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. Twitter: @jessvanb 

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
Townhouses under construction in August in Hermantown, Minn.

Legislative debate over solutions to Minnesota's housing shortage off to rocky start

The Minnesota Legislative Commission on Affordable Housing got a jump-start on considering ways to tackle housing issues in the 2022 session.
Farmer Gene Smallridge described the drought’s impacts on his Hastings farm to Gov. Tim Walz and Agriculture Commissioner Thom Petersen on Friday.

Gov. Walz announces $10M farm relief plan, but aid could get held up in political deadlock

Farmers say aid could help keep people afloat, and time is of the essence.
Members of George Floyd’s family speak to reporters outside the White House after meeting with President Joe Biden on May 25, the anniversary of Flo

Police reform push crumbles in Congress

Attempts to reach a deal after George Floyd's killing by an officer fell apart.
Students entered Bodien Residence Hall at Bethel University in Arden Hills, which saw the largest drop in dormitory residents of any metro city in the

For Minnesota college towns, 'perfect storm' hits census count

Cities rely on a full resident count for government funding, planning.
Sen. Jeremy Miller, R-Winona, chief author of the Sunday liquor bill, was congratulated by other Senators when the bill passed Feb. 27, 2017.

Soon-to-be Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller known as a 'fixer'

For Jeremy Miller, being Senate leader is the latest in a long list of job titles.
Nurse Rachel Hanneman was photographed in the COVID unit at St Joseph’s Hospital. Submitted photo.

Frontline workers plead for portion of $250M as Minn. leaders debate who gets money

A group of lawmakers is deadlocked on who should receive "hero pay."
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, and Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, are both stepping down from their leadersh

Minnesota Senate leadership posts open as Kent, Gazelka step down

Many names have been floated as potential candidates, but few senators have formally announced whether they are running.
While Minnesotans have yet to get the vaccine for a variety of reasons, two of the most frequently expressed concerns are fear about the safety of the

Minnesota health officials decry COVID vaccine misinformation

A key GOP legislator is among those raising vaccine concerns. More than 1 million adults statewide remain unvaccinated.
Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, tells his caucus he’s stepping down as leader.

Gazelka stepping down as Senate majority leader

Republican Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced he is stepping down from his leadership post as he contemplates a run for governor, telling his GOP caucus he wants to "pursue the next chapter."
A large crowd filled the Minnesota State Capitol Lawn during a rally for medical freedom on Saturday, August 28, 2021. The crowd opposed medical and g

Minnesota's newly vaccinated credit family more than FDA

It may be too early to know if the FDA's blessing will convince the vaccine hesitant that the shots are safe and effective.
Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles, shown in his St. Paul office, has been on the job for 38 years. His last day will be Oct. 5.

Minnesota's longtime watchdog Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles retiring

In a letter to legislators and colleagues, Nobles wrote that he was confident the good work of the office will continue.
Generic caption on troops withdrawal caused criticism....  In this image provided by the U.S. Marine Corps, families begin to board a U.S. Air Force B

Minnesota delegation divided on response in Afghanistan

Some prominent Minnesota Democrats stood behind the president's response.
Registered nurse Yvonne Akufongwe gave Jennifer Guiterrez, 15, her second Pfizer vaccine at a community vaccination clinic at Gordon Parks High School

Minnesota health officials hope for COVID-19 vaccine boost from FDA approval

Vaccine hesitancy has waned, but some say they are waiting for reassurance of full regulatory approval
Ella Vang, 8, handed Aubree Turner, 4, a cucumber at the Farmers Market in Oakdale this month. Aubree’s racially blended family recently moved from

From farm country to the suburbs, Minn. diversity climbed the past decade

Census shows clusters of growing racial and ethnic populations
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, speaking here with nurse Kelly Robinson of the Black Nurses Rock organization, said she will continue pushing for unfinished

Leaders failed to 'meet moment' on equity, Minn. activists say

Converting momentum into tangible policies and spending often proved difficult in the nation's only divided Legislature, where lawmakers disagree on how best to tackle disparities and just the word "equity" can spark disputes.
Dr. Neil Shah is a Republican candidate for Minnesota governor.

