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#MNleg update: It’s time to ramp up the pressure on lawmakers to get the work done for Minnesotans

While the 2021 legislative session is technically over, it ain’t over ‘til it’s over. There’s still time to call on elected leaders to make real progress for Minnesotans and pass key TakeAction priorities — from police accountability to lowering prescription drug costs and passing paid sick days statewide.

Here’s a rundown of where we are now, what moved during the 2021 session (and what didn’t), and what’s next. At the bottom of this post, see how you can put pressure on lawmakers to get the work done for Minnesotans in 2021.

Where we are now: Deadline? What deadline?

Under the Minnesota constitution, the deadline for the end of each year’s legislative session is the first Monday after the third Saturday in May. That means that in 2021, the last day of session took place on May 17. 

While the Legislature did not finish its job to enact a budget by the May 17 deadline, House and Senate leaders reached an agreement with the Governor that outlines broad targets for a deal. The Legislature will be back in mid-June for a special session and  will likely pass a budget, which they must do prior to June 30 to avoid a government shutdown. 

What moved during the 2021 session

Until we have a Senate majority that supports a broad range of issues that lift up the multi-racial working class and a people-centered democracy, we’ll continue to endure the status quo, with obstructionist tactics from the GOP and incremental changes meant to protect the wealthy and powerful. That’s why we need to build power together year-round — during and after the legislative session, in off-years, and leading up to elections alike.

To their credit, the DFL-led House passed the following policies that meet the moment and that have had powerful support from TakeAction members and leaders — only to be stonewalled by the GOP-led Senate:

Care

Unidos MN Executive Director Emilia Valos shared powerful testimony on the need for affordable healthcare for all Minnesotans, no exceptions.
  • MinnesotaCare Public Option. Expanding MinnesotaCare would give more Minnesotans a choice of affordable and high-quality healthcare funded through state, federal, and enrollee contributions. Under the expansion, current MinnesotaCare coverage would remain intact, but individuals currently above the federal income level for eligibility could either opt in to MinnesotaCare or continue their private market plan. This would ensure that everyone has access to good, affordable, publicly-controlled health insurance regardless of age, income, or immigration status. (HF 11 – Schultz)
    • Status in the DFL-led House: TakeAction-endorsed leader Rep. Jen Schultz introduced the bill, which advanced through several hearings, laying the groundwork for more action in future sessions.
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing. 
  • Prescription Drug Affordability Board (PDAB). This would ensure that everyone has access to affordable medicine by reining in out of control prescription drug costs that hurt all of us. A PDAB would have the authority to establish statewide upper payment limits for prescription drug sales in Minnesota. It would protect consumers, state and local governments, health plan companies, providers, pharmacies, and other health care system stakeholders from price gouging by big pharmaceutical corporations. (HF 801 – Morrison) Minnesotans sent more than 1,000 messages to legislators in support of this bill during the 2021 session. TakeAction leaders Jessica Intermill, Travis Paulson, and others shared their powerful stories in hearings and online. Our voices have been loud enough to scare Big Pharma into spending major bucks on some last-minute advertisements in the Star Tribune. Let’s be louder.
    • Status in the DFL-led House: Passed as part of the omnibus commerce bill with leadership from TakeAction-endorsed leader Rep. Kelly Morrison, a member of the “Doctor Caucus.” 
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.
  • Earned Sick and Safe Time (ESST). Together, we have won paid sick days in Minneapolis, Duluth, and Saint Paul, but 36 percent of workers still do not have this basic tool, including thousands of front-line workers, women, people of color, and low-wage workers who have put their lives on the line during this pandemic. Enacting ESST would allow every worker to accrue up to 48 hours of paid sick time per year as an employment benefit. (HF 7 – Olson) TakeAction leaders Raye Perez and Daniel Swenson-Klatt raised their voices for paid sick time at key hearings this session, and TakeAction members have sent hundreds of messages to lawmakers urging them to pass ESST statewide in 2021.
    • Status in the DFL-led House: Bill passed with the leadership of TakeAction-endorsed leader Rep. Liz Olson as part of the omnibus jobs bill. 
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.
TakeAction leader Raye Perez testifies in support of Earned Sick and Safe Time for all
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave (PFML). Working Minnesotans lose out on a combined $839 million in wages each year as a result of having to take unpaid family and medical leave, a huge financial blow that falls disproportionately on women and people of color. The need for PFML is especially urgent in rural Minnesota, where working women have long struggled with a shortage of elder- and child-care providers, and have fewer options for job flexibility like telecommuting. (HF 1200 – Richardson)
    • Status in the DFL-led House: PFML passed as part of the omnibus jobs bill. 
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.

