I hope this finds you well! Thank you to everyone who made it to my Community Conversation on Wednesday this week at Edina Public Library. I appreciate all the time each of our community members take out of their day to share their thoughts and dreams for the future of Minnesota. We continue to hear bills in committee, as well as the floor. We will soon have the February budget forecast from Minnesota Management and Budget Agency. The estimate in the forecast will help us as we craft our two-year state budget.
Taking Action to Help Prevent Gun Violence
February 14 marked the fifth anniversary of the tragic mass shooting in Parkland, Florida at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, and we’re reeling from yet another tragedy this time at Michigan State University. We need to take proactive measures to keep our communities safe.
Recently, victims of gun violence, physicians, and law enforcement organizations including the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, the Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association recently testified in support of four significant bills to address gun violence. These bills include:
On Thursday, a group of constituents with Moms Demand Action visited with me at the Capitol. I appreciate their passion and vision of a safer Minnesota. We know we can’t prevent all forms of gun violence, but these are long overdue steps we can take to keep more Minnesotans safe.
We’re passing bills with a similar theme this week: meeting our kids where they’re at, and helping them thrive and succeed.
Getting our Kids off to a Great Start
A lack of access to affordable, accessible child care for working families is one of the most pressing issues I’ve heard about since joining the Legislature. Additionally, with low reimbursement rates, child care providers are struggling to offer competitive wages and in some cases, to even keep their doors open.
On Monday, the House passed a pair of bills with robust investments aimed at stabilizing child care and early learning for our families. HF 13 increases the maximum reimbursement rates for all Child Care Assistance Program providers. HF 150 increases the amount of child care stabilization grants – a key initiative launched during the pandemic – for child care programs. The bill also expands eligibility for early learning scholarships to children age five or younger.
Child care and early learning are both crucial for kids to develop, grow, and learn, but also for family economic security. If a parent can’t afford daycare (if they can even find a daycare spot), they can’t join the workforce. If businesses can’t hire workers, then they can’t grow. I was proud to support these investments to help kids, families, and communities thrive.
Earned Sick and Safe Time
All Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to be successful, but too many must choose between work and taking care of a new baby, a loved one, or themselves. The time to act is now, and DFLers have been taking firm action to address these problems. Yesterday, we passed legislation that would guarantee, at a minimum, one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year. This allows Minnesotans to take care of themselves and their loved ones when needed and still be productive members of the workforce. I was proud to vote in favor of this bill.
Early this week in the Education Finance Committee, we held a joint committee hearing with the Higher Education Committee to hear presentations on linking K-12 Schools and Higher Education institutions with Workforce Community Partnerships. On Wednesday, we heard an important bill to stabilize our school district budgets. Our state funding for our public schools has not kept up with inflation or bounced back from the 2003 budget cuts. We heard a bill from Rep. Norris to link the education formula to inflation and increase our state investment over the next four years.
We also heard a bill to increase funding for the Minnesota Math Corps program and to provide a grant to the BARR Center in order to expand their program to more schools. And, we discussed legislation from Rep. Hassan that has been in the works for over four years to help recruit and retain more teachers of color. It was a pleasure to have Jessica Davis from St. Louis Park Schools, and a former Minnesota Teacher of the Year, come to testify in favor of the bill.
I also had the opportunity to present a few of my bills this week.
My HF 806, which invests funds for a grant to the Building Assets, Reducing Risks (BARR) Center for an evidence-based, research-validated program, had another committee stop this week. The BARR Center provides schools with coaching support, professional development, and other resources to develop strong relationships with students over three years. They also help teachers dive deep into data to figure out the barriers their students are having and how to best remove them. The BARR Center grew out of a program that Angela Jerabek developed in the St. Louis Park Schools.
In the House Property Tax Committee, I presented HF 700, which enhances a current property tax refund program we have called the Targeted Property Tax Refund. This program is available to anyone regardless of income level. With this current program, if your property tax bill increases more that 12% in one year you can receive 60% of the difference in a refund of up to $1,000. The bill that I presented would change that increase threshold from 12% to 10% and the maximum refund from $1,000 to $2,000. This is one of the many ways our House Taxes Committee is looking at ways to address the spike in property taxes for our homeowners.
I also had a bill in the Taxes Committee that would extend Minnesota’s historic tax credit. HF1488 would revive the refundable credit, which is equal to 20% of qualified historic rehabilitation expenditures. First signed into law in 2010, it was designed to parallel the existing federal rehabilitation tax credit, also offering project investors the option of a grant in lieu of a credit. We had this included in our final compromise tax bill last year that was left on the table. I’m grateful this bill has bipartisan support and has another opportunity to pass this session.
Constituent Visits and Events
Along with the group from Moms Demand Action, I had the opportunity to talk with other folks from our community. Tuesday morning, I met with leaders from a technical college in the metro area and members of the business community that partner with them. Our technical colleges provide important pathways as our high school students move through post-secondary and onto careers. It was a great way to begin the day!
Tuesday afternoon, I had the chance to meet with a group of childcare providers from Mis Amigos and New Horizon. We discussed the importance of quality childcare and early childhood education. They were there to support the childcare investment bills we passed Monday night. We are so lucky to have such amazing providers in our communities that take care of our youngest learners.
On Wednesday, I met with a group of student leaders with the MAAP Stars Program. These young adults are leaders chosen from our Alternative Learning Centers to provide a voice for students and to hone their leadership skills. As policymakers in education, it is so important to center the students' voices in the decisions we make.
‘Name a Snowplow’ Winners Announced
Over 64,000 Minnesotans have spoken, and heading out into the streets this winter is our “Special” newly named metro area snow plow, Blizzo. Thanks to everyone who voted!
Keep in Touch
Please continue to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-9889 with questions, input, or to let me know how I can be of assistance. Email is the quickest way to get in touch.
Enjoy the warmer temps this weekend!