Staff Directory 6370530

Jessie Van Berkel

Reporter | Politics and Government

Jessie Van Berkel writes about Minnesota government and politics at the Star Tribune. She previously covered St. Paul City Hall and local government in the south metro.

Before joining the Star Tribune, Van Berkel reported on city and county government in Sarasota, Fla., and public safety and courts in Appleton, Wis. She is a Minnesota native who returned to her home state to work for the Star Tribune in 2014. She's a University of Minnesota graduate and a proud Minnesota Daily alumna. Outside of work, she is usually hiking, biking, camping or planning her next travel adventure. Her home is frequently littered with travel books.
Recent content from Jessie Van Berkel
Dianna Bady spoke with people she helped bring into Teen Teamworks a few months ago. Bady lost her job in the pandemic but got a job this year helping

Black unemployment rate falls to record low in Minnesota, but do numbers tell the whole story?

Community leaders question who is reflected in the numbers and whether workers are landing living-wage jobs.
New hire training in Dakota County this week helped orient incoming public-sector employees.

Government jobs grew this year in Minnesota after post-pandemic lag

Private-sector jobs rebounded to pre-pandemic levels earlier this year, but government employment has not fully returned.
Hildie Edwards, 13, attended the signing in April of a bill protecting gender-affirming health care in Minnesota.

'I want you to hear me': Hildie Edwards becomes Minnesota's foremost trans youth advocate

From speaking at the State Capitol to performing at the Pride Festival, the 13-year-old is telling her story amid a national furor over transgender rights.
Cub Food patrons in Minneapolis shopped in the fresh food section Thursday. Price rates for groceries, gas and rent are all increasing, but Inflation

Twin Cities has one of the lowest inflation rates in U.S., at 1%

Minnesota low annual inflation continues to stand out from other metro areas nationwide.
The tip jar at Wheel Fun Rentals at Bde Maka Ska in Minneapolis.

Has tipping gotten out of control? How to navigate the new world of tipping

Touch-screen tip requests seem to be everywhere and the typical restaurant tip has climbed. Why are we tipping more?
Twins Ellie Long and Abby Long, both 20, like to visit their hometown in the summer, but plan to move away from the Twin Cities.

Minnesota is losing more college students than it attracts, a troubling trend

Snowbirds are not the primary culprits in Minnesota's population losses. For years, it's been college students.
Kurt Zellers made campaign calls to primary election voters from his campaign office in Osseo. Press secretary Caitlyn Stenerson brought some thank-yo

Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers to lead Minnesota Business Partnership

The former GOP gubernatorial candidate will lead one of the state's most prominent business advocacy organizations.
DEED Commissioner Matt Varilek, center, and Gov. Tim Walz toured a manufacturing site for the company Bühler as the governor kicked off a statewide w

New DEED commissioner shares vision for Minnesota's jobs, economic future

New employment and economic development leader Matt Varilek said an influx of cash for his agency will help with workforce and child care challenges.
Blaine parks and recreation employee Kayla McLellan, 19, who recently graduated from Spring Lake Park High School, sang along with children in the Pla

Teen employment hovers near decadeslong high amid tight Minnesota labor market

The teen unemployment rate nationally is the lowest it's been since the 1950s. Yet, employers still say there are not enough young workers to meet their labor needs.
Anne Leland Clark is one of the advocates pushing for payday lending reform in Minnesota.

Minnesota's top short-term lender ceases payday loans after state caps interest rates

Payday America stopped offering the loans it's known for and questioned where people will turn now for quick cash.
Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.

Fed's Kashkari: Banks need to have more money on hand if inflation remains high

The Minneapolis Fed president supported a plan to boost capital requirements for big banks.
Emily Olson, a stylist at Hair District Collective in St. Louis Park, cuts a client’s hair on Thursday, June 29. Olson left her job during the Great

Minnesota bans 'pervasive' noncompete agreements

New noncompete agreements are void starting July 1, but existing contracts will remain in place.
James Garlough, center, a friend of Tretter’s and the MC for the event, got emotional as they sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” while waving rai

Archivist Jean-Nickolaus Tretter celebrated for preserving LGBTQ history

Tretter's friends and family reflected on a man whose collection is now housed at the University of Minnesota.
A rendering from Minnesota’s pitch to host the 2027 Expo.

