Inside the Capitol: Recess is no time for rest

The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, is providing an “Inside the Capitol” update during the state legislative session.

By Minnesota Catholic Conference

The Minnesota Legislature is in recess now that the 2021 regular session came to its constitutionally mandated end on May 17. However, this “recess” is not a time for rest and relaxation. In fact, the clock is ticking again.

Legislators, who are now divvied into various “working groups” have until June 4 to finalize the texts of their omnibus budget bills. This deadline was set by state leaders as part of the broad budget agreement reached on the final day of the session.

If the working groups cannot resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a given budget bill, chairs will present their differences to the triumvirate of Gov. Tim Walz, Majority Leader Sen. Paul Gazelka, and Speaker of the House Rep. Melissa Hortman, who will negotiate the various policy proposals. In anticipation of this, the Minnesota Catholic Conference submitted a letter to the three leaders outlining key provisions that should be in the final bills including:

  • Nonconforming drivers’ licenses and identification cards for immigrants;
  • Education Savings Accounts for students;
  • Payday lending reform;
  • Earned sick and safe time;
  • Driver’s license suspension reform;
  • Emergency Services and Shelter Program funding;
  • Expansion of the Medical Assistance program to include at least six months of coverage for postpartum women.

Advocacy in the final weeks

In the two weeks before adjournment, 16 conference committees (made up of representatives and senators) reviewed and debated specifics of each body’s omnibus budget bills to reach a consensus for state spending. Without an agreement, a conference committee of five members from both bodies work out differences and create a final report that must pass the Senate and House and be signed by the governor.

Often, by the time a bill reaches a conference committee, MCC has weighed in, but this stage presents another opportunity to keep the Catholic voice present. So, in the final weeks of the regular session, the Minnesota Catholic Conference wrote letters, met with legislators and tracked specific bills in seven committees.

For example, MCC submitted a letter to Health and Human Services conference committee highlighting support for the Emergency Services and Shelter Program Funding and Expansion of Medical Assistance program to include at least six months of coverage for postpartum women.

Additionally, MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network members sent over 2,000 emails to legislators urging support of a provision to help end usury and reform payday lending in Minnesota by establishing a 36-percent interest rate cap for short-term consumer loans. These provisions would positively impact the lives of poor and vulnerable Minnesotans.

Action Alert 

Stay vigilant! Register for email/text alerts from the Catholic Advocacy Network ahead of the special session.

Many issues impacting life, dignity, and the common good remain viable and subject to negotiations leading up to the 2021 special session. Your voice can help ensure the right proposals arrive at the governor’s desk and get signed into law.

Visit www.MNCatholic.org/actioncenter to contact lawmakers and sign up to receive email/text alerts from MCC’s Catholic Advocacy Network.

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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