By Rep. Shane Mekeland
It is good the 2021 session is underway so legislators may formally address numerous challenges facing our state. Here is a look at just some of the latest news and notes from the House:
COVID-19 vaccination pilot site in St. Cloud
A COVID-19 vaccine pilot program has been launched in Minnesota, including at a St. Cloud site. The pilot sites will initially serve adults aged 65 and older, Pre-K through Grade 12 teachers and school staff, and staff working at licensed and certified childcare programs. Minnesotans 65 and older can schedule an appointment by calling (612) 426-7230 or (833) 431-2053, or by visiting https://mn.gov/vaccine/. School districts will select pilot program participants, and childcare providers will be randomly selected and notified to secure an appointment.
COVID-19 vaccine online dashboard
Minnesotans have been expressing concerns about the lack of information on the slow progress of our state’s application of COVID-19 vaccinations. A website (https://mn.gov/covid19/vaccine/data/) has been launched that provides relatively timely information on vaccinations across Minnesota so people, for any number of reasons, can track vaccination data. The dashboard includes information on the number of doses allocated to the state by the federal government; shipped to Minnesota providers; and ultimately administered to Minnesotans.
Calif. auto standards in Minn.?
Gov. Tim Walz is pushing to mandate California car standards in our state and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency intends to adopt these regulations via the administrative rulemaking process. The MPCA recently conducted its first public information session regarding the mandate.
This is another example of circumventing the Legislature to advance an agenda. This initiative would lead to higher costs (reportedly by at least $1,000 per vehicle) and fewer choices for Minnesotans.
Mandating more electric vehicles means fewer vehicles that Minnesotans demand (trucks and SUV’s) available on dealer lots. By following California’s auto standards we’ll be the only state in the Midwest subject to bureaucrats 1,700 miles away. And, if the MPCA turns over our state’s car regulations to California, what’s to stop them from doing the same with big rigs, boats, lawnmowers, snow blowers, or anything else with cylinders that California regulates?
At this point, there is enough science and data to support ending the governor’s emergency powers and return to the representative system of government our Constitution provides. We have had one- to two-weeks’ advance notice on the governor’s executive orders for the last several months. These are not “emergency” responses, rather planned rollouts. Minnesotans deserve to have their voices heard at the Capitol with their local legislators involved in a collaborative decision-making process.
Stiffening penalties for crimes against law enforcement
Under current law, a person found guilty of murder of a peace officer, prosecutor, judge or correctional officer is sentenced to life in prison without release. The penalty for attempted murder of a peace officer is a maximum of 20 years with the offender becoming eligible for conditional release after serving two-thirds of the sentence – or just more than 13 years.
A bill has been authored in the House to stiffen these penalties to better protect law enforcement in our state. The proposal would require an offender to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of release after 30 years for the attempted murder of a peace officer, prosecutor, judge or correctional officer. There would be no early release, nor would the offender be automatically released after serving a sentence of 30 years. The Commissioner of Corrections could grant a release after a minimum of 30 years in prison after hearing from the victims and prosecutors.