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Key bills on MNLARS, disaster relief and sexual harassment moving at legislature

March 21, 2019 06:40 PM

With less than two months until adjournment, some key pieces of legislation regarding MNLARS, disaster relief and sexual harassment law have moved off the Minnesota Senate and House floors.

In the Senate, a bill passed 57-8 to pay $13 million dollars to privately-owned deputy registrars who say they've lost at least that much money since the failed rollout of the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS) nearly two years ago.

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RELATED: Lawmakers agree on $13M more for MNLARS system

"These people have spent their reserves, some of their savings," bill author Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, said on the Senate floor.

"They worked overtime. They borrowed against their 401K. They've taken second mortgages. All to keep their businesses running. Some are maybe even on the verge of bankruptcy."

The funds can go to all private and county or city-operated deputy registrars - about 170 in all.

Also in the Senate, a bill to put $10 million dollars in the state's disaster recovery fund passed 67-0 with lawmakers looking ahead to spring flooding.

RELATED: Flooding preparations continue in St. Paul

"I think this is a critical bill, especially this year as we see flood waters rising in southern Minnesota, and we're going to be seeing that going forward here in northwest Minnesota especially," said Sen. Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks.

Over in the House, a bill passed 113 to 10 that would change a standard in current law that requires behavior to be proven "severe" and "pervasive" to qualify as sexual harassment.

"Severe or pervasive is such a high bar (that) things like unwanted kissing, requesting oral sex and comparing female employees' breasts are not considered severe or pervasive in our state," said Rep. Kelly Moller, DFL-Shoreview, the bill's chief author.

RELATED: Minnesota House panel passes sexual harassment bill 16-0

The bill would clarify that behavior does not have to be proven to be "severe or pervasive" in order for there to be litigation.

Some lawmakers pushed back, saying it would make it very difficult for employers to defend themselves from "frivolous" lawsuits.

The state chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business pushed back after the vote.

"The severe or pervasive standard has guided every state and federal court in this country, and it's incomprehensible that it is being repealed and not being replaced with some other measureable standard that defines actionable harassment for employees and employers," the organization said in a statement.

The Minnesota Senate has not taken action on a similar bill.

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Tom Hauser

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