Minnesota loses 2027 Expo bid

The massive trade show, which city leaders hoped would spur development, went to Serbia instead.
The Minnesota State Capitol building in St. Paul.

Minnesota government workers push for higher pay in union negotiations

State pay hasn't kept pace with inflation and has fallen behind other government organizations, workers say.
Gov. Tim Walz signs a ceremonial budget bill on the Capitol steps in front of hundreds of supporters on Wednesday, May 24, 2023.

Minnesota Democrats tout legislative session on national stage

DFL leaders are using legislative accomplishments to try to entice workers, and as a campaign season tool.
Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter said state government will likely hire at least 2,000 people over the next couple of years

Minnesota needs to hire thousands of new workers. Can the state find them?

The state will be searching for staff to enact new programs and agencies amid the tightest labor market in a generation.
The Minnesota House chambers

Higher daily expense payments, salaries on tap for Minnesota legislators

House members signed off this week on a $20 increase to their per diem pay, a move GOP legislators disputed.
Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic shook hands with fellow DFLer Nick Frentz moments after the Senate adjourned on May 22.

Senate leader Dziedzic: 'I just listened to what the doctor said and just focused'

DFLer worked from hospital and home as she faced surgery and chemotherapy.
Elementary school bus drivers are among the hourly workers who now qualify for unemployment insurance between school years.

Minnesota first state to allow hourly school workers to seek unemployment benefits

Bus drivers, paraprofessionals and others can apply for unemployment insurance during summer break.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig had planned to vote for the deal but can’t vote remotely in the GOP-led House.

Craig injures ankle, missing vote on debt ceiling deal

She tripped while doing yard work and was scheduled for surgery Thursday.
Volunteers put together naloxone kits at the headquarters for the nonprofit Steve Rummler HOPE Network.

Minnesota passes major drug changes, from psychedelics task force to legalizing paraphernalia

The state's new drug policies reach far beyond legalizing marijuana.
DFL legislators Rep. Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic and Sen. Jennifer McEwen applauded in

How did Minnesota Democrats unify to pass sweeping change?

From Social Security tax exemptions to gun restrictions, DFL leaders at the State Capitol held their caucuses together on divisive issues.
Toni Kay Mangskau of Rochester and her partner George Romano. Mangskau has been a caregiver for family members and has lost pay without the option for

Minnesota's paid family and medical leave program becomes law

The benefit program and accompanying payroll tax won't start until 2026.
Along with DFL legislative leaders and his commissioners, Gov. Tim Walz threw a bill-signing party Wednesday morning on the Capitol steps.

Walz, Democrats and advocates celebrate $72 billion budget

Republicans say the new budget will make it much more expensive to live in Minnesota.
House DFL members celebrated after the passage of the Health and Human Services finance bill on the floor of the house Monday.

Legislature ends session by passing largest infrastructure package in state history

Lawmakers sent a $2.6 billion infrastructure package to Gov. Tim Walz's desk on the final day of session.
Indexing the gas tax to inflation would boost it by 5 cents over the current 28.5 cents a gallon by 2027.

Legislature passes $1.3B transportation deal with gas tax hike, sending it to Walz

Debate throughout the session has centered on how to fund much-needed fixes to the state's roads, bridges and public transit systems.
House Taxes Committee chair Rep. Aisha Gomez, DFL-Minneapolis, spoke outside the House chamber.

Minnesota House passes $3 billion tax cut plan, goes to Senate for final vote

The proposal also raises $1 billion in new revenues over the next two years.
Democrats’ agreement to index the gas tax to inflation has been blasted by Republicans.

Minnesota DFL legislators agree to index gas tax to inflation

Democrats struck a transportation budget deal they say raises funding long-term.
With control of state government, Democrats were set to approve the largest budget in state history by far.

