I hope you and your family are enjoying summer. Here’s an update from the State Capitol.
This past legislative session, Minnesotans were looking to the Legislature to use the state’s large budget surplus to help them address numerous challenges, including high costs and recovery from the pandemic. The leadership of the DFL-majority House, the Republican-majority Senate, and the governor agreed to spend $4 billion to meet these needs, $4 billion on tax cuts, and put $4 billion aside for future needs. Unfortunately, despite this bipartisan agreement Senate Republicans walked away the deal. This is a huge missed opportunity for Minnesotans, leaving many without assistance that they desperately need.
Despite the unfinished business, lawmakers were able to complete several important initiatives including:
There is much more to do, which could be completed in a short special session, but Senate Republicans have said that they will not come back to the table to reach a compromise. I was not surprised, because they seemed to be slow-walking negotiations from the beginning and many of the DFL conferees suspected that they would not compromise on spending the money allocated to many of the budget areas. Minnesotans deserve better. I’ll keep pushing for the solutions Minnesotans count on to make our state work better for everybody.
Last month, in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the constitutional protection of abortion rights which all Americans had been afforded under Roe v. Wade for nearly 50 years. I am appalled at the brazenness of the right wing, Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority. The decision turned back the clock, telling women they don’t view us as full humans who can best decide how to manage our bodies and our lives. This decision also signals that the right to contraception and the right to marry could be on the chopping block next.
Abortion rights are still protected in Minnesota under Doe vs. Gomez, a previous decision of the Minnesota Supreme Court based on Minnesota’s own constitution. However, we can’t take this protection for granted. Republicans have for years been fighting to challenge and overturn Doe and the US Supreme Court has emboldened them. Moreover, the Minnesota Constitution can be changed if simple majorities in the House and Senate vote to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot and voters approve it.
Throughout my legislative career I have fought for your freedom to make your own reproductive and other private decisions—including the right to have an abortion—and will continue to do so. In my role as chair of the Health Finance and Policy Committee I have been able to block Republican attempts to push anti-abortion measures, some as extreme as those in Texas, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and elsewhere. However, without a pro-choice majority in the House and Senate it has been impossible to improve abortion rights or even improve access to contraception.
Last week a Minnesota court struck down a series of Minnesota abortion restrictions as unconstitutional. This is great news, but Minnesotans who believe that the government should stay out of the bedroom must be sure to make their voices heard.
Last week, the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline was launched. The hotline, transitioning from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline with a shorter, easier-to-remember number, will connect people in crisis with trained counselors. The mission is no longer only to prevent suicide, but to connect people with resources to help with all sorts of mental health challenges, including substance abuse. Federal funding is supporting the new service, but additional funding that would have helped build resources in Minnesota was rejected by Republicans in the Senate. In the next HHS budget I hope we will be able to continue building out this service. It is badly needed in every community.
Crisis workers are available at the three-digit number 24/7 and can connect callers to additional support or in-person care. The service is free and confidential.
Lawmakers agreed this session to invest $500 million in bonuses for frontline workers who put their own health at greater risk during the most uncertain days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Health care workers, first responders, child care providers, food service and retail workers, and more are eligible for premium pay.
This Friday, July 22 is the deadline to submit an application. Learn more and apply at frontlinepay.mn.gov.
After this week, incumbent legislators can no longer send communications like this update via email or postal mail for the rest of the summer and fall. Still, I’ll still be here working for you. Please contact me directly with your questions, comments, and concerns, or if I can ever be of assistance. The best way to reach me is email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please be sure to include your postal address so I’ll know you are my constituent. You can also call my Capitol office at 651-296-0573 and leave a message.
It is an honor to represent you.