With just two weeks left in the legislative session, my colleagues and I are working hard to develop a strong, equitable budget for the next two years. Last Monday, the House finished passing our omnibus bills – comprehensive plans for each area of the budget that contain many of the individual bills we worked on this year. Together, the budget bills reflect our vision for the future and the feedback we’ve heard from Minnesotans.
The next step in the budget process is comparing the budget bills that passed in the House and in the Senate. In many cases, there are significant differences between the two. Legislators are appointed to conference committees that consider both versions of the bill and try to reach a compromise. The goal of every conference committee is to develop a single bill that can be sent back to each chamber for a final vote.
I’m happy to report that I’ve been appointed to the Commerce and Energy Conference Committee! I look forward to working with my Senate colleagues to address the climate crisis and protect Minnesota consumers. While the bill we develop together may look different than what we passed in the House, I’m confident we can find a strong compromise.
Fighting for Police Reform and Accountability
After the murder of George Floyd, lawmakers came together and passed some overdue measures to improve police accountability. We changed the standards for use of deadly force, banned “warrior training” and choke holds, established a duty to intercede, reformed investigation and arbitration, and expanded training. However, there is much more work to be done.
The House recently passed a strong Public Safety, Criminal Justice Reform, Judiciary, and Civil Law budget. There’s a lot to be excited about in this bill, including several police reform and accountability measures. You can view a summary of these provisions here. The latest episode of the Minnesota Values Podcast, which I host with Rep. Liz Olson, is about these critical changes. You can listen to it here or wherever podcasts are found.
Other important steps toward justice include:
- Allowing local governments to establish civilian oversight councils
- Limiting police officers’ authority to stop or detain drivers for certain violations
- Improving the way young Minnesotans are treated in court and the juvenile justice system
- Funding public defense so Minnesotans can get the attention and aid required under their Constitutional rights
- Prohibiting white supremacists from becoming police officers
- Supporting community organizations working to prevent crime
- Closing the “voluntary intoxication” loophole and other barriers that survivors of sexual assault face when seeking justice
A few bills I authored were included in the budget. One of them, the Clean Slate Act, automatically expunges low-level offenses from the criminal records of Minnesotans who’ve served their time. If it’s enacted, thousands of people who currently face unnecessary lifelong barriers to employment, education, and housing will get a fair shot at a better future. If you’d like to read more about this bill, you can check out a recent article published by the Star Tribune.
I’m also working with Rep. Samantha Vang, who represents Brooklyn Center and chairs the People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus, to reform the way misdemeanor warrants are handled. Our bill aims to lessen the number of police interactions where they need to take someone into custody. Under this legislation, judges are required to issue “sign and release” warrants instead of arrest warrants when Minnesotans miss court appearances for certain low-level charges. Police would be instructed to notify individuals about their court date and ask them to sign an acknowledgement instead of arresting them. The recent shooting of Daunte Wright highlighted the urgent need for this change. Since his summons was sent to the wrong address, Mr. Wright may not have known that he needed to appear in court nor that there was a warrant out for his arrest. KARE 11 and the Star Tribune published articles about this bill – which received bipartisan support in committee and is now headed to the House floor – last week. You can read them here and here.
Ensuring Minnesota Leads the Transition to Clean Energy
As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. For example, some communities – disproportionately communities of color and low-income communities – are experiencing higher rates of asthma and other health issues. In the metro area, an estimated 2,000 people every year die early due to air pollution. And this is just one of the many consequences we can expect to see if we don’t take urgent action.
We recently passed our Climate and Energy budget in the House. As chair of the Climate and Energy Finance and Policy Committee, I’m extremely proud of this ambitious plan to address the climate crisis. Our bill puts Minnesota on a path to achieve 100 percent clean energy by 2040 and eliminate all carbon emissions by 2050! It also invests in:
- Providing Minnesotans who want to purchase cleaner cars with electric vehicle rebates
- Expanding the number of electric buses and school buses
- Installing solar energy systems on schools and state-owned buildings, which would save school districts and the state money
- Building a Clean Energy Training Center in North Minneapolis
- Improving energy efficiency in homes and businesses across Minnesota
- Expanding a solar manufacturing plant in Mountain Iron, which would make it the second largest in the nation
These investments would help Minnesota lead the nation with a just transition to clean energy. This transition would create well-paying jobs, affordable energy, and new industries. Our bill ensures that all Minnesotans – especially those most impacted by climate change – can access these benefits.
Minnesota Keeps Eight Congressional Seats
Last week, the U.S. Census released numbers that determine how many congressional seats and electoral college votes each state will get for the next decade. Minnesota maintained our eighth congressional seat by a slim margin of just 26 people! This was no accident: Minnesota led the nation with a self-response rate of 75 percent, and more than 300 community organizations worked tirelessly to spread the word. The Legislature also helped ensure we got a complete count by passing my bill with $1.6 million for census work in 2019. This was a group win and all who contributed deserve our gratitude!
If you’d like to stay informed as we work to deliver a budget that works for all Minnesotans, please like my Facebook page for regular updates. Feel free to share this email with family, friends, and neighbors who might be interested. If they’d like to receive these updates, they can sign up at https://bit.ly/LongUpdates.
Please continue sharing your questions, ideas, and feedback and let me know if I can be of assistance. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-5375.