On Thursday, March 25, the House voted on three controversial DFL bills that would place burdensome regulations on businesses in a year where they need flexibility and support.
The first bill that I voted against was HF 7 which creates sweeping changes to our existing employee leave laws. It does not include small business exemptions (although there were carve-outs for collective bargaining agreements and the construction industry.) A new, expansive list of eligible family members that goes beyond one’s immediate kin and the scope of what most employers who already offer reasonable paid sick leave programs provide was also included.
With so much liability and requirements for employers, I could not support this bill in a year where businesses have already been devastated by COVID.
Another DFL bill I voted against, HF 39, would require the rehire of laid-off hospitality and hospitality-related employees during a declared emergency. This bill was brought to the floor because the pandemic has had a huge impact on the hospitality industry. Minnesota is an “at-will” employment state meaning an employee can quit for any reason and an employer can likewise fire, so long as the reason is not illegal (like discrimination because of race, sex, religion, etc.)
This bill goes against our state’s long tradition of being an “at-will” employment state and the freedom to contract. Once again, the DFL sought to place burdens on businesses instead of giving support.
The final DFL bill should not have been a partisan issue. The bill seeks to close the wage gap between men and women. As a mother with a beautiful daughter, I want all women to have equal pay. However, this bill tried to close the wage gap by prohibiting an employer from asking about or requiring the disclosure of pay history of an applicant. This would create a rebuttable presumption that the use of pay history to determine future earnings is an unfair discriminatory employment practice in violation of the Minnesota Human Rights Act, section 363A.08.
My colleague, Rep. Eric Lucero, offered two amendments that I was appalled the DFL could not support. His first would have added political affiliation as a protected class under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The other amendment would add discrimination based on someone’s vaccination status as an unfair discriminatory practice under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. If Democrats don’t want to discriminate based on pay history, why can they not vote to make sure that political affiliation and vaccination status are protected as well? The hypocrisy is astounding.
I voted against all of these measures. The last thing our businesses need after a year of shutdowns is more burdensome government regulations.
DFL still ignores what businesses actually need
We spent around four hours on the House floor Thursday afternoon. What did we accomplish? Bills passed that would place more regulations on businesses, but we ignored the changes Minnesotans need right now: Paycheck Protection Program and unemployment insurance conformity. Currently, we are the only state in the Upper Midwest to tax forgiven PPP loans. Businesses could face large tax bills if we do not pass conformity. They simply cannot afford to pay tax on funds that they’ve already spent to keep their workers employed and on their overhead costs after Gov. Tm Walz forced them to shut down. It is unconscionable that the House DFL would spend so many hours on bills that would hurt businesses when we have so many important things we can do right now to help them.
Funding summer school without the kids in school
On March 22, the DFL brought forward a summer learning bill that would fund summer school to help kids catch up from lost learning during COVID-19. Only one small problem with this bill: it was not a summer school bill. Of the funds in the bill, 27% would go toward summer programs for K-12 students and only 36% of the funding would go directly to schools. The rest of the funds would go toward grants that the Department of Education would administer. Most appalling, there was no in-person requirement! How can we catch students up from distance learning, the whole point of the bill, if our kids are not in the classroom?!
House Republicans have an alternative that would require kids to be in the classroom and would fund schools, not bureaucracy. The academic achievement of all kids has suffered during school shutdowns. We need to get them back on track, but the only way to effectively accomplish that is with in-person learning.
Vaccines for all! Time to get back to normal
This morning Gov. Walz announced that all Minnesotans aged 16 and older will be eligible for a COVID vaccine starting Tuesday, March 30. With the elderly and vulnerable protected, and vaccines available to all who wish to be vaccinated, there is no reason why we should continue the governor’s emergency powers. It is time to bring this pandemic emergency to a close and get back to normal.