Legislature wrapping work on one of the most consequential sessions in Minnesota history

Democrats crossed off a long list of priorities in a single session in power. Republicans say they overreached.
The Minnesota Capitol was somewhat quiet Saturday morning after lawmakers struck a deal overnight to devote up to $2.6 billion to infrastructure proje

Minnesota legislators strike deal on $2.6B infrastructure plan

The agreement includes more money that can be used to aid distressed nursing homes. The deal also aims to end the session on time.
Kate Quinlan-Laird and Betty Folliard, right, smiled as Sen. Scott Dibble, DFL-Minneapolis, left, put an ERA button on his jacket lapel. Wednesday, Ma

Will this be year for Minnesota's long-stalled Equal Rights Amendment?

Backers herald "historic" legislative votes, await House action on proposed constitutional amendment.
Rep. Liz Olson, right, joined by House Speaker Melissa Hortman, held a news conference in February to discuss her bill to mandate paid sick time for n

Sick time provision would allow Minnesota workers to earn time off, paid by employers

Employees would earn one hour off for every 30 worked under a controversial provision in a sweeping jobs bill headed to the governor.
Sen. Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, with her family after her mock swearing-in in January. From left, Judge Wilhelmina Wright, Erin’s wife Alyse

Lactating or pregnant workers could see new accommodations

Minnesota legislators are also pushing sales tax breaks on baby items and coverage of infertility treatments.
In January, Gov. Tim Walz visited McCarrons Water Treatment Plant in Maplewood to pitch his bonding proposal of more than $3.3 billion.

Minnesota legislators contemplate scaled-back $1.3B infrastructure plan

With the end of session fast approaching, Democrats have shifted from a borrowing bill to a smaller, all-cash plan.
The $1 billion housing bill on its way to the governor’s desk devotes money to adding and preserving affordable housing.

Five takeaways from Minnesota Legislature's housing deal

The $1 billion bill is the most the state has ever spent on housing, but much of the money is one-time cash.
Minnesota AFL-CIO organizer Haylee Hilton leads a rally in support of paid family leave Monday at the State Capitol.

Minnesota Senate votes for paid family and medical leave

Republicans and some business owners have concerns about the bill, while a coalition supporting the proposal rallied outside the Senate chambers.
Lavon Jordan, a medical assistant for Odam Medical Group, gave COVID-19 vaccines at the Mary F. Frey Opportunity Center in Minneapolis.

Minnesota nonprofits urge legislators to boost funding for homeless services

Nonprofits say that without additional state funding, some critical homelessness services could shrink or disappear altogether.
Rob Yang looks over construction on his University Avenue property Wednesday, May 3, 2023 in St. Paul. Yang purchased the space after his other locati

Minnesota legislators consider $100 million or more for communities hit by unrest

Businesses say more help is needed as legislators try to align differing proposals.
Representatives in the House hugged and high fived after they adjourned Monday night. The Minnesota Legislature scrambled to complete their work befor

What the Minnesota Legislature passed this year, and what's still to be signed

From recreational marijuana to tax cuts, we track the major bills at the State Capitol.
Explore Minnesota employees chatted before a team meeting at the wayside St. Croix Welcome Center along Interstate 94 in West Lakeland Township on Fri

Could Minnesota become a 'Top 10' destination? Tourism officials seek cash, new approach

The state tourism bureau is poised for a post-pandemic spending boost as it aims to stand out from "Midwest wallpaper."
Gov. Tim Walz signed a federal tax conformity bill on Jan. 12 in the reception room at the State Capitol.

How do Minnesota Democrats' three tax plans differ?

DFL leaders must align tax bill differences, from rebate checks to Social Security tax breaks.
Sen. Erin May Quade, center, the transgender health care bill’s sponsor, and Rep. Leigh Finke, right, emerged elated from the Senate chambers on Fri

State Senate OKs conversion therapy ban, transgender and abortion refuge bills

The votes come as GOP-led states take steps to restrict access to abortion and and gender-affirming health care.
The Minnesota House has signed off on a state government budget bill.

