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In the Hopper: Catching up with floor action at Legislature

Kevin Featherly//May 6, 2021//

In the Hopper: Catching up with floor action at Legislature

Kevin Featherly//May 6, 2021//

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There has been a flurry of floor activity in the House and Senate over the last few weeks, so it seems a good time to catch up on some bills that might interest lawyers.

Senate activity

Senate File 173 (chief author Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson). This 59-page bill, which cleared the Senate by a narrow 34-32 vote on May 3, would introduce a photo ID requirement to register as a voter.

It also introduces provisional ballots, a system that would allow a voter whose eligibility is challenged to cast a provisional vote, which would be counted later after eligibility is affirmed. The bill also creates a new Minnesota voter ID card.

Republicans say the legislation would strengthen voting system security and make people trust it more. But Democrats oppose it for creating what Secretary of State Steve Simon called a “maybe pile” of provisional ballots that likely wouldn’t ever be counted — because voters, knowing the outcome after Election Day, won’t bother to show up at county election offices to present their credentials and affirm their eligibility.

DFLers also criticize the ID requirement. They contend it would discourage participation among elderly, the poor, communities of color and students who are generally less likely to obtain state IDs.

Sen. David Tomassoni, I-Chisholm, joined all DFL senators in voting against the bill. Sen. Tom Bakk, I-Cook, did not cast a vote. Its companion, House File 293 (Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, R-Glencoe), has never been taken up.

Senate File 1279 (Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont). This bill, which is backed by prosecutors and law enforcement, puts the deadly synthetic opioid fentanyl in the same class as heroin, both by criminal weight thresholds and in terms of applicable penalties. It passed the Senate, 62-5, on April 27.

The House has not taken its companion, House File 1513 (Rep. Julie Sandstede, DFL-Hibbing).

Senate Judiciary Chair Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, said Monday that the measure might get introduced as an amendment into the omnibus bill being heard by a joint House-Senate judiciary and public safety conference committee. But his co-chair, Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul, expressed misgivings, saying he senses it backtracks from a larger Minnesota trend of reducing penalties for drug crimes.

Senate File 1807 (Sen. Andrew Mathews, R-Princeton). This bill relates to real property. It retroactively delays to June 30, 2022, the expiration date of a temporary exception for mortgage and deeds-of-trust filings. As originally passed last year, the legislation affected mortgages and deeds of trust executed between May 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.

The bill passed the Senate, 66-0, on April 21. Its companion, House File 2245 (Rep. Athena Hollins, DFL-St. Paul) awaits a final floor vote.

Senate File 443 (Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks). This public safety bill requires disclosure of a patient’s registered predatory offender status to a hospice care provider prior to admission. The hospice facility, the person’s probation agent (if applicable) and the law enforcement authority to which the offender reports also must be notified.

Health care facilities and home care providers already must be notified under current law.

The bill passed the Senate 66-0 on April 21. Its companion, House File 331 (Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina) is awaiting third reading and a final floor vote.

House File 1077 (chief Senate author, Sen. Rich Draheim, R-Madison Lake). The Senate approved its version of an omnibus housing bill on April 20. The bill took on the file name of its House companion because that bill passed first.

“The underlying tone was home ownership,” said Draheim, R-Madison Lake, describing the omnibus to fellow senators. “What can the state do for a pathway to homeowners? In this bill, we reflect that.”

Minnesota lacks 50,000 housing units, he said, and his bill tries to help close the gap by increasing access to homeownership, rental properties, even homeless shelters through a combination of government spending and private incentives.

It also seeks to close the home ownership equity gap between white and Black Minnesotans.

It slams shut what Draheim called the “rent-control loophole,” effectively banning rent control in Minnesota. It also includes the Senate’s “eviction moratorium offramp” — the Senate GOP majority’s plan to allow evictions for major lease violations (but not non-payment of rent), starting 30 days after enactment of the bill.

Among its other elements, the Draheim bill establishes a task force to study shelter resident rights and provider practices. It expands rental lease covenants and remedies available to tenants, expands service and support animal requirements and limits public access to pending eviction actions. It also expands eligibility for certain eviction case-file expungements.

Among its differences, the House-passed version appropriates money to the Minnesota Supreme Court to accommodate possible passage of House File 12, the House’s eviction-offramp bill. That bill also allows some evictions to proceed, but only 12 months after the current peacetime emergency ends.

HF 12—which was not folded into the House’s housing omnibus—is expected to result in a $912,000 increase in court filing fees and increased court expenditures of $955,000. The difference, $44,000, is appropriated to the Supreme Court in the bill.

The House passed its omnibus on April 15, by a 69-62 vote. The Senate followed suit five days later, by a 39-27 vote. The two versions were not identical, so a conference committee was appointed to reconcile their differences. It began meeting Monday.

House activity

House File 729 (Rep. Carlos Mariani, DFL-St. Paul). This bill, which was signed into law by the governor on April 29, provides $7.8 million to law enforcement to deal with civil unrest.

The money pays for response from State Patrol troopers, DNR officers and out-of-state law enforcement for costs related to recent civil disturbances and the Derek Chauvin trial last month.

The House passed the bill 107-24 on April 27. The Senate followed suit, passing an amended version, 52-15, that same day. Gov. Tim Walz signed it on April 27 and it went into effect one day after that.

Senate File 1470 (chief House author, Rep. Alice Hausman, DFL-St. Paul). This was formerly Hausman’s House File 12, but it took on the file name from Draheim’s Senate companion, because that bill passed first. It is the House’s “eviction moratorium off-ramp” bill, which allows some evictions to begin a year after the end of the governor’s peace time emergency.

However, except in serious situations involving destruction of property or other major lease violations, most evictions could not proceed immediately after that 12-month, post-emergency period elapses. For simple nonpayment of rent, for example, landlords would have to wait for 60 days after the current peacetime emergency ends to begin eviction proceedings.

In the Senate version, evictions could proceed for some material lease violations, but not for nonpayment, 30 days after the bill’s enactment into law.

The Hausman version passed the House by a 70-62 vote on April 29. The Senate had passed its version, 46-21, on April 12. It was returned to the Senate floor as amended by the House on May 3 and laid on the table.

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