March 2021 Legislative Update
The legislature spent most of the opening weeks of session concerned with how they would address the projected budget shortfalls that were anticipated in the November Forecast. The House and Senate committees spent mid-to-late February reviewing the governor’s proposals for stimulus and recovery. However, MMB’s February Forecast showed a projected $1.6 billion surplus for the FY 2022-23 biennium, which was a $2.8 billion positive change. With the approaching legislative committee bill deadlines and the governor revising his budget requests, MAPE will continue to advocate for raising revenue to ensure strong recovery for those most impacted by the pandemic and fully funding state agencies.
Pre-sentence Investigative Bill (HF 167/SF 371)
A bill that would help reduce the number of presentence investigative reports done by probation agents received its first hearing and unanimously passed the committee. The idea came from MAPE’s Field Services summit in late 2019 in response to growing caseloads and constant rejection of requests for more agents. Corrections Agent Valerie Dorff testified on behalf of MAPE in support of the legislation. Dorff explained, "Adding discretionary language to the PSI statute won’t fix the problem of truly overwhelming caseloads; only more agents will do that. But after years of denied requests for additional agents in field services, our hope is that this bill will allow agents more time to actually work with offenders to effect the change we all wish to see." The bill is still awaiting a hearing in the Senate. Listen to Valerie's testimony at 18:56 in the recording or read it here.
Private Prison Ban (HF 1074/ SF 2006)
The House Public Safety Committee took up a bill proposal to prevent the operation and contracting of private correctional services in the state. Testifying on behalf of MAPE was Keith Halseth, a case manager from the Lino Lakes Correctional Facility, who highlighted the poor track record of private prisons in Minnesota, including their lack of programming and higher rates of recidivism. The bill overwhelmingly passed the committee. Keith's testimony begins at 1:23:28 in the recording.
Paid Family and Medical Leave (HF 1200/ SF 1206)
A bill that would provide 12 weeks of paid time off for parental and medical leave began moving through its numerous committee stops. The proposal operates similar to the Unemployment Insurance program, wherein both employer and employees pay into the fund. It also prohibits an employer from forcing an employee to spend down their sick and vacation leave before accessing the benefits. MAPE member Angela Byrne from Commerce shared her experience of being both a new parent and having to care for a sick loved one. You can watch her testimony beginning at 20:55
Early Retirement Incentive (HF 1629/ SF 1622)
The MOUs ratifying the early retirement incentives have been introduced.