Legislative Update

State Capitol January 27, 2015 Edition

Welcome to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights’ second update of the 2015 legislative session. Since the session kicked off on January 6, 2015 hundreds of bills have been introduced. Today, Governor Dayton released his budget proposal moving the session into high gear.

Governor Dayton Unveils Budget Proposal

On Tuesday morning, Governor Dayton unveiled his 2016-2017 Biennial Budget Proposal focusing on education, children’s health, and transportation.

“Minnesota’s future success – the health of our families, the vitality of our communities, and the prosperity of our state – will depend upon our making excellent educations available to all Minnesotans,” said Governor Dayton. “That is exactly what my budget proposal aims to do.”

Specific items include creating free, voluntary PreK for all 4 year olds, increasing K-12 funding and making higher education more affordable, and providing $100m in child care tax credits to working families.

As part of the Governor’s proposal, the Department of Human Rights would receive an increase of $1.8million to its base funding for the biennium.  This funding would increase the Department’s capacity to settle discrimination cases where a determination has been issued. The Department has drastically increased the efficiency of its investigations process, closing over twice as many cases in 2014 as in 2012. This funding will facilitate finalizing settlements in an increased number of cases and other activities.

The Governor’s full budget proposal is available here.

MDHR to Present Preliminary Findings from Community Conversations on State Ethnic Councils

At the end of the 2014 legislative session, the Legislature requested that the Department of Human Rights conduct community conversations about the Office of the Legislative Auditor’s report on the four state ethnic councils. The Department conducted seven community events and had numerous conversations with key stakeholders about the councils over past six months.

MDHR Commissioner Kevin Lindsey will present preliminary findings from key stakeholders to the Senate’s State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday, January 28 at 2 p.m. in Room 107 of the Capitol.

The Office of the Legislative Auditor will also provide an overview of their 2014 report on the councils.

Felon Voting Reenfranchisement

A bipartisan bill, House File 342, has been introduced that would restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who are living in the community. Rep. Tony Cornish (R-Vernon Center), Chair of the House Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, is the bill’s chief author. The bill is supported by the Restore the Vote Minnesota coalition.

Currently, 57,000 Minnesotans are unable to vote due to a felony conviction. Minnesota law prohibits anyone with a felony conviction who is incarcerated, on probation, or on parole from voting. A vast majority of individuals who are unable to vote are people who are currently living in the community. This bill would change state law to allow individuals in the community to vote, individuals who are incarcerated would still be not be allowed to vote until they are released from prison.

MDHR Oversight Committee in the House

With the new committee structure in the Minnesota House, the Department of Human Right’s oversight committee is now the State Government Finance Committee chaired by Rep. Sarah Anderson (R-Plymouth). Formerly, the Department’s oversight committee was the Public Safety Committee.

The Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by Senator Ron Latz (D-St. Louis Park) remains the Department’s oversight committee in the Senate. 

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Throughout the legislative session we will provide ongoing updates on issues relevant to the Department, and more broadly on issues related to human rights. Tips or comments can be set to Scott Beutel, Legislative Liaison at scott.beutel@state.mn.us.  You can follow us on Twitter @mnhumanrights for covers more general issues and @MnDHRleg provides more specific legislative updates throughout the session. You can also find us on Facebook.

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