Legislative Update

State Capitol May 28, 2014 Edition

Session Ends with Many High-Profile Laws

After an extended sprint to the finish, the 2014 Minnesota legislature adjourned for its final time late on May 16. Legislators had to wrap up their business by May 19 to meet that deadline with a few days to spare. With a deal on a bonding bill and supplemental budget holding back final adjournment, once deals were secured on those, the end of session came quickly.

For a non-budget year, there was a significant amount of action including passage of a bonding bill, $9.50 minimum wage, school bulling bill, criminal record expungements reform, the Women’s Economic Security Act, medical cannabis, tax bills and a supplemental budget. The Department of Human Rights is effected directly or indirectly by multiple pieces of legislation.

Women’s Economic Security Act

The Women’s Economic Security Act passed both the House and Senate after efforts to send the conference committee report back to committee. After this effort failed by one vote in the Senate, it was passed by the full body by a wide margin with significant bipartisan support. Governor Mark Dayton signed the bill into law on Mother’s Day in a Governor’s Reception Room ceremony. Commissioner Lindsey spoke along with legislative authors, advocates and Governor Dayton. WESA added ‘familial status’ as a protect class for employment under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. It also creates an Equal Pay Certificate of Compliance for state contractors with business of over $500,000 with the state.

The Department of Human Rights will be issuing technical guidance on both the familial status employment law change and the Equal Pay Certificates in the coming weeks.

Criminal Record Expungements

Senator Champion and Representative Melin’s bill to reform Minnesota’s expungements process passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support, and was signed into law by Governor Dayton. This law builds on efforts during the 2013 Session to address criminal records in employment with the ‘Ban the Box’ law. With support from advocates, law enforcement, prosecutors and legislators on both sides of the aisle, this measure is another win for a durable group advocating for criminal justice reform.

Human Rights Act Jury Trials

A bill authored by Senator Ron Latz and Representative John Lesch will give parties who pursue claims in court based on the Minnesota Human Rights Act the option of requesting a jury trial. Prior to this law change, plaintiffs had their claims heard exclusively by judges. They will now have the option to request that a jury hear their case.

MDHR Technical Bill

MDHR’s technical bill (HF2372/SF2306) passed all of its committees, but didn’t make it to a floor vote before the legislature adjourned. We want to thank Senator Alice Johnson and Representative Dan Schoen for carrying the bill and shepherding it through the committee process.

State Ethnic Councils

In the supplemental budget conference committee report, $50,000 was allocated to the Department of Human Rights to convene community conversations about how to improve the structure and effectiveness of the state ethnic councils. These conversations will take place this summer and fall around Minnesota. Look for details soon.

Earlier Notable Legislation

Minimum Wage

Earlier in the session, the legislature passed a bill that raises the minimum wage to $9.50/hour in 2016 and indexes it to inflation going forward. The Governor signed the bill into law.

Safe and Supportive Schools Act

After a second session of wrangling, the legislature sent the Safe and Supportive Schools Act to the Governor’s desk for his signature this year. This bill seeks to address school bullying issues.

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