It's hard to believe that it has been 22 years since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Several years ago, I had a powerful visit to the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City. Let us never forget the lives lost, as well as the heroism of those stepped into unthinkable danger to help others. And let's recommit ourselves to act together for freedom, peace, and justice.
A heartfelt thank you to everyone who hosted me at your National Night Out event and/or joined for the Senate District 64 Town Hall in early August! Both evenings reflected great participation and an #EverybodyIn approach to community-building and democracy. Please continue to keep in touch.
Below is more info on areas of the budget and laws that passed this session, building on my updates from June and July, followed by some other items of interest. As always, if there are particular issues that you’d like to know more about, don’t hesitate to reach out.
Spotlight: K-12 Education Budget
I hope students, parents, and educators are off to a good start to this school year! It was investments in education that helped make our state the economic powerhouse it is today. We built on that history this legislative session. The K-12 education budget increases the formula that provides “general funding” for districts by 4% next year and 2% the year after. As important, it ties the funding to inflation, ensuring that our schools continue to have the resources they need to serve students and that the formula does not lose “buying power” simply through inaction. It cuts in half the “special education cross-subsidy,” provides unemployment insurance for hourly school workers, provides funding for schools to hire mental health professionals and counselors, and improves resources for American Indian students.
Excitingly, the budget bill also expands preschool opportunities to more than 5,000 low-income children. This is part of substantial progress this session for the youngest learners and their families, my longtime focus. More detail on that in future updates.
Spotlight: Higher Education Budget
As K-12 schools get going this fall, so do schools of higher education. The Higher Education budget creates the North Star Promise Program, which provides free college for students with a family income under $80,000. Importantly to the wonderful private schools in and around our district - including St. Catherine University, St. Thomas, and Macalester - it also increases funding for the State Grant program, which helps students afford at a wide variety of institutions. Another highlight is the budget’s support for American Indian education, through scholarships for individual students and by ensuring that tribal colleges receive the same per student funding as other public institutions.
Spotlight: Environment and Energy Budget
Clean air and water are fundamental to Minnesota. Along with action on climate, they represent an intergenerational responsibility to our children and grandchildren. Earlier in the session, we passed a law requiring 100% carbon-free production of electricity by 2040. We then built on that work with an Environment and Energy budget that my colleague Chair Rick Hansen called “the most significant… in Minnesota history, both in term of its investment and its reforms.” These are just a few highlights:
$100 million in climate resiliency grants to help communities prepare for extreme weather events and upgrade aging infrastructure
help for low-income Minnesotans to afford weatherization and other energy improvements
big advances in electrification in the transportation sectors, including grants for electric vehicles and more EVs in government fleets (like school buses!)
investments in carbon-free energy, including grants for solar on schools and other public buildings
big steps to fight PFAS (see below), including funding to get these chemicals out of drinking water and a ban on household products incorporating them
a number of provisions to advance environmental justice – protecting communities disproportionately impacted by pollution, and
a ban on the use of neonicotinoids (a significant danger to pollinators) in public parks and wildlife areas.
PFAS and the Mississippi
Do you fish in our neighborhood's part of the Mississippi? Because of PFAS and other chemicals, the Minnesota Department of Health now warns that kids under age 15, plus anyone pregnant or breastfeeding (or expecting to do either), should not eat fish from the Ford Dam south to Hastings. We did a lot to combat PFAS this session – see “Spotlight: Environment and Energy Budget” – but unfortunately this class of chemicals will continue to pose a danger, with ongoing action needed. You can read the Department’s guidance here.
Making a Homeowners Insurance Claim?
My legislative update in July contained a checklist (toward the bottom of the message) about making an insurance claim after damage to your home. With the hailstorm in mid-August, this information may be especially useful. If you have questions or complaints about your insurance company, the Minnesota Department of Commerce Consumer Services Center can be reached at (651) 539-1600 or (800) 657-3602 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reflecting on Federal Action Against Gun Violence
As a prosecutor of gender violence in my work outside of the Legislature, I see every day the impact of guns in our community. In addition to celebrating the passage of criminal background checks and red-flag court orders this session, this summer we were been able to celebrate the anniversary of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. The first federal gun safety law in nearly 30 years, the Act closed loopholes, implemented new gun violence prevention policies, and made significant investments in school and community safety. It is saving lives – and there is more to do. Check out this report from the Center for American Progress.
Thank you for the honor to serve our community at the State Capitol,
Dave Pinto State Representative, District 64B 503 State Office Building (651) 296-4199