Neil Shah is second doctor to join GOP race for governor

Neil Shah, a dermatologist from North Oaks, has joined the battle for the GOP nomination in the 2022 Minnesota governor's race."I am determined to save…
Ruban Urrutia and Jennifer Gerboth, both from Minneapolis, danced at a Malamanya concert.

Census shows Minn. diversity growing, white population sees first-ever drop

The 2020 count found the state's white non-Hispanic population declined slightly. The state's nonwhite population is driving Minnesota's overall population growth and these shifts are even more pronounced in the metro.
The suburb of Prior Lake features large homes abutting golf courses and lakes. MARK VANCLEAVE • STAR TRIBUNE

Minnesota legislators aim to spur creation of more entry-level housing

Proposed bill follows Star Tribune report examining zoning restrictions.
During the pandemic, Ramsey County leased Bethesda Hospital to operate as a homeless shelter. Commissioners must now decide how to spend federal pande

Cities, counties debate best use of 'once-in-a-generation' recovery dollars

Local governments are weighing how to spend $2.1B in federal money.
This alfalfa crop on Steve Anderson’s farm in Foley is one of many across the state affected by the drought. LEILA NAVIDI • STAR TRIBUNE

Drought-plagued Minnesota farmers to get additional government aid

Gov. Tim Walz says federal aid is coming and he hopes for supplement from state.
Secretary of the Senate Cal Ludeman said Thursday that he will hire an investigator to look into what happened in 2019 and 2020, when a former Senate

Outside investigator to review how Minnesota Senate handled harassment claims

The investigator will look into how the Senate handled a former staffer's complaints.
Renters and community members organized by Inquilinxs Unidxs Por Justicia and United Renters For Justice marched Saturday, Aug. 1, 2020 in Minneapolis

Minnesotans protected as federal eviction ban lifts, officials say

State leaders recently passed an eviction moratorium phaseout.
Maria Workman, a foreman working with PSG Contracting, watched as labor apprentice Francis Kirunda took measurements on the Southwest Light Rail line.

Diversity goals rarely met on Minn. construction projects

In dozens of instances over the past two years, companies contracting with the state did not employ a single woman or person of color as part of their construction team.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz’s administration has recommended that students, teachers and school staff wear face masks as they return in the fall, but it

As COVID cases rise, Walz not eyeing new emergency powers — yet

The governor would need to once again declare a peacetime emergency to impose a mask rule or other mandates — a move that would draw sharp condemnation from some lawmakers.
Gov. Tim Walz, who urged Minnesota lawmakers in 2020 to ban “conversion therapy” for minors, has signed an executive order he says will restrict t

Walz signs order to restrict 'conversion therapy' for minors

DFL legislators say they still need to pass a law to fully ban the practice.
Rep. John Thompson

Minnesota Rep. John Thompson's out-of-state license draws sharp rebuke

Traffic stop video released of Rep. John Thompson's alleged racial profiling
Lawmakers started the process to renovate the State Office Building, shown after a protest in January.

Minnesota legislators made these last-minute additions to the state budget

Changes affect law enforcement bill, lobbying by legislators and State Office Building renovations.
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Commissioner Laura Bishop

MPCA commissioner resigns ahead of expected Senate rejection

The chamber was set to review Laura Bishop's confirmation in a hearing Tuesday.
Gov. Tim Walz, right, with his wife, Gwen Walz, walk the signed education budget law over to the office of Secretary of State Steve Simon, from the St

After passing big spending plan, Minnesota legislators keep eye on future

Facing dire predictions a year ago, lawmakers approved a $52 billion state budget for the next two years, the largest in state history.
Gov. Tim Walz’s gave Dylan Nguyen, 9, a fist bump after he signed a $52 billion state budget bill. Dylan’s mom, Hue Nguyen, is the deputy chief of

Here's where Minnesota Legislature landed on 10 top issues in special session

From taxes to school funding to police reform, here's what the Legislature did — or didn't — accomplish.
Gov. Tim Walz, with his wife, Gwen, walked the signed education budget law over to the office of Secretary of State Steve Simon on Wednesday.

