Legislative Update

March 9, 2016 Edition

2016 Legislative Session Begins

State CapitolYesterday, the Minnesota legislature kicked off the 2016 legislative session with House and Senate floor sessions. The House met in their Capitol chamber, which is under construction. The Senate meets across the street in a temporary chamber in the Senate Office Building.

The legislature’s primary business is to pass a bonding bill for public works projects. Also, there will be a supplemental budget bill and various policy bills. Expect to see proposals touching on issues discussed as possible special session topics including federal Real ID compliance, extending unemployment benefits for Iron Range workers, and efforts to reduce race disparities.

Legislators only have until May 23rd to complete their work, so this year will have a tight timeline to move bills forward.

Agency Bills:

Through the Governor’s policy process, the Department of Human Rights will be proposing three agency bills during the 2016 session.

  • Add Human Rights Commissioner to Urban Initiative Board
    This proposal would add the Commissioner of Human Rights as a member of the Urban Initiative Board. The Department has participated on the UIB to augment and share the insights of minority business owners.  This proposal would formalize what is already occurring with the UIB. Currently, the Board consists of the Commissioner of DEED, the Metropolitan Council Chair, and eight members of the public.
  • Enforcement Claims Bill: Toll MHRA Claims by minors, clarify EEOC status of limitations, and clarify survival of MHRA Claims
    This proposed legislation consists of three elements to clarify and streamline the Minnesota Human Rights Act for purposes of investigating claims of discrimination. Two provisions have to do with the statute of limitations and the other clarifies the Human Rights Act’s position in regards to survival of claims if a case party dies. This legislation would fix relatively rare, but real issues that the Department has encountered in the past several years.

    The tolling for minors’ provision would stop the clock (toll) on the statute of limitations on a minor’s claim until they turn 18. The EEOC statute of limitations provision provides technical clarification about when dual-filed charges are considered filed with the Department. Finally, the survival of claims provision will ensure that if an individual dies that their estate will be able to continue to pursue their claim, within the existing one-year statute of limitations. Currently, the Department would have to advocate for the survival of the claim while simultaneously acting as a neutral investigator. Making the claims survival automatic will address this situation while providing legal clarity. 
  • Simplify Statutory Language for Workforce Certificates of Compliance in Minn. Stats. 363A.3, 363A.37 and 473.144 (SF1602 Johnson A./HF1751 Schoen)
    This is a technical bill to clarify language in Minn. Stats. 363A.3, 363A.37 and 473.144, which all deal with MDHR’s contract compliance duties. The current language, although legally clear, has been a source of confusion for some state agencies covered by its provisions. The ambiguity in the statutory language has led to treating out-of-state contractors more favorably than Minnesota-based contractors. This change would provide clarity in regards to those concerns and generally simplify the statutory language in keeping with plain-language principles. In 2014, this bill passed all House and Senate committees but it was not given a floor vote in either body.

Supplemental Budget:

In Department’s next update, we will discuss the Governor’s 2016 Supplement Budget proposals that will be released next week and how these will impact the Department of Human Rights.

Committee Schedules:

The House and Senate released standing schedules for committee hearings throughout session. These times are subject to change and agendas for each day will be announced on an ongoing basis.
On the Senate side, the Department’s policy issues are most often in Senate Judiciary. The Senate Judiciary Committee is also the fiscal committee for the Department.  On the House side, policy issues of interest to the Department most often come before the Civil Law Committee or Public Safety Committee. The State Government Finance Committee is the fiscal committee for the Department.

Schedules for hearings and floor sessions can be found here.

Follow Us on Facebook, Twitter

Follow us on social media to keep up with what’s happening. We’re on Twitter @mnhumanrights and on Facebook.