A bill to place the Equal Rights Amendment on the ballot during the 2020 general election was heard in the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee last week and Rules Committee yesterday. The bill would place the question “Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to provide that equality under the law must not be abridged or denied on account of gender?” While the question seems fairly straightforward, there is no statutory definition of gender. During committee, it became clear that the author's definition of the word gender was very different than the vast majority of Minnesotans I have talked to. It was stated by the author that "gender" is all inclusive and is a self-identifier. In other words, it is what you feel you are. A few examples of things that might fall under “gender” in this amendment are Agender, Bigender, Cis, Gender Questioning, Gender-expansive, Gender-fluid, Genderqueer, Gender non-conforming, Intersex, Pangernder, Trans, Transgender Person, and Two-spirit. Facebook offers 58 gender options. Twenty-four other states have some form of Equal Rights Amendment, but only one of them uses the word gender – all the rest of them use the word “sex”, which does have a statutory definition and is a binary option of male or female. If this ends up on your next voting ballot I want you to be fully informed as to what "gender" actually means in the "modern vernacular".
Some of you have asked for more information on the transportation-related taxes Governor Walz wants to raise on Minnesotans. In addition to his proposed $0.20 per gallon gas tax increase, he would index the gas tax to inflation so it would rise even higher in the future. License tab fees for vehicles 11 years and older would double, and he would raise the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax to 6.875% - an increase that would raise $60 million in FY20/21 of new revenue. The governor’s budget would also take back all general fund revenues from the auto parts general fund sales tax and lease sales taxes which were dedicated to roads and bridges, which adds up to about $450 million in lost revenue for roads over the next biennium, and he spends it elsewhere in his budget.
Driver’s Licenses for Illegal Immigrants
Last night, in the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Division, we heard a bill to issue drivers licenses to immigrants who are here illegally. This bill does several things that are significantly farther reaching than simply issuing driver’s licenses to immigrants here illegally. In essence, this bill moves Minnesota towards becoming a sanctuary state. It also makes immigrants who are here illegally a special protected class under the Human Rights Act. It is accomplished as follows:
* Prevents driver’s license personal data, including immigration status, to be shared with any law enforcement either state or federal for immigrants who are here illegally. To do so would result in a $10,000 civil fine from the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
* Prohibits the Department of Public Safety from disclosing data to other agencies of known immigrants who are here illegally including federal agencies, state agencies, DPS law enforcement, and local law enforcement and local governments.
*Adds a $10,000 civil penalty for businesses that discriminate against an immigrant who is here illegally and presents the new driver’s license.
More Hearings on Gun Bills
Last week, the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Division heard HF 8 (universal background checks) and HF 9 (red flag law). Tomorrow, the Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee will hear them. These bills are incredibly problematic for many reasons, but the bottom line is that the testimony provided in committee did not match the words on the paper. Particularly for the “red flag” bill, the author and testifiers stated that this would be for emergency situations when a person is an immediate danger to hurt themselves or others with a gun (suicide or homicide), but the bill as written could actually include everyone currently in our criminal justice system, as well as a large portion of the general public, who is having a bad mental health day and happen to own a gun. Law abiding gun owners could have their legally owned guns taken away without due process because the bill also allows a hearing where the accused does not even need to be at the hearing and a judge could issue the confiscation order.
As always, if you need assistance on an issue pertaining to state government or have concerns or ideas about legislation, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 357 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.