Legislature passes $52B budget, avoiding government shutdown

Lawmakers had just hours to spare before a midnight deadline as they approved a massive spending package to support K-12 education. They later approved a tax relief package that included nearly $1 billion in tax cuts.
Minnesota State Capitol. With just days before the end of session, lawmakers were locked in budget negotiations and unable to move ahead with major le

Where big issues stand at the Minnesota Legislature

In special session, the divided Legislature must finish a two-year state budget and agree on other key policy issues.
Waseca police officer Arik Matson was guided his wife, Megan Matson, as they made their way to the Senate chambers to be recognized Tuesday.

Legislators end Walz's COVID powers as part of budget deal

House passes public safety and judiciary bill, but shutdown nears entering final day.
Governor Tim Walz spoke at a press conference inside the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, June 10, 2021.

Walz takes executive action on public safety and police reform

Walz said he would use $15 million in COVID-19 relief money to pay for community violence prevention grants, increase data sharing from the state's police licensing board and order state-level law enforcement agencies to share footage of deadly police encounters with relatives of those killed within five days.
Chief Clerk Patrick Duffy Murphy finished the day’s paperwork in the House Chamber before heading home on Sunday, June 27.

Police accountability advocates disappointed by deal at State Capitol

New regulations on no-knock warrants and confidential informants, and updated expectations on the use of mental health crisis teams are included. But many of the more controversial proposed policing changes were left out.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, said negotiators are “inches away from a deal” on the public safety bill. GLEN STUBBE • S

Minnesota legislators reach public safety deal in push to finish budget

Education, health and human services measures also move forward as deadline nears.
Of the new bill, House Health Committee Chairwoman Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said: “I do not think we’ll see in another generation a bill

State leaders say health and human services bill will help families and children hit hardest by pandemic

GOP lawmakers have raised concerns with the bill that makes up roughly a third of state spending.
Gov. Tim Walz said he plans to end the emergency powers he has used to respond to the pandemic by Aug. 1. GLEN STUBBE • STAR TRIBUNE

Walz says he will end emergency powers Aug. 1

More than a month is needed for an orderly transition, state officials said.
A voter dropped her ballot in the ballot box at the Hennepin County Government Center before the 2020 election.

Minnesota lawmakers shelve voter ID and expanded access

However, legislators agreed on additional security requirements for absentee ballot drop boxes.
Small-business owners, grocery store workers and custodial staff could receive bonuses for those on the front lines of the pandemic.

Front-line workers get $250M in bonuses in new deal at Capitol

The agreement also spends $1.2 billion more on the state's classrooms over the next four years, aiming to stave off teacher layoffs triggered by the pandemic.
Gov. Tim Walz called the massive boost in tax collections “gratifying” during a press conference outside his Capitol office on Thursday. GLEN STUB

State revenue $1.8B above expectations in May

Delayed tax filings contributed to the flood of revenue last month.
A group of Democrats including Richfield mayor Michael Howard called for a plan to off-ramp the state’s eviction moratorium on Wednesday, June 9. Sh

Clock ticking as legislators clash over how to end eviction pause

As special session looms, a deal on how to end eviction moratorium is a top priority.
A bar patron plays electronic pulltabs in Coon Rapids. Glen Stubbe • STAR TRIBUNE

E-pulltab restrictions dealt setback at Capitol, but fight isn't over

Bar owners, charities oppose changes to the electronic games.
Gov. Tim Walz is expected to call the Legislature back to the Capitol on June 14 for a special session.

