools against claims of gender identity discrimination. The exemption ensures that religious organizations and faith-based schools can, among other things, hire teachers and ministers consistent with their mission and values. Already, at least one faith-based school is facing an employment complaint at the department of human rights because of the removal of the exemption.

Unfortunately, the Democrat majority refused to fix the problem it created and voted down the amendment. This is an indictment on the direction our state is heading under full control of one party. They have declared open season on our religious faith, completely erasing the separation of church and state.

We now look at Senate Democrats to right this wrong by accepting that amendment. Exactly when that issue will be put to a vote is unclear since the Senate canceled a hearing on this bill which had been scheduled for last week.

Hope you have a good weekend and, as always, please let me know how I can help.



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