Minnesota state Capitol

Photo courtesy Minnesota House of Representatives Public Information.

Here's how area lawmakers voted on major issues in the Minnesota House and Senate during the legislative week ending March 22.

HOUSE

Sexual harassment legal definition

By a vote of 113 for and 10 against, the Minnesota House on March 21 passed a measure clarifying Minnesota's sexual harassment legal definition (HF 10).

The measure eliminates the "severe and pervasive" legal standard that makes it difficult for victims of sexual harassment to take their case to court. The bill was one of the House Democratic majority's priorities this session, about a year and a half after the Minnesota Legislature was rocked by separate sexual harassment scandals that forced two lawmakers to resign.

The standard was set in the 1980s as part of a Supreme Court ruling concerning workplace behavior. A Senate version of the bill was referred to the Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee in February but has not yet had a hearing.

Voting yes: Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska; Jeff Brand, DFL-St. Peter; Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato; Bob Vogel, R-Elko New Market; Todd Lippert, DFL-Northfield; Bob Gunther, R-Fairmont; John Petersburg, R-Waseca

Voting no: Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal

Opioid abuse initiatives

The House voted 94-34 on March 18 in favor of a package of initiatives (HF 400) that would cut down on opioid abuse throughout Minnesota.

The bill includes funding for various opioid treatment and prevention programs, as well as pilot projects to address opioid abuse and supports for children removed from home because of their parents' drug habits.

It would pay for those projects through an additional $20 million in annual registration fees for pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors. Amendments made to the bill add requirements for an opioid advisory council, further defines who would be affected by some of the bill's provisions and requires the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to report on implementing the bill's initiatives.

The bill has received widespread support from Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz as well as some Republicans, but it could face some changes toward the end of the session.

Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Vernon Center, is spearheading a bill with similar initiatives in the Senate but faces a tougher challenge to get it passed off the floor as many in the Senate GOP majority oppose raising fees on pharmaceutical companies.

A yes vote means the bill would be forwarded to the Senate, or potentially rolled into Rosen's Senate version in a conference committee later this session.

Voting yes: Brand, Considine, Lippert, Gunther, Petersburg

Voting no: Torkelson, Vogel, Munson

Hands-free cell phone

By a 106-21 vote, the House approved on March 18 a bill to ban the use of cell phones while driving a motor vehicle (HF 50).

The so-called "hands-free bill" expands on the state's current driving laws, which already outlaw texting, browsing the internet or watching videos while driving. This measure also includes making phone calls and using any type of handheld phone. It does make an exception for hands-free phone use, emergency calls and one-touch phone operations.

The Senate version of the bill differs slightly from the House, as it includes using GPS services as an exception.

Critics of the bill say it could be used as an excuse to text while driving and could potentially be un-enforceable. The bill is expected to be taken up by the Senate and could go before Walz in a few weeks.

Voting yes: Torkelson, Brand, Considine, Lippert, Gunther, Petersburg

Voting no: Vogel, Munson

Contact your legislators

State Representatives

District 19A

Rep. Jeff Brand (DFL)

501 State Office Building

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-8634

rep.jeff.brand@house.mn

District 19B

Rep. Jack Considine Jr. (DFL)

433 State Office Building

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-3248

rep.jack.considine@house.mn

District: 23B

Rep. Jeremy Munson (R)

323 State Office Building

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-4240

rep.jeremy.munson@house.mn

District 24A

John Petersburg (R)

217 State Office Building

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-5368

rep.john.petersburg@house.mn

Senators

District 19

Nick A. Frentz (DFL)

2415 Minnesota Senate Bldg.

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-6153

sen.nick.frentz@senate.mn

District 23

Julie A. Rosen (R)

2113 Minnesota Senate Bldg.

St. Paul, MN 55155

(651) 296-5713

sen.julie.rosen@senate.mn

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