The end of our first special session this last weekend had a mixed bag of results for Minnesota. Having initially been called to address the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic impact, the recent killing of George Floyd and subsequent unrest made public safety and criminal justice reform an additional priority of our work this special session. It was a long week of working on urgent and important measures, but our efforts were unfortunately cut short when the Republican-led Minnesota Senate adjourned without a compromise on key pieces of legislation, effectively halting our work in the House as well.
Solutions to both the impacts of COVID-19 and the social justice inequities in our public safety system won’t be easy to craft, but we can’t enact change or provide resources unless all parties are willing to come to the table to work. I remain committed to fighting for these much-needed changes, and I’ll be pushing for compromise to be reached. Should Governor Walz decide to extend the peacetime state of emergency, the Minnesota Legislature will be called to meet again in July, and possibly earlier if consensus can be reached on other critical issues. I’ll be sure to keep you updated as we learn more.
Assistance for Small Business
A big win for Minnesota at the start of the special session was legislation delivering assistance to our state’s smallest businesses. I co-authored this bill and it creates a $62.5 million fund for small business grants, with a focus on businesses with 50 or fewer employees. With grants of up to $10,000, this is a critical investment that will provide our local businesses with the assistance needed to continue on during these difficult times.To be eligible, the business must meet the following requirements:
- Have a permanent physical location in Minnesota,
- Be owned by a permanent resident of MN,
- Be in good standing with the Sec. of State’s office and the Dept. of Revenue as of March 1, 2020, and
- Demonstrate financial hardship as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Grants will be awarded by lottery and the funds will be evenly split in their allocation to Greater Minnesota and Metro-area businesses. This bill has already been signed into law by Governor Walz, and applications will be accepted during a 10-day period that just began Tuesday, June 23, and lasting through Thursday, July 2. You can find more information on how to apply here.
Preparing for the Fall and Improving Education
The Minnesota Department of Education is working on a plan for next school year and they are seeking input from parents and guardians. Please share your experience with MDE by taking this survey, which will remain open until June 30. A decision of what the school year will look like for our students is expected by the end of July, and your input is important.
Our House Education Finance and Education Policy committees are hosting a number of joint informational hearings with feedback from parents, educators, support professionals, and community partners. The next scheduled hearing is June 30th at 9:45am. You can view recorded hearings or tune into the next one live on the MN House Info YouTube channel.
Another one of our initial bills during the special session was the omnibus human services policy bill. While this legislation covers a variety of issues, much of it focuses on education, such as my bill ensuring students in foster care are enrolled in a new school within 7 school days after a new out-of-home placement, and other early education measures I’ve championed.
Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020
Early Friday morning, we passed the Minnesota Police Accountability Act of 2020, which is a combination of important reforms and measures brought forward through the experience and expertise of my colleagues in the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus. The legislation includes the following:
- Reclaiming Community Oversight
- Putting power into the hands of the people and neighborhoods that police officers are sworn to serve and protect.
- Restoring confidence and trust in the systems that are meant to provide justice for all Minnesotans.
- Re-Imagining Public Safety
- Ending the unacceptable culture that is responsible for the murder of George Floyd and far too many others who look like him.
We’ve seen time and again that inaction and half-measures have been unable to bring about the change needed for true justice and equality. It’s through this legislation that Minnesota can become a leader in implementing systemic change that empowers our communities, promotes accountability, and gives our police officers the resources they need to protect all Minnesotans. Though this did not pass during our special session, I remain committed to championing these reforms.
I encourage you to read this letter from Eden Prairie Police Chief Greg Weber, which highlights the commitment to transparency and relationship building of our own police department. Together, I’m confident we can build a more just and equitable Minnesota.
2020 Animal Advocate
Before the onset of COVID-19 in Minnesota, much of our work this year included legislation that has now been set aside as we address the issues brought on by the pandemic. When we return to a greater sense of normalcy, I look forward to renewing my efforts to prevent the sale of dogs and cats in pet stores across the state.