Guest post by Mary Turck
Crossposted from News Day
While Washington hold center stage, Minnesota Republicans are trying to tie the hands of local governments, impose crippling costs on free speech and protest, and politicize redistricting in 2020. That makes it time to focus on St. Paul and start calling and contacting state legislators. Minnesota have already compromised on premium relief for health insurance. They might be more open to hearing voices of reason than their counterparts in Congress.
Handcuffing local government
Republicans are pushing a bill to ban actions local units of government from making laws governing private employment. That means no municipal ordinances about minimum wage, paid sick time, work hours scheduling, or anything else employment-related. Specifically, they are targeting local government actions like the Minneapolis and St. Paul sick and safe time ordinances, which provide sick and safe time for employees who miss work due to illness, medical appointments, or critical safety issue, including domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.
Traditionally, Republicans like local control and oppose concentrating power at state and federal levels. The principle only holds as long as local governments are more conservative than state and federal levels. Once local governments – like Minneapolis and St. Paul – consider protecting their citizens, then Republicans cry foul.
Laws usually take effect only after passage, but HF600 would reach back to invalidate any ordinances passed after January 1, 2016. Is that even legal?
Making protesters pay for police
Angered by recent protests, and probably specifically targeting Black Lives Matter, Republicans propose to charge protesters for the cost of policing. HF322 would authorize government units to sue anyone convicted of participating or being present at an unlawful assembly or committing a pubic nuisance for the cost of policing. For example, if thousands of people peacefully protest at the Mall of America and Bloomington calls in police from five other jurisdictions, if any one or two or ten people are convicted of unlawful assembly, they could be sued for the entire cost of policing the protest. And for all court costs. And for all administrative costs.
Cathy Jones, vice president at the Minneapolis NAACP, was one of many people testifying against the bill in committee hearings, which saw overflow crowds of people objecting to the bill. Session Daily reported:
“We don’t sue sports fans for extra policing costs associated with events,” Jones said. “We don’t charge bar patrons an extra fee at closing time for increased police presence. Protecting the right to protest is part of the role of law enforcement, not something for which citizens are expected to pay extra.”
Session Daily also quoted other opponents of the bill:
“Citing state law defining public nuisance as activity that “unreasonably annoys,” Brad Lehto, chief of staff at the Minnesota AFL-CIO, said Mahatma Gandhi and Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. sought positive change by annoying and disrupting people.
“Several speakers said the bill targeted the Black Lives Matter movement.
“’My people are coming for their freedom,’ said Patience Zalanga of St. Paul. ‘No vote, no bill can extinguish the people’s hunger for freedom and humanity.’
“Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-Mpls) read the First Amendment aloud. She expressed hope that Zerwas would join her in writing a bill to make police officers, rather than the public, pay for excessive force judgments against them.”
Saying no to redistricting reform
Redistricting happens every ten years, based on the U.S. Census results. The party in power in each state legislature typically tries to draw district lines to its advantage. There’s a better way:
“Rep. Jennifer Schultz (DFL-Duluth) sponsors HF246, which would establish a commission of five retired judges to draw new districts. The four caucus leaders in the House and Senate would each appoint a member, and those four commission members would together choose a fifth member. They would hold at least three public hearings in different parts of the state. Their resulting plan would need to win approval by the Legislature.”
Minnesota Republicans don’t want an independent commission Instead, they are pushing to keep the process political. Two bills, HF314 from Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth) and SF86 from Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer (R-Big Lake) would forbid “any commission, council, panel, or other entity that is not comprised solely of members of the legislature” from playing a part in redistricting.
What you can do:
- Attend a committee hearing.
- Testify at a committee hearing.
- Call your own representatives and tell them why you oppose a bills.
- Call or write Republicans in the legislature and (politely) tell them why you oppose a bills.
- Call or write Governor Mark Dayton, and tell him that if a specific bill is passed by the legislature, you want him to veto it.
- Find your representatives here.
Subscribe to Session Daily, a nonpartisan daily report on legislative actions from the Minnesota House Public Information Services.
Photo: The Minnesota state capitol.
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