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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, May 3, 2024

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from the Capitol, where some of the Democrats’ biggest bills of the session are piling up, time is running out, the Senate is in disarray and the House rules change by the day.

Other than that, things are just dandy in St. Paul as we enter the final two full weeks before our deadline to adjourn with a dwindling number of days remaining for floor sessions to occur this biennium, per the Constitution. Here’s a look at the latest:

Labor bill

As a laborer by trade, I was especially interested in an omnibus bill with labor provisions the House passed this week. Unfortunately, this Democrat legislation increases penalties for the construction industry and adds onerous new building codes, driving up housing costs at a time home affordability already is a major issue for Minnesotans.

I do not support this bill because it puts more burdensome mandates and costly penalties for clerical errors in the labor industry. This is an especially ill-advised approach at a time businesses already are dealing with workforce shortages, price increases and high taxes in Minnesota. It places our businesses at an even larger disadvantage compared with surrounding states.

One highly concerning provision impacts the construction industry by changing the independent contractor status for construction workers by stepping up penalties for employers who may inadvertently misclassify employees as independent contractors. Furthermore, the bill permits stop-work orders across many project sites depending on the infraction; not only will there be a work stoppage at the site where the violation occurred, but potentially across the various sites of the same contractor. Another provision increases the test for construction contractors to keep their independent contractor status from 9 points to 14 points – with much harsher enforcement mechanisms.

The bill also provides $9 million for the Tending the Soil’s Rise Up Center, a 70,000-square-foot renovated YMCA in Minneapolis. Tending the Soil is a nonprofit umbrella for organizations such as the Headwaters Foundation, which describes Tending the Soil as working to “remove the toxins of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism and nourish our communities to grow justice, self-actualization, autonomy, and collective communities.”

The bill is in the hands of the Senate after receiving 69-60 approval on a party-line vote.

Anti-2A bills

Democrats this week passed all three of their anti-gun bills I mentioned in my last newsletter. The bills will do more to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens than crack down on violent criminals.

If enacted, these bills create new laws on firearm storage (H.F. 4300), requirements for reporting stolen firearms (H.F. 601), along with a new “trigger activator” definition that may impact some commonly used guns and render them illegal (H.F. 2609). These latest proposals follow last year’s changes Democrats enacted regarding universal background checks and red flag confiscation orders.

Bottom line: This is more about taking down the Second Amendment one bill at a time than it is about public safety. On the exact same day House Democrats introduced a bill with more storage restrictions for law-abiding gun owners, House Democrats also introduced a bill to repeal mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes involving a firearm.

A better approach would be for our state to step up efforts to enforce existing laws, with prosecutors who are willing to fully charge violent criminals and courts that stop turning dangerous people back out on the street with a slap on the wrist. Instead, Democrats now want to make criminals out of crime victims themselves.

After passing the House along party lines, the three bills are now in the hands of the Senate, where Democrats have a one-seat majority. That means a senator who faces first-degree felony burglary charges could cast deciding votes on bills undermining people’s ability to defend themselves during a home invasion.

Palace for politicians

As of this week, Minnesota taxpayers officially are saddled with the first payment on the Democrats’ extravagant $730 million State Office Building remodel. House Republicans conducted a press conference Tuesday to reinforce the position we should not be making life harder and more expensive for Minnesotans so legislators can have fancy offices and a bigger building.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Republicans offered numerous proposals to take more cost-effective approaches and put the dollars saved to more pressing issues for Minnesotans. Unfortunately, the House majority rejected these efforts and now Minnesotans are forced to pay.

Watch for more from the House soon as we come down to the wire on this session.