Minnesota takes first steps toward a government shutdown

Lawmakers need to pass a new budget before July 1 to prevent a shutdown and are behind schedule as they race to beat the clock. Meanwhile, the expenses that come with closing down state government already are starting to add up.
Tim Gasner of Keller Fence cut, rolled and carried away some of the 2,300 feet of chain link fence that has protected the State Capitol for the last y

After a year, the fencing around State Capitol is coming down

State officials are preparing to reopen the building for the first time since they blocked public access in March 2020, as COVID-19 spread across the state. A couple of months later, they quickly added the temporary fencing amid fears the building would be damaged during protests.
Gov. Tim Walz spoke as the podium as DFL House Speaker Melissa Hortman and GOP Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka joined in a light moment.

Minn. legislators decide details of $52 billion budget in private

Since leaders adjourned the regular legislative session on May 17, legislators have retreated to daily conversations behind the scenes ahead of an expected mid-June special session to finish the work.
GOP Senate leader Paul Gazelka, right, sees little interest in changes presented by  DFL House leader Melissa Hortman .

Minnesota legislative leaders divided over the idea of going full time

Minnesota lawmakers have 120 days over two years to do their work each bi­en­ni­um. For DFL House Speaker Me­lis­sa Hortman, that's no long­er en­ough.She said…
Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho spoke last summer about giving out housing assistance to prevent evictions. DAVID JOLES • STAR TRIBUNE

Minnesotans anxiously await rent help as a fraction of federal aid has gone out

About 20,000 people have applied for help so far, yet only 200 have gotten aid.
Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Minn., shown in his Capitol Hill office in March, traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, saying on Twitter he went to “see

Minnesota Republicans travel south for firsthand look at Biden's border policies

U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber traveled to the U.S.-Mexico border Friday, saying on Twitter he went to "see the southern border crisis firsthand."He is one of…
Pro-choice protesters rallied at the Minnesota State Capitol in May 2019 to call for a stop to abortion restrictions in other states.

Minnesota could become an outlier as abortion provider in Midwest

Minnesota could become one of the few Midwest states where abortion is protected if the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz, center, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, right, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park wo

Minnesota leaders strike broad budget deal, but policy details remain

Legislators will still need to come back in special session to pass a budget.
State Sen. Julie Rosen

Minnesota GOP wants legislative say in spending federal COVID-19 relief funds

Contractors defended their COVID-19 outreach work as GOP questions use of federal dollars.
Gov. Tim Walz talked to children on the playground at the Wilder Child Development Center in St. Paul after holding a press conference there. LEILA NA

On-time finish looking unlikely as Legislature's session nears end

Leaders have yet to agree on big picture budget numbers, a step they had hoped to achieve last week. That makes the chances of an on-time finish before the May 17 adjournment deadline increasingly slim.
Michael Elder , 35, gets his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine at a state vaccination site at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds on April 28, 2021. States

Billions in state and local aid soon begin path to Minnesota

Minnesota governments are expected to get nearly $5 billion in state and local help.
Sen. Ann Rest stopped to talk with Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka toward the end of a floor session Wednesday. One week remains for Minnesota leg

Clashes over taxes, Walz's powers stymie budget talks

The money Minnesota is anticipating from the federal government is a "huge wild card" in the next budget, Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent said.
Fencing remains around the Minnesota State Capitol, as one week remains for the Legislature to compromise on a roughly $52 billion state budget and fi

Minn. lawmakers miss their own deadline in budget talks

The delay risks pushing crucial work into an overtime special session.
Stephans Wilburn, who lives in the neighborhood around 38th and Chicago, is struggling to emerge from the tangle of fees, surcharges and fines that ar

Minnesota's criminal justice fees often fall hardest on poor

State, local leaders among growing number debating how to end dependence on criminal justice system fees and surcharges.
House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, wants Gov. Tim Walz to put an end to his emergency powers.

Walz's emergency powers remain front and center for Republican legislators

Clashes over Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic were a frequent theme as last year's legislative session negotiations drew to a…
Minnesota Housing Commissioner Jennifer Ho said the state started accepting applications for rental help last week. RENEE JONES SCHNEIDER • STAR TRI

Minnesota leaders urge struggling renters to apply for aid

Legislators are still hashing out how to end the state's eviction moratorium.
Electronic pulltabs are under fire for being too much like slot machines.

