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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Matt Bliss (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, March 8, 2024

Dear Neighbor,

Here is a quick look at the latest from the House as we reach the end of another busy week.

White Earth State Forest

Legislation which transfers White Earth State Forest land to the White Earth Band of Minnesota Chippewa Tribe received its first Senate hearing this week. The bill (S.F. 3480) has been a big topic locally and I have heard from many, many, many people in our area – including Band members – who are concerned about what this bill would mean.

An amendment was added to this legislation indicating the land would remain accessible to the general public. While I have every confidence in the current tribal leadership, future leadership would be under no legal obligation to follow suit and could decide to take a different approach.

The land’s current status as a state forest makes it available to the general public and tribal members alike for a wide variety of purposes. This land should remain available to all Minnesotans, including Band members, for generations to come.

Religious freedom

Concern over religious freedom has surfaced at the Capitol in regard to changes the majority made in the Minnesota Human Rights Act last year.

Before last year, when gender identity was included 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.

House Republicans offered an amendment during a committee hearing to restore the religious exemption in the MHRA for sexual orientation covered gender identity claims. Unfortunately, the Democrat majority voted that amendment down.

Senate Democrats can right this wrong by accepting the amendment House Democrats denied. It is unclear when that issue will be put to a vote since the Senate canceled a hearing on this bill scheduled for this week.

Anti-gun bills continue moving

Two anti-gun bills authored by Democrats are now in the hands of Ways and Means Committee – the last stop before the House floor.

One bill (H.F. 4300) requires a person to either store a firearm not in the person’s direct control in a safe or unloaded with a locking device.

Numerous questions (or holes) remain with this bill. For example:

How does this bill address a situation where a firearm was unlawfully accessed by a person who had lawful entry into a home, such as a caregiver or a babysitter? And why does this bill not contain education on the new firearm storage requirements so law-abiding firearm owners do not unknowingly become subjected to the criminal penalties in this bill?

Then there’s this major concern: If your 17-year-old wants to go hunt grouse after school and you give them access to the safe, that makes you – the gun owner – guilty of a felony according to this bill. It’s another instance where metro-centric legislators are taking a problem most found in the Twin Cities and throwing their solution across all four corners of our state, impacting the way we live our lives out here in Greater Minnesota in the process.

The other anti-gun bill (H.F. 601) sitting one step from the House floor is the which says the victim of a firearms theft you must report it to law enforcement withing 48 hours. If you fail to file the correct paperwork in time, and the perpetrator of that crime commits another crime with your stolen weapon, you may be held responsible.

I oppose both of these bills and will continue supporting our Second Amendment rights.

On the radar

Bill addresses school safety issue: The Minnesota House on Monday approved a bill (H.F. 3489) to address a change in law last year which resulted in the removal of school resource officers from schools throughout the state. 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.

Bill for public vote on flag: In hopes of unifying Minnesotans on a new state flag, House Republicans have authored legislation allowing Minnesotans to vote on the new flag design that has been approved by the Minnesota State Emblems Redesign Commission. The legislation was crafted in consultation with non-partisan House staff to steer clear of any constitutionality questions and puts the flag design up for a vote this November.



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