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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Ben Bakeberg (R)

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Legislative Update 4.26.24

Friday, April 26, 2024

Friends and Neighbors,


This has been an interesting week at the Capitol so far, to say the least. This week I want to take the time to update you on the situation with Senator Nicole Mitchell,  the status of both the Education Policy Omnibus Bill and the proposal to make Minnesota a full-time legislature, Literacy Day 2024, and a brief update on law enforcement in our community.


Situation with Senator Mitchell

As you may have heard, Senator Nicole Mitchell was arrested on suspicion of first-degree burglary this past Monday. The charging documents and police report indicate that Senator Mitchell left her home district of Woodbury at approximately 1:00 in the morning and drove to her stepmother's house in Detroit Lakes while wearing all black and carrying a flashlight modified to reduce the amount of light output.

Once there, she allegedly broke into the house through a basement window while her stepmother was asleep upstairs. The 911 transcript that was just released adds even more bizarre details to the story - it seems that Senator Mitchell was lying on the floor next to her sleeping stepmother before she woke up, tripped over her, and called the police while the senator fled to the basement. Senator Mitchell even said to police, after being Mirandized, that "I know I did something bad" and "clearly I'm not good at this."

Senator Mitchell was then arrested while in possession of her stepmothers laptop. She spent the night in jail, had a restraining order filed against her by her stepmother, and was later released.

This situation clearly complicates the end of the legislative session with Senator Mitchell being the deciding vote in a one-seat majority in the Senate. As of today, Senator Mitchell has not yet returned to the Capitol and she did not vote during Wednesday's Senate Floor session where a motion to expedite an ethics committee hearing into Senator Mitchell's conduct failed on a party-line vote, 33-33. Senator Mitchell, who is the deciding vote in the Senate, has indicated that she will NOT resign. Additionally, Majority Leader Erin Murphy has indicated that she intends to have Senator Mitchell vote on bills at the end of session.

This is extremely concerning for a number of reasons, one of which being the fact that Gun control bills will be considered on the House Floor on Monday, and then will head to the Senate where Senator Mitchell will be the 34th vote. We simply cannot allow a Senator facing felony charges to be the deciding vote on gun control bills and other controversial pieces of legislation in the final weeks of session.

The Senate Republican Minority Leader Mark Johnson issued a statement calling on Senator Mitchell to resign. I support those calls, and agree that her conduct has clearly breached Senate rules which stipulate that “Members shall adhere to the highest standard of ethical conduct…” Senate rules go on to state that “improper conduct includes conduct that […] betrays the public trust, or that tends to bring the Senate into dishonor or disrepute.”

If it were me in this situation in my role as a middle school principal, I would immediately be placed on administrative leave. This means that my email would be shut off, I would have to turn in my keys, and I would be unable to serve in my official capacity as principal until due process had taken place. It seems that the Senate Majority is about to do the exact opposite - allow Senator Murphy to vote by saying that due process hasn't taken place yet while delaying the ethics hearing.

This heartbreaking story is developing and I will keep you updated as new details emerge. For now, we have a deadlocked Legislature, and the people of Woodbury have no representation in the Senate Chamber.

Full-Time Legislature Update

Though the Legislature is in limbo at the moment, several concerning proposals are still alive and have the possibility of passing this year, one of which being the proposal to turn Minnesota into a full-time legislature. I firmly oppose this measure because, simply put, I don't think that Minnesota needs to be ruled by career politicians. We should stick with our current citizen-legislature model. Please take a moment to watch my video update on this topic here.


Education Policy Omnibus Bill Update

Fortunately, it appears one of the provisions in the Education Policy Omnibus Bill that I found most concerning has been removed. The provision that would have delayed MCA testing data for months is no longer in the bill! I spoke against this provision on the House Floor a couple weeks back and you can watch my remarks here.


Literacy Day

I was glad to have the opportunity to speak at Literacy Day 2024 this past week! As a middle school principal, education and literacy are my passions - we must support our students because, as we know, if you can't read, you can't learn. The readers of today are the leaders of tomorrow. Please watch my remarks at Literacy Day 2024 here!