Electronic pulltabs have become too similar to slot machines, legislators say

Bars and charities say changes would hurt at a critical time.
Attorney Ben Crump spoke with the family of George Floyd at a news conference held after the verdict in the murder trial of former Minneapolis police

Floyd family says push for policing change cannot end after verdict

Family members urged Congress to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
Gov. Tim Walz, seen in 2019, is requesting additional law enforcement resources and seeking more funding as Derek Chauvin’s trial wraps up.

Walz seeks law enforcement help, additional funding

Gov. Tim Walz is marshaling law enforcement help from other states and asking the Legislature for more funding as the state juggles the conclusion of the Derek Chauvin trial and tensions over the fatal police shooting of Daunte Wright.
Legislators say the state should not wait on the fate of President Biden’s infrastructure plan to shore up construction on roads, bridges and water

Lawmakers clash over infrastructure funding in Minnesota, Washington

Legislators say the state's bonding negotiations cannot be tied to the American Jobs Plan.
It has been 13 years since Minnesota last increased the gas tax and the cost to repair state infrastructure continues to grow, Rep. Erin Koegel, DFL-S

Minnesota House DFL proposes gas tax increase

House Democrats' transportation funding bill would raise the tax on a gallon of gas by 5 cents over the next four years.
Rep. Rena Moran, DFL-St. Paul spoke on criminal justice inequities on Feb. 1, 2021 at the state Capitol. GLEN STUBBE • STAR TRIBUNE

Legislature's budget plans differ on how to address racial inequality

Budget proposals vary on approaches to education disparities, police reform.
DFL House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler spoke to House Speaker Melissa Hortman before the start of last October’s special session. GLEN STUBBE • ST

Minnesota House DFL joins Walz in push for tax increase on wealthy

Republicans say tax hikes are dead on arrival.
Regions Hospital in St. Paul.

Minnesota legislators push to end state collection of tax refunds for private hospital debt

Minnesota collected tens of millions for private nonprofit hospitals in recent years.
Democratic leaders House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley and House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park spoke outside the House

Minnesota House Democrats present $52.5 billion budget plan

Political clashes continue over state law enforcement funding for Chauvin trial.
The Cedar High Apartments where a fire left five dead in 2019. AARON LAVINSKY • STAR TRIBUNE

A year after deadly fire, Minnesota House approves high-rise sprinkler requirement

Residential and commercial buildings would need to add automatic systems.
Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., arrives at the Capitol on Feb. 10, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

1.1 million Minnesota children could qualify for expanded tax credit

Expanded child tax credit will give families monthly check starting in summer.
Enbridge contractors worked to identify an older Enbridge pipeline, Line 16, at one of the Line 3 work sites in Carlton, Minn., in December. Money spe

Spending on Minnesota lobbying fell to $67.5 million in 2020

Less money was devoted to influencing those decisionmakers than in any year since 2012, according to newly released data.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka caption here

Minnesota Senate Republicans propose $51.9 billion state budget

Their plan comes as the state's financial outlook has improved.
Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka speaks during a news conference outside the State Capitol on Oct. 19, 2020. (Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via AP)

Minnesota Senate aims to curb Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers

State's executive council also extends those emergency powers another month.
Lovetee Polahn stood for a portrait outside her Brooklyn Center home Thursday. Polahn lost her job last year and is worried about paying rent when the

Minnesota legislators debate eviction ban 'off-ramp' as tenants fear homelessness

Legislative planning for the end of the eviction halt has started in earnest.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo addressed the media on preparations for the Derek Chauvin trial on Feb. 17, 2021 in Minneapolis. (Richard T

Minn. officials hail peaceful protests while legislators clash over funding

Minnesota law enforcement leaders applauded the tranquillity of Monday's early demonstrations at the start of the closely watched trial of former Minneapolis police officer…