Hello Neighbors

Legislators returned from Easter/Passover break this past Tuesday to finish our committee work. Most committees this week worked on individual budget components to build the state's biennial budget. 


Judiciary Committee Budget Bill

As a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, I am working with my colleagues on a budget bill with a $90+ million target. The bill focuses on investments in the state’s court and corrections system and public safety funding requests. 

The Judiciary's budget bill has good provisions included in it but it lacks many important funding and policy proposals. It does not include language that would expand the reporting of hate crimes. It also does not appropriate funding for a COVID-19 discrimination hotline, which is a funding request from Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) advocates in response to the increase of bias experienced by AAPI Minnesotans. Funding this hotline would provide culturally sensitive outreach and assistance for AAPI Minnesotans. The ongoing funding for the Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) is also not included in the Senate Judiciary budget bill. This office would help address systemic policy and practices in a unified manner in order to end the epidemic of murdered and missing indigenous women.

In the Judiciary Committee hearing, I offered an amendment to the budget bill to add SF 1034. SF 1034 is a bipartisan bill introduced by Sen. Zach Duckworth. The bill requires the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to investigate criminal sexual conduct cases when the victim and accused perpetrator are both members of the Minnesota National Guard. My amendment was eventually adopted by the committee and will continue through the legislative process. 

Recently, the Minnesota Supreme Court issued a ruling dealing with the state’s definition of mentally incapacitated in the criminal sexual conduct statutes. The court ruled unanimously to overturn a sexual assault conviction based on whether a voluntarily intoxicated person was mentally incapacitated under the law. The issue is not with the court but with how many of Minnesota’s criminal sexual conduct laws are written.

I'm a co-author of SF 1683, a bipartisan bill that would provide a legislative solution to the mentally incapacitated loophole and other longstanding issues in Minnesota's sexual conduct statutes. During the 2019 legislative session, a bicameral and multidisciplinary working group was formed to deeply examine these laws. The Criminal Sexual Conduct Statutory Reform Working Group examined the statutes in full and proposed changes that are contained in SF 1683.

The Judiciary Committee Chair did not give the SF 1683 bill a hearing this session and intended to only consider provisions that would resolve flaws in statute related to the Supreme Court case. My DFL colleagues and I in the Judiciary Committee were compelled to continue to fight for the full inclusion of SF 1683 into the Judiciary bill. I was proud to stand in solidarity with sexual assault survivors and advocates and get the full language of the recommendations added to the Judiciary’s omnibus budget bill. 

Without the strength and vulnerability of the survivor's testimony, this progress would never have happened. Thank you to the survivors for testifying on both SF 1034 and SF 1683. Watch the video to listen to survivors affected by Minnesota's archaic laws and learn how updating these laws will help survivors seek justice. Please be aware their testimony discusses sexual assault and violence. 


Getting a COVID-19 Vaccine

The State of Minnesota is opening its eighth state-run, permanent vaccination site in Oakdale. To get an appointment at a one of the state’s Community Vaccination Program sites, including Oakdale, you must sign up for the Vaccine Connector.

Opportunities to get your COVID-19 vaccines are expanding in Dakota County. Sign-up through the Dakota County website to get the vaccine at one of their vaccine distribution sites. 

Governor Tim Walz and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also announced that Minnesota will receive a federal Community Vaccination Clinic at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. This site will focus on scheduling appointments for Minnesotans from specific zip codes and appointments will also be scheduled through the Vaccine Connector.

It’s an honor to represent you at the Capitol. Thank you!

State Senator Karla Bigham

Senate District 54