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

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Legislative Weekly Recap May 2-8, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Dear Neighbors,

Last week’s sessions lasted a few hours and had relatively non-controversial bills as we continued to work our way through General Register bills. We are definitely in the hurry up and wait phase of session. On Thursday, we went it to session at 10 a.m. and then broke to discuss the bills within our caucuses. We were supposed to go back into session at 11:30 am but it was pushed back to 2:30 p.m. Speaker Daudt did not end up calling us back in until a little after 4:00 p.m. to finish the calendar for the day. The next few weeks will look very similar as we are in a holding pattern while leadership works out a deal that will hopefully lead to an orderly end of session.


Last week on the House Floor, my DFL colleagues and I made a motion to provide enhanced funding to the Minnesota Department of Health to address the current measles outbreak. The bill, which I am a co-author of, we were hoping to discuss would have funded an immunization grant program for specific geographic areas and populations experiencing (or at risk of) an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease. Currently, the outbreak has sickened 43 children and one adult.  Unfortunately, the House did not move forward on the procedural motion.  

The Minnesota Department of Health is warning that measles is a highly contagious disease caused by a virus. It can lead to hospitalization and in rare cases death. Measles spreads through the air by coughing or sneezing. You can get measles by just being in the same room as someone who has measles. Symptoms include a high fever, cough, runny nose and watery eyes, followed by a rash that typically spreads from head to the rest of the body. A person with measles can pass it to others from four days before their rash appears to four days after it appears.

For parents concerned about the cost of immunizations, the Minnesota Vaccines for Children Program provides free or low-cost vaccines for eligible children through age 18. More information is available at Can My Child Get Free or Low Cost Shots? For more information on measles, updates on the outbreak and important contact info you can go to the Minnesota Department of Health website here. You can also find a Measles fact sheet translated other languages here.

Results of the Budget Survey

The results of my legislative budget priorities survey are in.  The question was: Minnesota has a projected $1.65 billion surplus. Please rank what the legislature’s top priority should be.  Of those constituents who took the online survey, 29% favored increasing K-12 education funding.  Coming in close second was investing in a comprehensive transportation system at 28%.  Increasing access to affordable health care was a priority for 20%.   Investing in early education up to age 5 was ranked as another high priority by 12% of those who took the survey.  10% supported tax cuts for working families and 6% favored bonding and increasing economic opportunities for working families.  Since the survey was open ended and allowed constituents to rank more than one issue area, the totals for #1 priorities add up to a little more than 100%.    While the survey is not scientific, it delivers a good sampling of our community’s values. 

Budget Negotiations

As we approach the session deadline of May 22, several budget bills remain unresolved. Despite a $1.65 billion budget surplus, Republican majorities in the House and Senate are pushing for cuts in many portions of the budget.

Governor Dayton has been actively engaged with Republicans, specifying parameters for his budget preferences and detailing items that are not acceptable. In a letter sent to the press on Tuesday, all correspondence between the governor’s staff and legislators was listed. Governor Dayton has noted 609 policy provisions in total throughout the budget bills. House Democrats are working toward a compromise budget in the next two weeks; it is my hope that many of the policies that move the state backward and hurt Minnesotans will not be included. Here are just some of the budget areas included in the negotiations.


Republicans, Democrats, and transportation leaders agree we need an additional $600 million a year to preserve and maintain our roads and bridges, but the Republican transportation plan continues to underfund and neglect our transportation system. Even more troubling is Republican leaders are forcing transportation to compete against funding for schools, nursing homes, and support for our most vulnerable people. For Minnesota to succeed we need a transportation system that works in every corner of Minnesota and supports a 21st century economy.

The current plan being negotiated also cuts funding for bus service and light rail which will harm Minnesotans who rely on transit for school, work, and daily life – now and in the future. Their plan includes a more than 10% cut to bus service, halts Southwest Light Rail, and prevents future investments and planning for transit improvements around the state. The transit cuts in the Republican budget will not only seriously affect our ability to move forward, but will put us back decades.

Last Wednesday, I joined my fellow DFL colleagues and spoke against the transit cuts in the Republican Transportation bill.  It is a mean spirited bill that guts metro transit, takes away local control and stops the expansion of light rail dead in its tracks. It will put an end to the Southwest LRT project that is so important to our community. Please let Governor Dayton know how important it is to insist on a comprehensive transportation bill that includes transit as well as roads and bridges.

