Michelle Griffith | Reporter

Good morning, Reformers.

Now that Gov. Tim Walz said he is open to a special session to clarify the law banning prone restraints on students — meaning placing students in a face-down position — attention is now on DFL lawmakers to see if they are in agreement on returning to the Capitol. Republicans are eager to change the language or get rid of it all together and would like a special session to win a few news cycles on the issue.

Special sessions are usually pre-agreed, meaning lawmakers know exactly what they will discuss and have bill language drafted ahead of time. House Speaker Melissa Hortman on MPR yesterday said she could see a special session happening if there is an agreement between law enforcement, schools, Walz and the legislators. 

But we’re a long way from there — a key bloc of progressive members is a hard no on a special session, one confirmed early Thursday. 

Another said they believe there’s a lot of political theater surrounding the SRO issue. 

“It seems like a bunch of political games to me. A ruse,” a DFL legislative source said.

”Many stars have to align,” said another DFL legislative source.

Also, a down-the-middle lobbyist took issue with Patrick’s characterization of Walz “caving to the police lobby” on a potential special session: 

“I think there are legitimate distinctions between groups like (Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association) and the chiefs for instance. I’ve generally found the chiefs to be level headed and clear thinkers. For sure they carry a lot of weight with their city councils and communities at large (may be a rural/metro difference). If they say there are legitimate concerns I would tend to believe them.”

Candidates emerge for special election 

I’ve been keeping track of the folks running for ex-Rep. Ruth Richardson’s seat in district 52B, which encompasses Mendota, Mendota Heights and Eagan. This will be the state’s first special election for a legislative seat since 2020.

A person must be sworn in for the seat before the 2024 session begins on Feb. 12, so the timeline for a special election will be pretty tight. 

There will likely be a special primary and a special general election, since multiple DFL candidates have already emerged. We’re also approaching the holiday season, so Walz is going to need to take all that into consideration when he announces the special election dates, which should be pretty soon.

Here are the DFL candidates I’m aware of so far:

  1. Mendota Heights City Council member Jay Miller 
  2. Former Senate DFL aide Cynthia Callais
  3. Carl Yaeger, a senior at Drake University who works at the college’s satirical newspaper and former campaign assistant for Rep. Liz Reyer.

I haven’t seen any GOP candidates announce their intention to run. But Cynthia Lonnquist, Richardson’s former GOP challenger in 2020 and 2022, could give it another shot. 

Lonnquist lost to Richardson by over 23 points last year, so she would have an uphill battle. I will have more details for you about the candidates soon.

Contra our editor’s bit in Wednesday’s newsletter: A GOP source says they don’t expect to waste a ton of resources on what looks like a safe DFL seat. 

Editor’s note: Love having reporters who correct my misfires. 

Minnesota projects funded by the federal infrastructure bill 

Jiahong Pan has a detailed look at what projects are going to receive cash through the $7.4 billion allocated to Minnesota thanks to the federal infrastructure package and matching state funds.

MnDOT expects to receive up to $4.7 billion and Twin Cities transportation projects will see about $1.2 billion in funds. The money will go toward transit, bike and walking paths, and fund projects to reduce carbon emissions.

Projects will aim to make our roads safer, widen roads and reduce road congestion caused by railroad crossings. Note that the troubled Southwest Light Rail project will receive $250 million from the Federal Transit Administration. 

Read the story to learn more about where the money will go.

Lawmakers look to ban shadow noncompetes in property management contracts

Max Nesterak writes that DFL lawmakers intend to introduce a bill next session that bans property management companies from forbidding homeowners associations from hiring their workers.

Democrats banned noncompete agreements earlier this year, but this new push to ban so-called shadow noncompetes comes from Max’s previous reporting about property management giant FirstService Residential and it’s effort to prohibit a condominium association from employing any of its workers — either directly or indirectly — for two years after their contract expired.

Rep. Emma Greenman, DFL-Minneapolis, said she and Sen. Alice Mann, DFL-Edina, will author the bill.

“These agreements are the same kind of restrictive employment agreements that we have been trying to eliminate and limit because they hurt the workforce … They are anti-competitive and anti-worker,” Greenman said.

Workers’ comp claims, especially COVID-19 cases, denied at record rates in recent years

Madison McVan reports that employers and their insurance companies denied a record-breaking percentage of workers’ compensation claims in 2021 — even when you take COVID-19 cases out of the equation. 

COVID-19-related claims were denied more often — 39% in 2021 — than other claims, which were denied about 24% of the time, according to preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. (The report cautions that the most recent data are less stable, and may be corrected over time.)

This year, the denial rate for COVID-19 claims is climbing even higher, although the number of claims related to COVID-19 have dropped in response to a change in state law.

The DLI report did not provide an explanation for the increased denial rate for non-COVID-19 claims.

Commentary: Construction industry must confront suicide crisis

Jason George, business manager of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49, and Tim Worke, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Minnesota, write that the construction industry has one of the highest suicide rates in the country. They argue a few common sense changes can make a difference.

Prioritizing worker safety, better planning in bid scheduling to alleviate stress for contractors and their employers, reducing night shift work and normalizing seeking mental health treatment are among the ways to help, they argue

“The construction industry can’t ignore the problem of suicide. We can’t continue squeezing workers and contractors, demanding they do things faster with fewer resources. That approach has a proven human cost, and our workers and their families are paying the price,” George and Worke write.

Stop for school buses, please

And finally, I’d like to send out a quick reminder to folks to please stop for school buses. My nephew had his first day of kindergarten on Tuesday, and he rode the bus home for the first time. My sister wanted to catch the moment on video of him stepping off the bus, clutching his Ninja Turtles backpack.

But the cute moment was interrupted after a van didn't stop for the bus, but merely slowed down to make sure no kids were crossing. This caused my brother-in-law to go into full papa bear mode. He yelled at the van and said, “Hey! You see the bus right? You don’t slow down. You stop!” Pretty funny to see him yell at a stranger, but please stop for all buses when the lights are flashing and the stop sign comes out. 

Have a great Thursday everybody! 

Correspond: michelle@minnesotareformer.com



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