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

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Legislative update

Friday, May 10, 2024
Mothers Day

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from the Capitol, where this week we took a major step toward restoring religious freedom which Minnesota Democrats stripped from faith-based organizations last year.

The House and Senate both approved a variation of Republican legislation amending the Minnesota Human Rights Act to re-establish protections for religious entities against discrimination claims. It is now on Gov. Tim Walz’s desk for enactment.

Minnesotans spoke on this issue and the Legislature responded accordingly. Isn’t that how it’s supposed to work? The language we approved achieves our goal of restoring protections that were taken away from religious entities last year. This is a nice win for upholding our constitutional freedom of faith in Minnesota.

This legislative action was necessary due to HRA legislation Democrats enacted in 2023, eliminating religious protections that had been in place since 1993. Before last year, when gender identity was included (or subsumed) within the HRA 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.

I am confident the courts ultimately would have ruled the change Democrats made last year unconstitutional. Whatever the case, it’s good we addressed this problem before it dragged on any longer at the expense of Minnesotans on multiple levels.

As nice as that victory was, we turn our attention to the Equal Rights Amendment legislation House Democrats are expected to bring to the floor next week. That bill could obliterate in a heartbeat any goodwill passage of this religious freedom bill generated. More on that next time but the short of it is it could enshrine protections for everything from race, sex and gender identity to abortion and infertility treatments in the state's Constitution.


Unless drastic action is taken very soon, rideshare companies Uber and Lyft soon will be leaving Minnesota because of reckless policy from the left-wing radicals in our state. Not just leaving Minneapolis or the metro area, but the whole state.

The saga started when the Democrats passed a bill last year to dramatically increase pay requirements for rideshare drivers by mandating at least $1.45 per mile and another 34 cents per minute for all trips in the Twin Cities area. This would have created a math problem and pushed companies out of the market – except the governor vetoed that irresponsible bill.

Not to be denied, the Minneapolis City Council went ahead and more recently rammed through its own "minimum compensation" of $1.40 per mile and 51 cents per minute – originally set to take effect May 1 before being delayed. Minneapolis Jacob Frey vetoed that reckless measure, but the radical city council overrode his veto on a 10-3 vote.

That brings us to this week, when Democrats announced they had reached a compromise on legislation regarding Uber/Lyft. The press covered the big news and everything.

Here’s the thing: The Democrats didn’t bother involving Uber and Lyft in these discussions. This farce of a “compromise” was just an agreement among various Democrat factions themselves. And now, Uber and Lyft said they not only will cease operations in Minneapolis or the metro area, but throughout Minnesota, if this “compromise” becomes law.

I serve on the House Labor and Industry Finance and Policy Committee, which conducted a hearing for this bill. Democrats moved it to the next stop in the process on a party-line vote.

During the hearing, I could not help but think about the mental gymnastics the Democrats must be doing on this issue. On one hand, they are preaching how rideshare drivers are independent contractors, who therefore deserve a certain suite of guaranteed wages and benefits. Contrast that with their ongoing push to create burdensome mandates and costly new penalties for independent contractors in the labor industry. It doesn’t jive.

Have a happy Mother’s Day and good luck in the fishing opener. We’ll be in touch soon with the Legislature heading into the final full week of the session before the May 20 deadline to adjourn.