Legislative Session Underway, Bonding Bill Comes Into Focus
Minnesota lawmakers returned to the state Capitol on Monday, Feb. 12, for the start of a new legislative session.
It comes on the heels of a historic session, where a flurry of significant bills made it to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz. A record $17.6 billion in spending bills were approved under the DFL-led legislature.
One of those bills was a $2.6 billion bonding deal for infrastructure work.
Bonding Bill Proposed for This Year
Sen. Bonnie Westlin, DFL-Plymouth, said that while she’ll be pushing for her home city’s bonding projects, she doesn’t expect to see such a large bonding bill this year.
“I am authoring a bill and we’ll work to get as much as we can for the city [of Plymouth],” Westlin said. “I think everyone has been trying to set expectations that we’ll have to probably pare things down this year.”
The city of Plymouth is requesting funding for its City Center redevelopment project.
Westlin Talks School Resource Officers
The legislature also approved a bill last year restricting the use of prone restraints by school resource officers (SROs).
After the bill made it into law, many law enforcement agencies pulled their SROs out of schools saying the language was confusing and vague.
Now, Westlin is the chief author of a Senate bill to clarify the language.
“What the bill does is, it’s actually building on the work we did last year,” Westlin said. “It’s a comprehensive approach to school resource officers to make sure that there’s clarity and uniformity across our state. So it will include things like outlining the duties of an SRO. It will also include some training requirements, and also that the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board will have the opportunity to create some model policies around SROs. Again, I think it creates clarity for everybody involved.”
Vang To Focus on Mental Health Workforce Shortage
With less new money available at the Capitol, there may be more focus on policymaking.
Rep. Samantha Vang (DFL-Brooklyn Center) said one of her priorities is increasing the number of diverse workers in the mental health field.
“One policy issue that I have been working on over the number of years is [improving] the mental health workforce shortage,” Vang said. “Like many workforce shortage issues, there’s also not a lot of BIPOC providers, and so my work is looking at how we can increase the diversity that reflects the population it needs to serve.”
Lawmakers will now have up to 120 working days to hammer out this year’s bills. That gives legislators until late May to wrap up their work.