To the Editor,

We are one month into session and though the start was a little slow, a number of bad issues have continued to pop up every week. Many of the worst ideas are moving in the House, so they can meet deadlines. First and Second deadlines are combined on March 22, so for any bills to be “alive” and considered for passage, they need to be heard in committee by that Friday. I believe that’s why Democrats have been moving so many controversial bills in the House. 

For starters, the assisted suicide bill has been gaining traction. It was already heard in two House committees and will now head to its third. While it hasn’t moved yet in the Senate, I find it incredibly concerning that it has been gaining steam in the House. To me that signifies that Democrats want the bill to go forward. They have presented this bill as being an easy and glamorous way to end your life, but that’s just not the case. Though it’s currently only meant to apply to the terminally ill with less than six months to live, what if mental illnesses are included? I’m worried this preys on the vulnerable. There are so many potential issues with this legislation and it’s a slippery slope.

Another bill that’s been kicked around in the House is a “human rights” bill, which was heard in committee a few weeks ago and was scheduled in its Senate committee, but was pulled from the calendar. When it was heard in the House, there was an amendment offered that would have allowed religious institutions to abstain from hiring individuals that don’t align with their religious or cultural values. Democrats didn’t like that very much, so they voted it down. Without this amendment, the bill is a clear attack on religious freedom. Churches and religious institutions should be allowed to maintain their autonomy, and they should be able to hire folks who share their values. I hope this bill does not get heard in the Senate. 

A few bills have already passed this year: a tax fix bill, and a School Resource Officer (SRO) fix bill. The tax bill addressed an error with the standard deduction that would have cost Minnesotans over $350 million. Republicans tried to offer amendments on this bill, one of which would have offered a tax credit to Minnesotans who are being forced to pay federal taxes on the “stimulus” checks received last year, but these were not accepted. The SRO bill fixes a problem that Democrats created last year by passing legislation that changed the way SROs could operate – Democrats basically created a new problem they had to come back and fix this year. The bill we just passed gets SROs back in the schools, but also allows the POST Board to regulate the way they operate. Neither of these bills offered perfect fixes, and in fact, neither of these problems would have existed had it not been for poor leadership from Democrats last session.

I believe this is a sign of more bills to come – more fixes in the future to counteract the bad legislation from last year. We still have a lot of session left, and I will continue updating folks on the various bills and discussions being had at the capitol. As always, please reach out to my office with any questions or concerns. 

Senator Paul Utke,

Park Rapids, Minn.