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

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Legislative Weekly Recap- April 9-15, 2019

Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Legislative Weekly Recap
April 9-15, 2019

Hello Everyone,
Last week, committees finished up putting together their final omnibus bills. Friday, April 12 was the deadline for omnibus bills to make their way from committees through the House Ways and Means Committee and to the House floor. Some of these bill also had to make a stop in the House Tax Committee on which I serve.
The end of the day Friday also marked the start of a week-long break to observe Easter or Passover. We will be back to business on Tuesday, April 23. During that week, we will begin taking up the different omnibus budget bills during the House floor sessions. We will start with the Jobs & Energy Bill and the Education Finance & Policy bill. As the House Education Policy Chair, I will be helping to present the bill on the House floor. It should be an interesting discussion, especially since there are 89 amendments posted to the Education bill alone. I have my homework cut out for me during break.
Press Conference on the House Tax Bill and Education Bill
Monday, I joined our House DFL leadership, and my colleagues, at a press conference to roll out both the Tax Bill and the House Education Bill. Minnesotans have been loud and clear that our schools are underfunded. This underfunding has led to layoffs and local referendums for property taxpayers to fund just the basics. By targeting corporate tax havens and making sure big corporations pay their fair share, the investments in our schools that Minnesotans want are possible.

The House DFL’s new tax bill levels the playing field for working families, senior citizens, farmers and small businesses. It provides the resources for honest investments that Minnesotans are asking us to make in education, health care, and safe and inclusive communities. And it provides real tax reform by simplifying the filing process for nearly all Minnesotans. For more information, check out a fact sheet here.

Every single child deserves to get a great start and receive a world-class education, no matter where they live or what they look like. That’s why the House DFL E-12 education budget increases the state’s commitment to schools by three percent in the first year, and by two percent in the second year of the biennium, along with significant investments in special education to stabilize budgets, and early childhood. Investing in education helps our schools keep up with the cost of inflation so they don’t have to resort to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, or pushing costs from the state onto local taxpayers.

Minnesotans have been telling the Legislature for years that the state’s commitment to our schools has not kept pace with inflation. This has created a patchwork education system throughout our state, with some communities able to afford bigger property tax bills and better schools, and others who are not as fortunate. A fact sheet about the House DFL’s new E-12 education budget is available for download here.
KARE-11 has a story about the House DFL’s new investments in educationhere.
LRT Drivers now under Distracted and Reckless Driving Standards
Last Monday, the House discussed my bill to simply make the reckless and careless driving statutes apply to light rail operators. It closes a gap in current law that was discovered after Nic Westlake and Neli Petkova were struck by a light rail train on University Avenue that ran a red light. Nic tragically died from his injuries. There were some amendments discussed on the floor, but the bill eventually prevailed and it went straight to the Governor’s desk.
On Friday, the Governor hosted a private signing ceremony. Nic’s brother, Peter Westlake, and his coach, Nels Pierson attended. But unfortunately, Nic’s parents Bob & Lisa Westlake and other brother Seth were unable because of the weather and a prior commitment. It was a very emotional moment when Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan reached out to Nic’s parents by phone at their home in South Dakota. The family has been advocating for the bill every step of the way, testifying in committees and watching from the gallery when the bill was on the floor. This is only the second individual bill that I have had signed into law. I was deeply honored to be a part of helping the Westlake’s tackle this loophole and find some good out of this senseless tragedy.
You can see just one of the final stories from the investigative series that KARE-11 did on the Westlake tragedy here.

Tax Committee
Last week, the House Tax Committee that I serve on put the final touches on the Tax Bill. It passed out of committee on a voice vote with the DFL members of the committee voting in favor. The Tax bill is the most important piece of the honest budget that my DFL colleagues and I put together. I am proud of the work that we have done that is now headed to the House floor.
The bright future we want to build for Minnesota requires honest investment. Our budget reflects the promises we made on the campaign trail, and what Minnesotans have said they want. We are investing in the people of Minnesota, because everyone deserves the opportunity to succeed.

Republican tax giveaways for corporations and the wealthy have taken investments away from education, health care, and the things Minnesotans care about. They are harming family economic security and limiting opportunities for our children.
We need to be honest about the choices in front of us. We can continue down the path of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, leading to more teacher layoffs, potholes, and people losing health care and basic economic security. Or we can make honest investments in the things Minnesotans value: affordable health care, great schools, safe & inclusive communities, and reliable roads, bridges, and transit. I believe our House Tax Bill does that and I look forward to the discussion on the floor.
You can see some of the details of the House Tax bill here.
Hands Free Bill to the Governor
Minnesotans deserve to be safe on our roads. We want our friends, neighbors, and relatives to be safe, too. The fight against distracted driving is inspired by brave Minnesotans who have told heartbreaking personal stories and refused to give up in their commitment to prevent their personal tragedies from ever happening to anyone else.
 On Tuesday, April 9th, we passed the hands-free cellphone conference committee report off of the House floor. I was happy to vote in favor of the bill. It is a compromise between similar pieces of legislation previously approved by the Minnesota House and Senate. The Senate approved the report Thursday, and Governor Tim Walz signed it into law this morning. Minnesota Public Radio covered the story here.

Minnesota is now the 17th state, plus the District of Columbia, to have a hands-free cellphone law on the books. According to a recent WCCO Reality Check,crashes and fatalities on the road decrease when states have these laws. The new law goes into effect August 1, 2019.
Constituents and Organizations
This week, I had a few groups and constituents come to visit me. It was a great opportunity to hear thoughts from folks here with the Clean Water Action Day and the ACLU.
On Sunday, I also had a chance to meet with a wonderful group of social workers who were taking a class focused on reaching out to their policy makers for their Masters Program. They were very interested in investment in early childhood, mental health in our schools, chemical dependency programs and affordable housing. I also met with a constituent who has been active for decades around environmental policy and renewable energy.
I look forward to more meetings with constituents in the final weeks of session. Please feel free to reach out with any questions, issues or concerns through my email at or by phone at 651-296-9889. If you would like to schedule an appointment or invite me to an event, please contact my new Committee Legislative Assistant at
I look forward to hearing from you!
Cheryl Youakim