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E-12 Education

Despite a budget surplus, the proposed K-12 Education Omnibus bill underfunds our schools. Educators, administrators and school districts- the experts in our classrooms- have testified that a modest 2% funding increase is needed just to stay afloat with costs of inflation and student growth. The proposed bill only has funding for 1.5%. There are also many other provisions included in the bill that both Hopkins and St. Louis Park school districts have concerns with. For instance, with the Governor’s proposal, St. Louis Park schools would have received much needed increases funding for their early childhood program. But the Republican proposal zeroes out the Governor’s budget for voluntary public early childhood programs. Education has made Minnesota a leader, but we won’t continue to lead by underfunding our schools at a time of budget surplus. Instead, providing all Minnesota children a quality education should be our top priority.

Higher Education

Every Minnesotan deserves the opportunity to get a post-secondary education and compete in the global economy without being saddled with student debt. Instead of investing in Minnesotans, Republicans are proposing a higher education budget that’s nearly $200 million less than what Governor Dayton requested. Underfunding education will continue to lead to program cuts, staff layoffs, increased tuition and skyrocketing student debt. In fact, the University of Minnesota said if the Republican budget becomes law, students would see a tuition increase of up to 5% each of the next two years. Minnesota should be proud of leading the nation in a lot of things, but student debt shouldn’t be one of them. We currently have the 5th highest student debt in the country.

Health & Human Services

The health and human services budget is based on over $500 million in fake savings that cannot be proven and other shifts and gimmicks. The agreement removes access to affordable health insurance by eliminating MinnesotaCare and makes the assumption that healthcare costs won’t increase. And despite serious Federal uncertainty, Republicans plan to move Minnesotans from MNsure to the Federal insurance exchange. It also falls very short on funding time tested programs that help some of the most vulnerable members of our community our elderly and disabled. And, I am deeply disappointed that it does not given one penny to the Best Life Alliance request for a raise for those Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) that are in high demand for those with disabilities and seniors who are trying to age in place. One other area that is neglected is Child care assistance (CCAP). Despite hearings across the state and in committee, acknowledging both the acute shortage and high cost of child care. Without reliable child care, people can't get to work to support themselves and their families.

State Government

The state government budget includes big cuts to core functions of state government, puts our cyber security and risk, and will lay off thousands of Minnesotans. One of the biggest concerns is the lack of funding for cyber security. Our state systems are full of our private information. The Governor’s budget requested $74 million in upgrades to our systems including much needed money for cyber security. Our systems face almost 3 million hits a day from people who are trying to breach our state’s systems. Unfortunately, my Republican colleagues have $0 in their budget to upgrade the safety of our systems. This is the third year in a row that requests have been made and ignored. It is time for action, we cannot continue to just admire the problem.

Public Safety

This proposal puts Minnesotans’ access to the justice system in jeopardy by drastically underfunding our court system and Minnesota’s corrections system. Chief Justice Lorie Skejervn Gildea recently released a statement on the impact the cuts will have on Minnesota’s justice system.

Without needed investments, the corrections system will remain understaffed. Further programs aimed at reducing recidivism could be cut as the DOC will no longer be able to afford offering them. Like the other budget areas, public safety is full of controversial policy (like limiting peaceful protest) that the Governor has requested be separate of budget negotiations.


Republican leadership is choosing to make substantial cuts in environment and natural resources budgets and roll back protections for clean air, land, and water. This budget includes a two-year delay for buffer implementation and imposes other limitations, despite the fact that Governor Dayton has said he will veto legislation that weakens buffers. Other substantial problems include jeopardizing the Volkswagen Clean Air settlement money.

Jobs and Energy

The jobs and energy budget does little to create jobs in Minnesota and rolls back clean energy progress. The proposal underfunds Border to Border broadband, eliminates recent efforts to ensure Minnesotans’ internet privacy, and prohibits local governments from adopting ordinances that would prohibit merchants from providing customers paper, plastic, or reusable bags.

Despite frustrations with the budget, there were a few bright spots in my week. I had brief meetings with constituents who were visiting the Capitol for a variety of reasons and stopped by my office. I also had a chance to meet with a group of students from Torah Academy who were visiting the newly remodeled Capitol on a school field trip.

We only have two weeks left in session. Schedules will remain fluid and negotiations among leadership can change things rapidly. It is very important to me to hear what your thoughts are as budget bills begin to wrap up. As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at is the best way to get in touch. If it is urgent, or you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office by phone at 651-296-9889.

Have a great week!