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Senator Franken, One Week on the Job.

Little over a week has passed since Al Franken was sworn in as Minnesota’s second senator, but he’s already hit the ground running. In addition to launching a 3-week "listening tour" which will take members of his staff to all 66 of Minnesota’s counties, Senator Franken is a member of the Judiciary Committee that is currently holding hearings on Judge Sonia Sotomayor‘s nomination to fill the open seat on the U.S. Supreme Court.

On the legislative front, Senator Franken announced last week that his support for the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill which would allow workers to more easily form unions. And yesterday, he signed on to the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which extends resources to law enforcement prosecuting hate crimes and federal protections to victims targeted because of gender sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

The bill has already passed the House, but during debate this spring there was much controversy on the House floor when North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx said that it was a "hoax" that Shepard was murdered because he was gay.

Said Franken: "The overwhelming majority of Americans know that these protections are long overdue," said Sen. Franken. "No American should suffer because of their gender or sexual orientation, and no law enforcement official should be denied the necessary resources to prosecute their case. Minnesotans have a strong sense of justice, and no tolerance for hate. It’s time our laws reflect our convictions."

When the House considered the bill, Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN-06) said that "this hate crime legislation could be considered the very definition of tyranny."

In 2007, there were 7,621 single-bias hate crimes that involved 8,999 offenses. The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act would simply extend the existing federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected groups and provide law enforcement the same resources to investigate and prosecute these violent crimes.

Photo: Star Tribune

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