Rep. Patricia Mueller: New session must begin with law fixes
Published 5:56 pm Friday, February 2, 2024
The lawmaking process is slow by design, to give legislators time to really dig into the implications of new laws and make sure that they have as few unintended consequences as possible. Unfortunately, with bills flying through committees last year, the majority limiting testimony and feedback, and skipping some important committee stops altogether, we’ve ended up with a number of bills that need major fixes in the upcoming session. Three of the most glaring issues come from the school resource officer law, the tax bill, and the cannabis legalization law.
We’ve heard from many school districts calling on the legislature to fix the school resource officer law so we can get SROs back into schools and keep students, teachers, and staff safe. The bill that passed banned the use of certain physical holds when SROs are dealing with violent students. The law undermines SROs who are just trying to keep everyone safe, and opens them up to civil liability for simply doing their job. The law resulted in over 40 districts pulling SROs from their schools, conflicting legal interpretations from both the Attorney General’s office and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, and mass confusion over how the law was supposed to work. Many people across the state, including myself, numerous teachers and administrators, and even Gov. Walz, have called for an immediate fix to the law.
The tax bill contained two errors that need immediate correction. In 2019, lawmakers enacted legislation that doubled the standard deduction amounts and directed the Department of Revenue to adjust those amounts for inflation for each subsequent year. The new language passed last year inadvertently used the 2019 standard deduction amounts for the starting point in tax year 2024. Without correction, the effect would be the loss of four years of inflation adjustments and a lower standard deduction, costing Minnesotans across the state come tax time. The second error was identified in the corporate franchise tax net operating loss modification language. The legislative intent was to make this provision effective for tax year 2024. However, the final bill contained an effective date of tax year 2023 for this provision, which will cost taxpayers $17 million if it is not fixed.
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The cannabis legalization law, while generally a step in the right direction, lacked guidance for local governments in how to implement the law. Currently, the law only provides a minimal framework for regulation and licensing of cannabis businesses, but still leaves many of the details up to each individual locality.
While the law included direction for the Office of Cannabis Management to create a model policy for local governments to work from, well-publicized problems in actually hiring a director to set up the office has significantly delayed that model policy. Additionally, there are still concerns around public safety and how to enforce laws related to driving under the influence of marijuana. Local governments across the state will need to address these issues moving forward if the state does not clarify expectations.
The new legislative session begins Feb. 12, and I am ready to hit the ground running to fix these and the many other issues created by the bills that were signed into law last year. It is the legislature’s job to ensure that these bills are workable and in the best interests of Minnesotans, and I look forward to working for Minnesotans in our district and across the state to improve on what was passed last year.