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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, March 10, 2023

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from the Ghent, where we have been busy cleaning up after yet another round of snow – with more in the forecast. Please be safe, and it’s also a good time to reach out to anyone you think could use a hand clearing their driveway or sidewalk.

As for news from the House:

Plan to improve public safety

Public safety was a major point of discussions last summer and fall as Minnesota’s rate of violent crime remains abnormally high. While those talks were good, we haven’t seen follow-through with any meaningful action the first half of the 2023 session. Rates of violent crime remain too high in the metro area and beyond, but the House majority has been focusing more on reducing punishment for criminals instead of cracking down on violent crime and stopping the revolving doors for repeat offenders.

Meanwhile, House and Senate Republicans have put forward a Safe & Sound Minnesota public safety plan to confront the threat of violent and repeat criminals, strengthen police and improve training for law enforcement, and hold judges and prosecutors accountable with public data and information.  

In all, the package includes 17 different bills from 15 different Republican authors across the state. Confronting the criminal threat would include new laws to add a new crime of carjacking to state statute, increase penalties for fleeing police in a motor vehicle, align fentanyl to the same weight thresholds and penalties as heroin, and increase sentences for those convicted with at least two prior crimes of violence.

This is a developing subject, and I may have more to say about it as things unfold.

Bills to support local meat processors

Smaller meat processors in our state are struggling to keep up with demand as more and more Minnesotans seek their services. The Minnesota Institute of Sustainable Agriculture indicated there is a bottleneck in our small meat processing industry, exacerbated by COVID-19 and a skilled-workforce shortage.

I personally have authored legislation to help Minnesota butcher shops grow their businesses and, last year the Legislature successfully provided funding to help Minnesota schools looking to establish or enhance meat cutting and butchery training for secondary students.

A pair of bills I am co-authoring this session would help eliminate obstacles processors often face in starting or expanding their businesses. One bill (HF1302) appropriates $75,000 annually for a meat processing liaison within the Department of Agriculture. It can be a real challenge for people to make sure proper permits and inspections are in place and one simple oversight could might mean starting all over again. While our burdensome permitting process needs to be simplified, having a resource available to lend a hand would be helpful.

The other bill (HF1303) appropriates $100,000 for technical assistance grants for small processors with 50 or fewer employees. This would help processors who, to meet the need, would benefit from technical assistance regarding food safety, formulation and business plans.

Both bills received hearings recently and remain viable for passage later this session. These proposals have widespread, bipartisan support, including from livestock producers and economic development organizations. Let’s hope these bills reach the finish line because they would be good for workers in Greater Minnesota and our local economies in general.

Stay tuned and, as always, I welcome your input.