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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Michael Howard (DFL)

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Legislative Update - Unfinished Business

Friday, August 6, 2021

Rep. Howard

Dear Neighbors,  

Following up on my previous email on our Top 10 Legislative Victories for Minnesotans, I also wanted to provide some insight on the important issues that were not resolved this year. Minnesota has the only divided state legislature in the nation, with the DFL leading the House, and Republicans having a narrow majority in the Senate. This has been the case for the last few years, and while bipartisan compromise has driven our work, Senate Republicans have been more interested in preserving the status quo than taking on big challenges.  

That’s not to say we haven’t made progress or given up. For a time, bills like Alec’s Law, wage increases for PCAs, and our “Solar on Schools” energy program would have been on this list, but mounting pressure and tireless advocacy got them over the finish line. The same can happen as we continue to fight for progress on this important list below.   


Top 10 Areas of Unfinished Business 

  1. Paid Family Leave - Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to take care of a newborn without putting a paycheck in jeopardy, and despite paid family leave growing in popularity, it’s been a nonstarter for Republicans. Taking time off to care for and bond with a newborn is the norm over 120 countries, with more states joining. It’s time for Minnesota to do the same.  
  2. Recreational Adult-Use Cannabis Legalization - In my conversations with folks outside of the Capitol this is not really a partisan issue. A broad array of Minnesotans see that our current laws are not working and that we are long overdue for a transition to a well-regulated legalization of adult-use cannabis for a variety of reasons. We passed this bill in the House with bipartisan support, but unfortunately the Republican-led Senate refused to take action.  
  3. Policing Reforms - Like last summer, mounting pressure in the wake of local tragedies resulted in additional public safety reforms this session. These were hard-fought wins in negotiations, but critical proposals put forward by our People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus continue to be ignored. We have more work ahead to build trust between community and law enforcement, which will ultimately lead to safer communities.   
  4. Game-Changing Housing Investments - Minnesota faced a housing crisis well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Our work this past year in housing felt like triage, trying to help as many Minnesotans as possible stay in their homes while housing insecurity was rampant. Now, we must focus on bold investments in housing to ensure every Minnesotan has a safe and secure place to lay their head at night.  
  5. Prescription Drug Affordability – Minnesota took a leadership role when we passed Alec’s Law, but this last year we saw that progress stalled as we sought broader reforms. Minnesotans deserve to lead healthy lives, and they deserve to do so without breaking the bank. We will continue to fight for prescription drug affordability measures next session.   
  6. Climate Change – While we made bits of progress this session in the climate arena, we also spent a good deal of time playing defense on anti-science legislation pushed by Republicans. As a result, we were not able to pass our 100% Clean Energy by 2050 standard or other needed reforms.  
  7. Right to Vote/Protect our Democracy – Our democracy has been tested like never before with disinformation, division, and attacks on voters that culminated in a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. This session we fought back with bold legislation to protect and strengthen the right to vote while amplifying the voices of Minnesotans by reducing the influence of dark money and corporations in our politics. Here too, Senate Republicans stood in the way of progress.  
  8. Jobs Bill - Minnesota’s economic recovery is crucial for building back better for our state and a significant tool we mustn’t ignore is investment in our public infrastructure. Now is the right time to come together and pass a robust bonding bill that will create jobs and invest in communities across the state.  
  9. Comprehensive Transportation Package - We can’t afford to keep pushing off the robust transportation package that Minnesota not only deserves, but desperately needs. In order to be a state where people want to live, work, and raise a family, Minnesotans need to be able to safely and reliably travel.  
  10. Defeat COVID-19 – It is unfortunate that defeating COVID-19 is listed under “unfinished business” when at times we’ve seen the light at the end of the tunnel. But while the vaccine has allowed many of us to have a relatively normal summer, the more contagious Delta variants threaten to undo our collective work to keep each other safe. Our best tool available to us to combat COVID and prevent us from slipping back into the darker days of this pandemic is vaccination. If you or a loved one have yet to receive the vaccine, now is the time. You can find more information on where to get your first shot here. Are you having difficulty convincing a family or friend to get vaccinated? The Mayo Clinic has an excellent FAQ that dispels some of the harmful disinformation pushed by anti-vaxxers and those minimizing the seriousness of a pandemic that has taken the lives of 600,000 Americans and 7,000 Minnesotans. We are in this together and we can defeat COVID-19 together.   

What other issues do you think should have made this list? Please feel free to reach out to me with any comments on other pieces of legislation we should be focusing on ahead of next session.  

In partnership,  


Michael Howard