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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Update: New Year Greetings!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dear Neighbors,

As the year 2015 comes to a close, I wish you a prosperous new year! This is a good time to reflect on the strides Minnesota has taken in the last year, and the work that comes next.

Looking Back

While 2015 contained fewer legislative accomplishments than the year before, Minnesotans continued to make progress in strengthening our state’s economy and improving the well-being of all Minnesotans. Earlier this year, CNBC named Minnesota the #1 state in the nation for business. The analysts that create the rankings found that Minnesota had excelled in areas of education, our large number of highly skilled employees, and our excellent quality of life.

With a new House majority in 2015, the legislative accomplishments were fewer, far more modest, and overshadowed by a number of missed opportunities. There was no comprehensive transportation bill, despite studies showing that our roads, bridges, and transit need an additional $6 billion in funding over the next ten years. There was also no tax bill. I supported legislation that would have used a portion of our budget surplus to reduce property taxes for homeowners, but no bill was able to pass the House that included permanent tax relief for middle class families and seniors.

Against this frustrating backdrop, I had some individual policy successes. One of those was my Silver Alert bill being passed into law and signed by the Governor in June. It added a working group to study whether or not to establish a Silver Alert System, or to enhance the current emergency action network. The goal would be to quickly get out information to the public when a senior or vulnerable adult goes missing.

I was also honored to be selected as a "Legislator of Distinction" by the League of Minnesota Cities. The honor recognizes legislators for specific actions that aided efforts of Minnesota cities during this year’s legislative session.

Looking Forward

As we move into 2016, I hope we can use our positive economic news to hit the reset button, and start fresh tackling our most complex challenges: racial and gender equity; fair taxation for all Minnesota residents; safety from gun violence; and achieving robust, broadly shared prosperity for all Minnesota families. With a strong budget surplus, the legislature must make progress on resolving the issues we face.

During regular session, starting on March 8th, I will be exploring ways to improve state policy in each of these areas, and others too. I expect a priority focus for the Governor and legislative leaders to remain that every child gets off to a great start in life. Governor Dayton has made early childhood education a primary focus of his administration. As it turns out, the best way to help infants and toddlers to thrive is to help their families to do so – meaning policies like paid family and sick leave, increased affordable housing, and living-wage jobs.

I also expect a major bonding bill to be passed, and I am carrying a bonding request for an organization in St. Louis Park called Perspectives. They would like to construct an expansion to serve more women and children who struggle with homelessness, as well as construct an early childcare center. I have toured their facility and am very excited to be a part of something that helps people break cycles and build hope.

A major transportation bill and tax bill will also be debated. Some compromises will have to be made to pass both of these important pieces of legislation, and I am optimistic we will find a way to move forward for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Broad change may likely require a new House majority, but I’m working hard to make sure we make progress in the meantime.

In short, there’s much to do, and much opportunity too. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your thoughts about priorities for 2016.

I hope that you've had a peaceful and joyous holiday season and wish you the very best for 2016. Thank you for the honor of serving our community.

Happy New Year!

Cheryl Youakim

State Representative