Week in Review: Feb. 20Ð24

Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
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First new law, Teacher Basic Skills

A bill to require teachers to successfully complete a basic skills examination in math, reading, and writing prior to receiving a license as a classroom teacher was signed into law Wednesday.

The Senate approved the bill Monday on a 60-1 vote, and the House unanimously endorsed it last week.

Current law allows teacher candidates to take the basic skills test when ready to apply for a license, and permits a teacher who failed the basic skills test to receive and even renew a temporary one-year teaching license up to two more times, while continuing to teach.

Out-of-state applicants for Minnesota teacher licenses will also have to pass the test.

The National Council on Teacher Quality released a report in 2010 called "Blueprint for Change in Minnesota." It gave Minnesota the grade of "D" for "delivering well-prepared teachers" and advised the state to close licensure loopholes such as permitting persons who have not yet passed state licensing tests to teach in classrooms.

Sex offenders

The Senate unanimously passed and the governor signed a bill Thursday that amends the state law on public notification for sex offenders. This bill changes current law to require community notification prior to a provisional discharge, and instead allows full community notification upon the transfer of the sex offender from the Minnesota Sex Offender Program to a residential treatment facility, such as a halfway house.

Under the provisions of this bill, all levels of community notification would occur, including notifying law enforcement, former victims, daycares and schools or other groups that may fit a victim profile, and general community meetings in the neighborhood. The measure was fast-tracked and received near unanimous support in both houses after the announcement that a high-risk pedophile held for 19 years in the Minnesota Sex Offender Program will be discharged to a St. Paul halfway house under a precedent-setting ruling. It is effective immediately.

Redistricting

Maps redrawing legislative and congressional district lines for this fall's elections were released Tuesday. The redistricting exercise is done every 10 years following the census. The number of districts remains the same but district borders are changed to make sure each district has approximately the same number of people in it, currently 80,000 per Senate district. There were some surprises in the court-ordered plan, including

48 legislative matchups, and 23 new open districts.

Please remember that you continue to be represented by your current senator and representative, as well as congressperson. To see how the change will affect you for the upcoming election, go to the state Geographic Information Services website at www.gis.leg.mn/html/redistricting.html, click on the interactive map and enter your address.

Personal protection

On Thursday, the Senate passed the Defense of Dwelling and Person Act which makes four changes to existing self-defense laws. It removes the "duty to retreat" provision, creates a presumption of reasonableness that protects the victim if they defend themselves, allows victims to use force against violent felonies, and protects victims who use justified force in self defense from facing criminal prosecution. The measure also addresses state government weapon seizure during state of emergencies, and recognizes permits to carry, or licenses from another state.

A similar bill has passed in the House, so bill language will need to be reconciled before being sent to the governor.

Gambling-free stadium

Several lawmakers introduced a bill Thursday to assist construction financing for a new Vikings stadium, leveraging the state's bond rating to facilitate a low-interest loan for up to $300 million in revenue bonds that will be repaid in the form of user fees. The bill calls for a sales tax exemption for construction materials and an appropriation for infrastructure improvements, and does not use any gambling revenues. It does not designate any specific location or require any local financial contribution. It would oblige the Vikings to play all home games in the stadium for

30 years or until all revenue bonds are repaid, whichever is longer. Additionally, the stadium would be privately owned and operated by the Vikings, so the state would not own another stadium and be obligated to finance operating costs.

Moving in senate committees: (find more at www.senate.mn and click "Bills")

* SF1544 would allow local governments to sell land to federally recognized veterans groups (such as VFWs and American Legions) at a reduced rate.

* SF1190 gives owners of residences permit rights for vacation rental of their own property.

* HF1766 will prevent unions from taking taxpayer dollars intended for the care of children, whether as union dues or "fair share" fees. The measure had a successful hearing in the House.

Senator Michelle Fischbach encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 226 State Capitol / St. Paul, MN 55155, or via e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .