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Briefly

Davids-Hagedorn bill clears House

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday passed the “Women’s Business Center Improvements Act of 2019” by unanimous consent.

The bill is authored by Rep. Sharice Davids, D-Kansas, and Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn. Hagedorn represents southern Minnesota in the House.

According to a press release from Hagedorn’s office, the legislation supports women entrepreneurs nationwide by modernizing and strengthening the Small Business Administration’s Women’s Business Centers program.

The bill increases access to training, counseling and assistance plans; capital, business development; and workforce investment.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

“I am incredibly proud of the bipartisan nature of this small business bill,” Hagedorn said. “Enhancing Women’s Business Centers will help foster a new generation of women business leaders, further expand our economy and help hard-working Americans achieve their goals and dreams.

Prison staff shortages costly

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota Department of Corrections almost doubled the overtime it paid prison staff in the past year because of a chronic staff shortage and concern for employee safety.

The state’s DOC data shows it paid $12.3 million for more than 262,000 hours of overtime during fiscal year 2019. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports that’s up from the year before when the DOC paid $6.9 million of overtime for 150,000 hours.

State Corrections Commissioner Paul Schnell said the agency increased its overtime use after two officers died last year. Corrections officer Joseph Gomm was allegedly bludgeoned to death by an inmate in Stillwater prison in July 2018. Officer Joe Parise died during a medical emergency two months later while responding to an attack on a colleague at Oak Park Heights.

Schnell said the deaths showed the dangers of understaffed facilities.

“We incurred a significant amount of overtime as a result of that,” Schnell said. “Everything that happens (in prison) requires security personnel, and that has been the place where we’ve had the biggest challenges.”

The DOC had 113 officer vacancies as of Sept. 17. A total of 240 corrections officers left during fiscal year 2019, making for a turnover rate of 12.4%.

The newspaper reports that about 80% of overtime pay last fiscal year went to nearly 2,000 corrections officers at the state’s 10 prisons.

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