Public Safety

TakeAction leaders and supporters have sent more than 300 messages to legislators in just the final few weeks of session calling for action on the key issues below. Watch this powerful video from TakeAction leader Dorothy Miller on why action on public safety is important to her.

  • Civilian oversight on law enforcement. Accountability is a cornerstone of any respectful relationship, which is why this bill is so important. It would allow local units of government to create civilian oversight councils with the authority to make a finding of fact or determination regarding a complaint against an officer or impose discipline on an officer. (HF 640 – Gomez
    • Status in the DFL-led House: Passed as part of the omnibus public safety bill under the leadership of TakeAction-endorsed champion Rep. Aisha Gomez.
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.
  • Police officers affiliating with white supremacist groups. This one is simple enough. The FBI, as far back as 2010, released a report warning about the rising number of white supremacist affiliates strategically infiltrating law enforcement. In Minnesota, a report recently provided evidence of this trend occurring in our state. This bill would simply prohibit officers from affiliating with, supporting, or advocating for white supremacist groups, causes, or ideologies. (HF 593 – Frazier)
    • Status in the DFL-led House: TakeAction-endorsed leader Rep. Cedrick Frazier pushed this measure forward, which passed as part of the omnibus public safety bill. Read Rep. Frazier’s piece in the Star Tribune on why we must outlaw white supremacy in our law enforcement.
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.
  • Pretextual stops. Police departments have a long, documented history of finding excuses—broken tail lights, expired tabs, or air fresheners hanging from a mirror, among many others—to pull over a disproportionate number of drivers who are Black and people of color. This practice can lead to police shootings, as was the case in Brooklyn Center when an officer there killed Daunte Wright. If enacted, this would limit the reasons by which an officer can make a stop, which would save countless BIPOC lives. (HF 2529 – Frazier)
    • Status in the DFL-led House: Passed under the leadership of TakeAction-endorsed champion Rep. Cedrick Frazier.
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.
  • No-knock search warrants. Breonna Taylor was killed by police who obtained a no-knock warrant. Recently, a family in Coon Rapids was terrorized when the Anoka County Sheriff’s SWAT team and Minneapolis Police Department obtained a no-knock warrant for the wrong house and broke down the door at 6:00 in the morning. This bill would limit the use of these warrants to cases involving only certain serious crimes while explicitly prohibiting their use when the only offense is drug possession. (HF1762 – Hollins
    • Status in the DFL-led House: Passed as part of the omnibus public safety bill. Championed by TakeAction-endorsed leader Rep. Athena Hollins.
    • Status in the GOP-led Senate: Did not hold a single hearing.

These are but a few examples of the many differences between the two chambers, with countless others that illustrate just how far apart the parties remain. 

  • The House passed a bill to raise taxes on large corporations and individuals that make $20,000 per week; the Senate passed broad tax cuts that would have hurt low-income and working families. 
  • The House passed a bill to legalize cannabis and expunge criminal records of those previously convicted of nonviolent drug charges; the Senate blocked a hate-crime provision aimed at protecting the AAPI community.
  • And, the House passed a broad bill to make voting more accessible, safer, and more secure; while the Senate passed a Voter ID bill and a bill eliminating same-day registration.

What’s next: Final negotiations

We expect conference committee chairs to continue negotiations with deadlines of May 28 for the budget and June 4 on matters of policy. That means there is still time for you to contact your legislators to demand they support policies that promote justice and democracy, grounded in core principles: in Minnesota, we care for each other and we believe every person has inherent worth and dignity, no exception. 

Here are some key ways to take action now:

Remember: Customize your message to have the greatest impact.

Want to get involved in our advocacy efforts at the legislature? There’s still time this session to make a big difference.  We’re always looking for community members to share their stories and help us get the word out about these important policy issues that impact everyday Minnesotans. Send us an email to get connected to an organizer now!

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