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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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News from the House

Friday, February 21, 2020

Dear Neighbor,

It has been another busy week at the Capitol, but I have been keeping a close eye on things at home as the fire in Becker continues burning. Here is a statement Sen. Mathews and I issued Thurday on the subject:

“Since Tuesday morning, we have been closely watching the fire in Becker and have been working behind the scenes to monitor the situation. We want you to know that we haven’t done much press on this issue because our intent is to let the Chief of Police and the Fire Chief do their jobs, rather than spend time fielding our phone calls. We want to thank the law enforcement, fire departments and first responders at the scene who continue dealing with the immediate task of putting out the fire. We’ve heard great things about the community coming together during this time, including one young girl who gathered 94 pairs of much-needed gloves to aid responders. Our communities have overcome challenges before and this event is proving that we can do it again.”

I attended a meeting in St. Paul this morning to discuss the latest on this situation and get everyone up to speed with the latest details. Aside from Sen. Mathews and me, the meeting included (either in person or via conference call) representatives from the Minnesota departments of public safety, health, pollution control, and the state fire marshal, along with staff from the governor’s and Congressman Emmer’s office. House Minority Leader Daudt, House Speaker Hortman, Rep. Jordan and legislative staff also participated. Most importantly, attendance by the city administrator and mayor of Becker was extremely valuable with the information they shared.

The bottom line right now is the Becker fire has been contained and the situation is being managed. School is back in session and a wide variety of teams are on site today to conduct various studies, assessments and investigations. Air quality monitoring is taking place in the area and anyone who is interested in checking levels can visit At last check, area ratings were listed within “satisfactory” standards.

As for news from the Legislature, House Republicans this week rolled out a package of proposals aimed at improving public safety in Minnesota communities.

The bills are in response to a rise in violent crime on Metro Transit vehicles and in many parts of the Twin Cities. Taken together, they target many of the issues driving crime in the Metro area, including gang and drug trafficking activity, as well as the need for additional officers and tools for law enforcement to combat crime on the light rail lines and in communities.

Mayor Frey in Minneapolis wants to take credit for training police officers to get to full, approved staffing levels, yet the police chief and federation leaders are asking for 400 more officers in that city. The rise of violent crimes in the Twin Cities is now a statewide problem and I have talked with many constituents who will no longer use Metro Transit. Others no longer feel attending professional sporting events is worth the risk. People are demanding action and the package of bills we’ve put forth simply helps government perform its most basic core function of protecting citizens.

Proposals announced Monday by House Republicans include:

  • A bill that would require cities with regional or statewide sports and entertainment facilities to have adequate law enforcement, or risk losing Local Government Aid from the state.
  • A bill to boost penalties for gang members who use firearms in commission of a crime. Currently, prosecutors are not pursuing gun charges against criminals who commit crimes using guns because the penalty level is not high enough.
  • A bill to boost funding for the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension for gang and drug trafficking efforts.
  • A bill that would increase enforcement of fare evasion, increase sworn officers for Metro Transit police, and install interactive cameras on light rail platforms.
  • A bill that would prohibit cities from disarming officers in good standing.

On another subject, Minnesota House Democrats on Wednesday unanimously voted against and blocked a House Republican proposal to allocate funds for a depleted loan program which aids farmers.

The Rural Finance Authority loan program runs out of funds on Friday, according the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. House Republicans attempted to replenish those funds to eliminate uncertainty for farmers and help them prepare for the upcoming growing season.

We heard a lot of excuses on the House floor for not declaring urgency on this issue. Those who blocked this proposal can say anything they want but, ultimately, they turned their backs our farmers who are counting on us to replenish the RFA funds. This needs to be addressed on their time, not the Legislature’s. Farmers already are facing extraordinary financial stresses and a growing season that is approaching. The House majority just blew an opportunity to help them right now.



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