|May 6, 2016
Legislative Issues Update
Welcome to this week’s ISAIAH Legislative Issues Update for the 2016 Minnesota legislative session. As people of faith, we believe our moral compass comes from the things God calls us to do. During this legislative session, the ISAIAH community is acting out of a fundamental set of values - dignity, inclusion, equity and redemption. Working together with our state leaders, we will put the truth of God's love back at the center of our lives and our society.
Northstar Rail Extension
A group of GRIP-ISAIAH leaders traveled from St. Cloud to the Capitol yesterday to encourage legislators to work together to finish the Northstar train line and create meaningful change for St. Cloud. Cost estimates from Gov. Dayton’s administration to bring this commuter train to St. Cloud have dropped from $200 million to $23 million.
House Moves to Open Appleton Prison
On Thursday, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved language to open the 1,600-bed Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) owned prison in Appleton, Minnesota during a 12 hour floor session.
Rep. Debra Hilstrom presented an amendment to ban private prisons and to delete the language from the omnibus bill that would open the Appleton prison; Rep. John Lesch proposed an amendment to prohibit the Department of Corrections from doing business with private corporations that have violated the Uniformed Services Employment Act, such as CCA; and Rep. Raymond Dehn offered an amendment that would prohibit the Department of Corrections from doing business with private corporations that profit from the detention of immigrants; lobby for bed quotas or have been negligent in providing medical
care for people under supervision – all of which CCA has done. All of these amendments were defeated.
The House’s move to open the Appleton prison is seen as largely symbolic, however, as the Senate leadership and Governor Dayton remain staunchly opposed. In addition, House Republicans actually cut the budget for public safety by $1 million, meaning there is no money appropriated to lease or operate the facility.
Last Friday a coalition of prosecutors, defense attorneys and law enforcement officials announced an agreement on a drug sentencing reform proposal, increasing the odds of successful legislation this year. The proposal reduces some sentences, eliminates some mandatory minimums, increases certain drug possession threshold amounts and drops possession of trace amounts from a felony to a gross misdemeanor, all important and overdue reforms. However, for marijuana possession, the proposal institutes some new mandatory minimum sentences.
While far from perfect, this agreement is an important milestone. Our leaders have fought for sentencing reform. They organized a rally on the grounds of the Capitol and held multiple prayer vigils outside legislative hearing rooms. They attended countless hearings and took their message of the need for sentencing reform to meetings with individual legislators. ISAIAH leaders will continue to press for comprehensive steps to abolish mass incarceration.
You can read a statement on the agreement issued by ISAIAH, Jewish Community Action and NAACP Minneapolis Chapter here.
Paid Family Leave Rally at the Capitol – May 17, Noon
ISAIAH has been proud to co-chair the Minnesotans for Paid Family Leave Coalition. We need Paid Family Leave so we can care for our loved ones when they are at their most vulnerable. Please join us on Tuesday, May 17, to call on the Legislature to get it done this session! Click here for more information and to register.
IN OTHER NEWS
School to Prison Pipeline
ISAIAH leaders have been working for years with school districts to end the “school-to-prison pipeline,” including in Osseo, one of the state’s largest districts. The "school-to-prison pipeline" refers to the policies and practices that push our nation's schoolchildren, especially our most at-risk children, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. On Monday, the Star Tribune published this front page
article with some encouraging news about progress being made in the Osseo school district.