ST. PAUL -- A handful of states, including Iowa and South Dakota, have announced plans to end the supplemental federal unemployment benefit of an extra $300 per week.  Right now that supplement is set to expire on September 6th.

Here in Minnesota, Democrats are pushing to pass legislation to not tax unemployment benefits. Jeff Howe is a Republican State Senator from Rockville. He says that is something he is not in favor of.

I think that's a bad message to send.  I think we should turn that around and actually give a little bit of a bonus for those that will go out and go back to work.

Howe says he was part of a round table discussion Thursday that focused on the worker shortage in central Minnesota. He says CentraCare is looking for 1,000 workers and Coborn's Incorporated needs 800 employees.

Howe says unemployment benefits are in the governor's hands right now. He says the senate is trying to gain some control of how the $2.8 billion in federal COVID relief dollars are spent in the state.

With just a few days remaining in this year's state legislative session, the House and Senate remain far apart on several big issues. After a five-hour debate, the Democratic-led House passed a bill to legalize recreational marijuana. Meanwhile, Howe says there is a big distinction on what the two chambers focused on Thursday.

The Senate focused on providing pay increases to our state law enforcement that are upwards of 20 percent behind their fellow law enforcement as far as city police.

That bill passed on the Senate floor on a 61 to 3 vote. The Senate does not plan to vote on a marijuana bill this session.  However, Howe says he would be open to expanding the medical marijuana laws in Minnesota.

Howe sits on two budget conference committees. The state legislature needs to pass a final budget by midnight on Monday in order to avoid a special session. Howe says the biggest sticking point is who gets control over spending the $2.8 billion in federal COVID relief money, the legislature or the governor.

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