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

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Legislative Weekly Update- April 9-15, 2018

Monday, April 16, 2018

Legislators returned back to work after a brief spring recess. During the break, I had the chance to take a quick trip to California to visit our daughter Madeline. She is working at an environmental camp outside San Diego until she starts medical school at U of M-Duluth in August. In San Diego County schools, every 6th grader has a chance to attend this camp, in Cayumaca State Park, for a week during the school year. It’s a beautiful area and it was nice to be in the sunshine and get a chance to have our oldest child show me around San Diego. Little did I know that I would fly home in a snowstorm last weekend and then be shoveling out 14+ inches of snow this weekend. In fact, I ended up going out with two friends (and constituents) snowshoeing on Sunday. While I had fun with Sara and Karen, I really did not think we would be snowshoeing in April through over a foot of snow.  

Cuyamaca State Park and the view of Stonewall Mountain
Torrey Pines State Park along the shore

Snowshoeing in April 15: only in Minnesota!

Before break, policy committees finished up their work. This last week, the House Republican leadership put forward their supplemental budget targets; you can read more about them below. This last week and next week, the budget committees will be finalizing their proposals and we will begin to see those omnibus bills on the House floor. I can’t believe that there are only five weeks left of session!

Governor Dayton Urges Republicans to Act
Last Monday, Governor Dayton sent a letter to legislative leaders outlining the need for a smooth process to end the session. He asked that items with bipartisan agreement--protecting vulnerable adults, addressing the opioid crisis, making schools safer, and shoring up state pensions--be passed now. He also stressed that he would not accept shifts, gimmicks, cuts, or false financial assumptions that would undo the hard work he has done to return fiscal stability to Minnesota.
Minnesotans expect action to keep schools safe, stop the opioid crisis, keep seniors safe, and make sure retirement is secure for pensioners, but Speaker Daudt and Republicans need to stop playing political games. There is no excuse for holding these important bills back simply so they can be used as a bargaining chips at the end of session. Minnesotans deserve swift action on these issues.
I am especially disappointed in the Republican leadership lack of movement on the pensions bill. This bill has been in the works for two years and has strong bipartisan support. I would like to thank Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R), Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL) and Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL) for all their hard work on this bill. The pension bill has the support of employees and employers within all of the groups from teachers to police and fire fighters. While our Minnesota pension system is doing much better than other states, there are still issues that need to be addressed. Because of political games last year, we missed the opportunity to chart a better course. We cannot afford to do that again this year. Before break, the pension bill passed on the Senate floor with unanimous support. It is time for Speaker Daudt to follow the Senate’s lead and stop holding the bill hostage in the House.
House Budget Shortchanges Minnesotans
With five weeks left in session, House Republicans finally announced their supplemental budget targets last week. Instead of investing in the things Minnesotans value, like expanding quality early childhood education and making college more affordable, they’ve indicated plans to continue prioritizing tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.
This is in stark contrast to Governor Dayton’s supplemental budget proposal, which rolls back tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy to fund tax cuts for Minnesota families, invest in pre-K across the state, and much more.
MPR: Dayton wants to boost business taxes to pay for personal tax cuts
Pioneer Press: How does House GOP want to spend budget surplus? On tax cuts, roads and bridges
I have signed on as a co-author to the Governor’s tax bill that was just introduced on Thursday. This week, it will receive a hearing in the House Tax Committee and I look forward to hearing the conversation. We have yet to see a tax bill from the GOP Chairs of the House or Senate Tax Committees. Once their proposals come forward, we can have a more thorough discussion on how we are going to approach federal tax conformity.

Committee Action
Last week, our Property Tax & Local Government Committee met twice to hear bills regarding local options sales tax, tax increment financing districts and some miscellaneous bills. This week, we are already scheduled to meet three days. I am assuming that we will be seeing Chair Drazkowski’s proposal for the Property Tax Divison Report by the end of the week. DFL members will get a chance to present amendments and we should have a nice long discussion. The final Property Tax Division Report then gets incorporated into the final Tax bill.

While the majority of the work in the Government Operations & Elections Committee was completed before break, we continue to have informational hearings on bills. On Thursday, we heard annual reports from the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage, Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans and Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs. All of these groups are doing incredible work!


Members of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs present annual report to the Government Operations & Elections Committee

There will still be some work for the Government Operations & Elections Committee to do in the coming weeks. We will need to hear the pensions bill and will be hearing any late bills sent to us from the Rules Committee.

