The thoughts and prayers of so many of us are with the people of Ukraine today. The Minnesota Legislature lacks jurisdiction over foreign policy, but you can review President Biden’s statement here and watch his 12:30pm remarks to the country here.
Here in Minnesota, we’re now in the middle of the fourth week of the legislative session, which will end in mid-May. On Monday, we will receive an updated forecast of the state budget, giving us the final details that we will need to make fiscal decisions for the rest of the session.
This week’s newsletter starts with several items relating to safety in our communities.
Investing in Community Safety and Limiting No-Knock Warrants
I’ve previously written about our House majority’s $100 million proposal for public safety, which includes substantial investments in community policing, criminal investigations, community violence prevention, body cameras, and more. Review a summary here. In its first full week, the Public Safety Committee, on which I serve, held a series of hearings on the proposal. It will continue to be refined over the next few weeks.
On Friday, the committee advanced a bill – of which I’m one of the first coauthors – to severely limit the use of “no-knock warrants.” This legislation is in response to the tragic death of Amir Locke, which reinforced that these warrants can put residents and officers in great danger. They are also largely unnecessary; our own St. Paul Police Department hasn’t sought to use one in years.
Combatting Trafficking and Exploitation
For several years in my work outside of the Legislature, I led statewide training and protocol development in support of Safe Harbor, Minnesota’s system to address the trafficking and exploitation of young people. Drawing on that experience, in my first term I authored the first-ever state grants to investigate sex trafficking. Those grants have worked well, and the Public Safety Committee recently heard a bill that I wrote to significantly expand them. Read more here.
Native Minnesotans, especially women and girls, have been disproportionately targeted by trafficking, exploitation, and broader violence. Last session, we established an Office of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives in the Department of Public Safety to lead state efforts to put a stop to this. A director was recently named to lead that office. February 14 was Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives Day. Many members of the House wore red to let them know that we are not done looking – and seeking justice – for them.
Ensuring a Safe, Stable, Affordable Home for All
Everyone deserves a safe, stable, affordable place to live. House DFLers recently introduced a plan to help Minnesotans achieve that goal. It invests $1.8 billion in creating more affordable housing, providing pathways to homeownership, and assisting renters. The plan also reopens RentHelpMN, the program that provided support to renters and landlords who were impacted by COVID-19. Note I’m also one of the first coauthors of the “Bring It Home” proposal, which would greatly expand rental assistance in Minnesota.
Expanding Homework Starts with Home, and More for the Youngest Minnesotans
On a related note, the House Early Childhood Committee, which I chair, recently joined two other committees – Preventing Homelessness and Housing – for a joint hearing on the significant negative impact of housing instability on young children. Also discussed at the hearing was a bill that I wrote to allow families with young children to benefit from “Homework Starts with Home”. This program, at the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency, helps keep families in their homes. But for now, it only applies once the family’s children are old enough for school! Read more here and here.
That week was a busy one for the committee. Several days earlier, we held a joint hearing with the Workforce and Business Development Committee at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, on the critical role that child care and early learning play in our economy. (In addition to preparing children for long-term success, early care and learning is one of the top workforce development concerns for businesses throughout the state.) And at a third hearing that week, we received a report from national researchers?comparing Minnesota’s?prenatal-to-three policies to those of other states and offering a roadmap for progress.
There is a lot going on! Please follow my office on Facebook – I’m getting better at posting between these updates – and otherwise keep in touch. Thank you for the honor of serving our community,