With three weeks to go, this legislative session has been the most productive in a generation. NBC News recently provided a national spotlight to the work we’re doing – without the gridlock of previous years – to effectively deliver results and make Minnesota a place where everyone can succeed and thrive. Just last Thursday, Governor Walz signed three more bills into law, all of them making Minnesota a more welcoming, science-following, rights-protecting state. We banned so-called “conversion therapy,” protected access to reproductive freedom, and established Minnesota as a refuge for trans people, their families, and healthcare providers. These vital new laws loudly proclaim Minnesota will take you, as you are, with open arms.
While the work to assemble a new state budget is getting a lion’s share of the attention in Saint Paul, I’m also working to deliver on priorities for our Moorhead community. Here are updates on a few of these bills:
HF 349 – While we’re thankful projected flood levels as high as 38 feet on the Red River didn’t materialize this year (the river crested at 29.74 feet), we need to continue preparation for future flooding. This bill would invest $24 million toward flood mitigation grants to protect Moorhead and Clay County. Funding would also be used for the acquisition of flood-prone properties to address the North Moorhead Project. Permanent improvements now will save millions of dollars of public resources in the future.
Earlier this session, the House passed a Capital Investment package containing this funding with a bipartisan vote (such bills require a supermajority to pass), however Senate Republicans blocked it. I’ve been working on this project since 2021, and I’m hopeful we can reconsider this proposal and a package of other critical public infrastructure improvements before we adjourn for the year.
HF 3213 – This bill would fund an additional $10 million toward the 11th Street Underpass project addressing a funding gap due to inflationary costs. The city of Moorhead has worked with MnDOT, Clay County, federal partners, and BNSF Railway on the project for many years, and the Legislature delivered key funding in 2020. In December, due to advocacy from Sen. Tina Smith and Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the U.S. Department of Transportation awarded a $26.3 million grant toward the project.
Unfortunately, shortly after the federal award was announced, the project budget was updated, estimating an increase from $114.7 million to $157 million. Moorhead and MnDOT have been able to reallocate funding to close the gap to $10 million. Five hours of daily traffic disruption occurs due to 70 trains per day in downtown Moorhead. This is unacceptable. Further delays will only increase the project’s cost, and I’ll keep working to get this funding across the finish line this year.
HF 1375 – I’m collaborating on this bill with Moorhead Public Schools. The district had purchased the former Sam’s Club to convert it into the Moorhead High School Career Academy, offering programming in areas like building trades, culinary arts, health careers, child development and more. The district, unfortunately, faced a budget challenge due to a discrepancy in law which doesn’t treat buildings converted from a different use – retail in this case – the same as existing educational facilities.
My bill would make building improvements like those part of the Career Academy conversion eligible for Long-Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue (LTFM), a state program supporting facilities maintenance needs. When school districts dip into their operating budgets to spend money on facilities, it means they aren’t spending it on students. With trends showing big-box retail stores will continue to close, the bill would help districts utilize support from the state and be more creative in securing new buildings for educational purposes. This provision has been included in the House E-12 Education Budget Bill.
Improving Health and Wellbeing of Minnesotans
Serving as Vice Chair of the Children and Families Committee and as a member of the Human Services Committee, I’m particularly invested in our work this session to address disparities and strengthen outcomes for children and families from marginalized communities. I’ve worked to prevent homelessness by working to pass legislation such as the Pathway Home Act, with investments in solutions like capital funding for shelters, emergency services grants, the Homeless Youth Act, and more. I’ve worked to address food insecurity, including a bill to invest $5 million in emergency funding to support our food shelves. I’ve fought to fix shortcomings in our child welfare system, particularly through my work on the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act, a bill Governor Walz has also signed into law, which will incorporate federal procedures and requirements under the Indian Child Welfare Act into state law.
I’m proud to continue this work as part of a joint House/Senate Conference Committee charged with developing a final, compromise version of the 2023 Health Budget Bill. Last week, the House passed its version of the bill, which makes significant investments to lower health care costs while improving coverage so everyone can access the care they need. Among many other bold actions, the bill includes the MinnesotaCare Buy-In, providing all Minnesotans a quality, affordable health insurance option. It also protects reproductive care, requires safe nurse staffing levels at hospitals, and improves dental health. The bill expands mental health coverage, along with new investments in the 988 suicide and crisis lifeline.
More information about our work can be found here.