The People’s House

Operation: 23 to Zero

Operation: 23 to Zero gave Capitol visitors a stark reminder that every day, 20 veterans commit suicide in the United States. They started last Monday with twenty pair of boots placed on the Minnesota State Capitol steps and added 20 more each day until they reached 100 pairs on Friday. We need to do a much better job and providing mental health services for our returning soldiers. Please check out their organization here.

Operation: 23 to Zero on the Minnesota Capitol steps

Zoo Day

Last Thursday, the Minnesota Zoo brought animals to the Capitol rotunda and made a pitch for a bonding investment in their facility. MN Zoo day is always one of the highlights of the session and is also an incredible regional asset. The porcupine was fascinating and my intern, Brian Yu, had a chance to pet a chinchilla.

Porcupine from the MN Zoo

MN House Intern Brian Yu and a MN Zoo chinchilla

Jessie Diggins visits the Capitol

On Thursday, Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins visited the Capitol to support legislation that could help bring an International Ski Federation Nordic World Ski Championship to Minnesota. She signed autographs at a small event, visited the Senate floor as well as the House floor. Jessie Diggins, and her family, received a warm welcome from House members. I had a chance to shake her hand and thank her for being a wonderful role model for young skiers as well as for her support of bringing the World Ski Championship to Theodore Wirth Park. You can see the press conference here.

Olympic Gold Medalist Jessie Diggins on the House floor

On Saturday, Diggins joined the Stillwater Nordic Ski teams in a celebratory parade. I grew up in Stillwater and my parents, who still live there, attended the parade. My mom, Lynne Funk, snapped a picture with Diggins as well and said I could share it with you.

My mom, Lynne Funk, with Jessie Diggins at the Stillwater parade

Constituents and Organizations

Meetings with groups and organizations are starting to wane but e-mails and phone calls are starting to pick up as the session passes its halfway mark. On Monday, I attended a meeting regarding investment in Metro Regional Parks and we had a quick floor session with some non-controversial bills. On Tuesday, I attended the Hennepin County State of the County address given by Hennepin County Board Chair, Commissioner Jan Callison. The health of our community is strong and the board continues to make a variety of investments to make sure it continues to be. You can watch the address here.

Golden Valley Mayor Shep Harris kicking off the Hennepin County State of the City at Brookview Community Center

On Tuesday, I also had the chance to meet with a variety of constituent groups. I met with Jim Leuthner who is from St. Louis Park and a member of the Carpenters Union.

St. Louis Park resident and Carpenter Union member Jim Leuthner

Then I had a chance to meet with another St. Louis Park constituent, Brandon Wendt. He is a college school counselor and had some great insights in the challenges students face making the transition from high school to college. Mike Vandenberg also joined us. It’s a small world as he counseled our two older students when they went to U of M Morris but he has now moved on to Concordia College.

Mike Vandenburg and St. Louis Park resident Brandon Wendt, both college counselors with Concordia State University

I also had a delightful visit with Hopkins resident and U of M- Duluth student Olivia Osei-Tutu. She was here for U of M Rally Day at the Capitol. We talked about the great need for a bonding bill for all of the U of M Campuses.

U of M Duluth student and Hopkins resident Olivia Osei-Tutu

A bonus was running into our son Gannon’s co-captain for one of the U of M Morris’ Improve Teams, Tiernan Lenus. He was visiting the Capitol for U of M Day as well.

U of M Morris student Tiernan Lenus

Tuesday evening I attended the first meeting of the St. Louis Park/Hopkins chapter of Moms Demand Action. Thank you to the group of women who have begun to organize this group and to the dedicated folks who showed up. On Wednesday, I had a chance to meet with a constituent at the Capitol with the organization, Howling for Wolves. We talked about the importance of regulating snares so household pets are not caught in them. Thursday was filled with committee and floor session. Friday, I attended the TwinWest Chamber’s monthly legislative breakfast. The topic was Metropolitan Council reform and I had the chance to talk about the reform bill I am carrying with Rep. Roz Peterson (R). It is HF3917, and calls for staggered terms so that one Governor does not appoint the entire council. It also give local elected officials more seats on the nominating board and more influence on who the Governor appoints.

TwinWest Chamber Breakfast panel on Metropolitan Council Reform

It is very important for me to hear what your thoughts are as we move through session. I know many of you cannot make it to the Capitol but I am always available by email at While email is the best way to get in touch with me, feel free to contact my office by phone (651-296-9889) if you have an urgent matter or you would like to schedule a meeting.

Have a great week!