Today is the first-ever Sovereignty Day at the Capitol. In an all-day floor session, the House heard a series of presentations from Minnesota’s tribal nations. I appreciated the chance to learn about how the state and tribal governments can work more effectively together.
In the meantime, the shape of the legislative session is becoming clearer. Leaders have announced a series of deadlines for accomplishing our work. The major work of the session is preparing a two-year budget. This coming Tuesday, Governor Walz will share his proposal for this, and the following week we’ll receive a revised budget forecast that will guide their decision-making. Please keep in touch throughout.
We all know from personal experience that deadlines – though challenging when you face them! – can help keep important work on track. The legislature is no different. The House and Senate traditionally agree to a series of three deadlines to keep bills on track. This year, legislative leaders and the Governor have agreed to three additional deadlines in May, to help bring the session to an orderly conclusion (in sharp contrast to recent years). The first deadline is on March 15. Much more info is available at https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/deadlines.
One Year after Parkland
Last Thursday, the country marked one year since the shooting deaths of high school students in Parkland, Florida. Many Minnesotans came to the Capitol to remember, and the names of Minnesotans who have died from firearms in the past year were read in the Capitol rotunda. As I’ve said many times, we can do more to keep guns out of the hands of people who have shown themselves to be dangerous. May this be the year that that happens.
Ban on Conversion “Therapy”
Last week, the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee heard a bill (HF 12) to prohibit conversion “therapy” – practices which aim to change sexual orientation or gender identity – on young people and vulnerable adults. Numerous medical associations noted that it has no scientific validity or clinical utility, and survivors described the harm that it can cause, including depression, substance abuse, and suicide. The ban passed on a party-line vote, with all Republicans on the committee voting against. LGBTQ Minnesotans – and all Minnesotans – deserve to be respected for who they are. I’m a member of the committee and was glad to vote in favor.
You can watch the committee hearing here.
Limiting Tobacco Harms
Although adult smoking rates in Minnesota continue to decline, youth tobacco use - and in particular use of e-cigarettes - has been skyrocketing. This raises major public health concerns; the U.S. Surgeon General calls youth tobacco use an epidemic.
The HHS Policy Committee also recently heard several bills to combat this epidemic. One (HF 349) would include e-cigarettes under the Minnesota Clean Indoor Act Act. Another (HF 350) would continue statewide services to help Minnesotans quit using tobacco products. A third (HF 331) would increase the age of tobacco purchase to 21. All three passed out of committee (with my support), with good prospects for adoption by the House.
Video of the hearing is available here.
Restore the Vote
I'm a longtime supporter of felony re-enfranchisement. People living and working in our community, even if convicted of a felony, should have the right to vote. They work, they pay taxes - they should have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. Current law on this issue is also confusing and burdensome, both for the individuals themselves and for those charged with enforcing it. Last week, the House Elections Subcommittee heard and passed a proposal (HF 40) to address this. I hope that the Republican-controlled Senate may be willing to take it up.
Watch the committee hearing here.
Keep in Touch
A reminder that you can follow the progress of any bill, including its precise committee location, at https://www.leg.state.mn.us/leg/legis. You can attend any committee hearing, including providing testimony on a bill. The full list of schedules and information is at https://www.house.mn/committees. And of course you can contact my office anytime with questions. Thanks for the honor of serving our community.
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building
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