Happy holidays! I’m writing with a final check-in on some outstanding issues for 2019, from climate change to early childhood to probation reform. Early 2020 will be busy too, with a community event about the Mississippi River on January 9, the next Prenatal to Three Policy Forum on January 28, and the start of the legislative session in February. Full details below.
Preview: 2020 Legislative Session
The 2020 legislative session will open on Tuesday, February 11. The preceding weeks will be busy with preparation. Because the state’s two-year budget is established in the odd-numbered years (e.g., 2019), much of this session will focus on policy issues (those without a cost) and bonding (long-term borrowing for infrastructure), but there will undoubtedly be discussions about spending as well.
In early December, the state agency that oversees the budget released one of its twice-annual forecasts of revenues and expenses. (The other forecast comes in February.) The forecast showed a positive balance of about $1.3 billion for the current biennium (two-year term). On the other hand, when inflation is taken into account, the balance in future years is far less positive. We’ll need to be smart and strategic in our fiscal decisions next year.
January 9 - Community Conversation on the Mississippi River
It’s easy to take for granted that our neighborhood is right beside one of the world’s great wonders - the Mighty Mississippi. On the evening of January 9, at Gloria Dei, please join me for our next Community Conversation, on how we impact the river, how it impacts us, and how we can protect it for future generations. We’ll be joined by an amazing set of special guests. Hope to see you there!
Combating Climate Change
Climate change is an existential threat - one that demands action. This fall, my colleagues and I formed a new Climate Action Caucus, to develop a bold, comprehensive plan to meet this challenge. The Caucus has been holding a series of public meetings bringing together legislators, experts, and community members to share ideas and discuss potential solutions. The topics so far have included the intersections between climate and transportation, housing, and public health. The next will focus on environmental issues. For more information, visit our new website.
Governor Walz has also recently established some initiatives that will complement the work of our Caucus. In September, he announced that Minnesota will be the first Midwestern state to adopt clean car standards, for the benefit of the environment, public health, and our pocketbooks alike. More info is at mn.gov/cleancars. And then last week, the Governor announced the creation of a Climate Change Subcabinet and Governor’s Advisory Council on Climate Change.
Federal Funding for Early Childhood
Getting every Minnesota child off to a great start remains my top priority. Earlier this week, Governor Walz announced great news: Minnesota has been awarded a $26 million federal grant to help families with young kids access critical services. This came shortly after the announcement of a new federal budget deal that contains significant increases in funding for early childhood programs. More details here.
Speaking of early childhood, please save the date for the next Prenatal to Three Policy Forum, to be held the morning of Tuesday, January 28 at the University of St. Thomas. These free, quarterly events, which I founded, bring together advocates, policymakers, and community members. More details at www.p3minnesota.org.
Probation Reform - Share Your Thoughts
Years ago, Minnesota and other states reformed their practices regarding criminal sentencing to ensure more uniformity and predictability. Put simply, similarly-situated individuals should receive similar sentences, no matter where they are in the state. But these same reforms haven’t yet extended to probation. Probation sentences for the same crime can reflect significant racial and regional disparities and can be extremely long - sometimes lasting decades. This session, a five-year cap on probation had bipartisan support and passed the House, but (like many other proposals), it was blocked in the Senate.
The Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines Commission recently heard testimony on a proposed probation cap, on which it will vote in January. More details on the proposal are here. The Commission is seeking public input; the deadline is 5:00pm on December 24. Please consider sharing your thoughts by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recognition by the State’s Police Chiefs
In November, I was honored to receive the Legislator Recognition Award from the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA), in recognition for my work in support of public safety, particularly gun-violence prevention. The organization also noted my work training officers to identify and investigate human trafficking.
I’m grateful for the opportunity to represent and serve you this year in the Minnesota House. I value your thoughts, your questions, and partnership in this work. Please plan on more of it in 2020! In the meantime, I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday season.
Dave Pinto State Representative, District 64B
439 State Office Building
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