Minnesota's governor, other top state officers could see two pay raises

Gov. Tim Walz has said he would not take the higher pay.
Floodwaters covered 90th Street SE. just off County Road 17 on Wednesday in Delano.

Flooding escalates in Minnesota as rivers rise: 'Rain will not help'

After a winter of record-setting snowfall, melting snow and rain is flowing through tributaries across the state. The Crow River was expected to crest in Delano, Minn., on Wednesday.
Floodwaters entered an abandoned house just off County Road 17 on Wednesday in Delano.

Minnesota leaders monitor rain as floodwaters near peak

The state and local governments are starting to assess damage and recovery needs.
House Democrats must negotiate the final tax bill with Gov. Tim Walz and DFLers in the state Senate.

Rebate checks, credits and Social Security tax cuts proposed in House DFL bill

Minnesotans could see one-time checks of $275 to $550, tax credits for families and Social Security tax cuts under a proposal House Democrats unveiled Monday.
Flooding is already closing trails along the Mississippi River like here at Meeker Island Park off Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul.

Minnesota bolsters disaster aid dollars as floods loom

Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers will reach flood levels in some places in the next few days, the National Weather Service predicts.
During the pandemic, dozens of people stopped by the New American Development Center in Minneapolis each day to check on their applications for the st

Report shows delays, inaccuracies in Minnesota rent help program

Housing official says auditor's recommended standards were unreasonable given unprecedented circumstances.
People yelled “stop the madness” during a Minnesota GOP “Freedom Rally” at the State Capitol on Tuesday.

Minnesota Republicans rally at Capitol to oppose DFL policies, spending

GOP supporters gathered on the day of Trump's arraignment, but their focus was on state politics.
President Joe Biden gives a hug to Rep. Ilhan Omar and greets the Minnesota delegation as he arrives at MSP on Air Force One.

President Joe Biden highlights economic agenda in Minnesota visit

His visit is part of a national tour focused on job creation, manufacturing and clean energy.
Amazon Prime Now driver Miguel Ramos of Richfield filled up his car in March with deliveries at the Amazon Prime Now hub in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Democrats consider tax and fee increases

From deliveries to outdoor recreation to the metro sales tax, DFL lawmakers eye price hikes along with tax cuts.
Donald Trump nearly flipped Minnesota in 2016, but then decisively lost in 2020. Now Minnesota Republicans and voters must assess where they stand on

Minnesota Republicans, Democrats are polarized by Trump indictment

Voters in both parties questioned whether the criminal indictment will stick to the controversial former president.
Gov. Tim Walz, with guests on the patio of the governor’s residence in 2019.

Republicans attempt to limit governor's temporary housing costs

The state is spending more than $17,000 a month to house Walz's family during a renovation project.
Protesters gathered outside the Minnesota governor’s residence for a demonstration in 2020.

Walz family will move as the governor's residence gets $6.3M overhaul

The state will pay about $330,000 to rent a house for the governor's family for 18 months in Sunfish Lake.
Deneen Pottery President & CEO Niles Deneen is concerned about the paid leave proposal moving at the State Capitol, and what it could mean for his bus

Minn. businesses fear expense, expanse of paid family leave bill

State leaders consider changes to paid leave proposal, which is more sweeping than some other states.
Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan want to send tax rebate checks to millions of Minnesotans.

Could Minnesota's proposed rebate checks fuel even higher inflation?

Some economists have raised the question after a number of states already passed tax rebates, but rebate supporters argued much bigger factors drive inflation.
Carpenters union member Mandy Reese of Zumbrota called on senators to pass the infrastructure bill Thursday, saying it would create construction indus

GOP senators reject state infrastructure package

The Republican lawmakers said they would not vote for infrastructure borrowing unless the Legislature acts on tax cuts.
Katie Lowes and Jesse Bradford, center, star in “Merry Kiss Cam,” a sporty holiday rom-com that was filmed in Duluth.

Minnesota may boost film tax credit 400% in hope of attracting production

Legislators aim to lure productions, but other states' incentives have had questionable results.
The boost will raise Minnesota legislators’ salaries to $51,750 in July.

Minnesota legislators will get 7.25% pay hike

The $3,500 annual boost is driven by retention and inflation concerns.
Craig Warren, CEO of the Washburn Center, speaks at the State Capitol.

Legislators tackle 'sinkholes' in Minn. mental health system

Lawmakers and advocates said the state could spend hundreds of millions on mental health needs, with an emphasis on children.
A group including Gov. Tim Walz toured the McCarrons Water Treatment Plant in Maplewood in January.

Can state leaders pass early $1.9B infrastructure package?

The fate of the borrowing bill could be decided Monday. Legislators who negotiated the agreement — which is on par with a record-setting 2020 state construction package — are waiting to see whether it holds or disintegrates on the House floor.
Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson said Republicans on the Tax Committee have “tried to bridge the aisle” and talk with new DFL legislators who s

GOP legislators propose state tax plan with rebate checks they once criticized

Republicans say the state's record surplus also should be used on tax cuts.
Governor Tim Walz speaks at a news conference on the Minnesota economic and budget forecast in St. Paul on Monday.

Minnesota's surplus mostly unchanged at $17.5 billion

For the first time in 20 years, the prediction accounts for inflation in spending.
Gov. Tim Walz has already signed more than a half dozen bills into law this session, including one to enshrine abortion rights in state law.

Minn. Democrats rapidly advance most progressive agenda in a generation

Concern about voter pushback is seemingly absent, with Democrats saying voters sent them to St. Paul to act.
Political campaigns often have trouble door-knocking in apartment buildings.

Minnesota legislators aim to ensure campaigns have apartment access

Candidates have run into problems as they try to knock on doors in multi-unit buildings.
Jason Lange, with wife Kim Gustavson during a rally Tuesday at the State Capitol, held a photo of his stepson Travis Gustavson, who died of an overdos

Families of overdose victims press Minnesota legislators to act

Family members want to require schools to carry naloxone, and some are also calling for increased fentanyl penalties.
Rep. Liz Olson, joined by House Speaker Melissa Hortman, discussed her bill to mandate paid sick and safe time for nearly all Minnesota workers during

How would paid leave and sick time plans work in Minnesota?

Workers could accrue short-term leave under one legislative proposal, while a payroll-tax funded program would allow for longer absences.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Minneapolis Club Wednesday as part of a push to rally supporters against school policies supporting tra

Mike Pence visits Minnesota, says parents' rights being 'trampled'

The former vice president criticized school policies supporting transgender students.
Sen. John Marty, seen here in the Senate gallery, plans to block any unwieldy omnibus measures that merge spending and policy.

Can a DFL-controlled Minnesota Legislature buck bad habits?

Key legislators aim to prevent "garbage bills" and end an oft-criticized budget forecasting practice.
Stephanie Burrage, deputy education commissioner, talked about how a group she formed, Mind, Body and Soul grew to more than 600 participants over the

Community leaders press Minnesota lawmakers to address racial disparities

Legislators contemplate how to sustain momentum to close racial gaps.
The Minnesota state flag is seen as displayed in the State Capitol rotunda on March 24, 2022.

Lawmakers aim to redesign 'outdated' Minnesota flag

The state's flag offends many and violates modern design principles.
DFL Gov. Tim Walz, left, spent nearly twice as much as Republican challenger Scott Jensen, right, in 2022,

Minnesota Democrats dramatically outspent GOP in midterm

DFL Gov. Tim Walz spent nearly twice as much as GOP's Scott Jensen in 2022, new finance reports show.
A coalition of groups held a demonstration in St. Paul on Sunday in response to the killing of Tyre Nichols in Memphis and to show support for police

Minnesota lawmakers consider police reforms after Tyre Nichols' death

Major rules changes could come next week from the state board that regulates law enforcement.
A group including Gov. Tim Walz, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and General Manager Patrick Shea stand in the center of a lim

Walz says Minnesota needs more than $3B for infrastructure

Lawmakers have been considering an infrastructure deal about half that size, left on the table last year.