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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Athena Hollins (DFL)

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Legislative Update: Climate Work, TDOV, Black Maternal Health

Tuesday, April 5, 2022





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Dear neighbors,

Thank you for your continued communication with my office. I’ve heard from so many of you lately, and it’s easier to represent our district well when you reach out. It feels like our most important issues of the week are government transparency, funding education, and climate action. E-updates are an exercise of transparency. Here’s my take on news at the Capitol!



Climate Work

Minnesotans expect legislators to act. Minnesota is already experiencing the fastest changing climate compared to the rest of the country and it is impacting our health, our farms, and our infrastructure. By acting now we can create local jobs, reduce the costs of energy, and protect our health.

The Climate and Energy committee, on which I serve, has put together a $175 million investment package to ensure Minnesota leads the transition to a clean energy economy. It lays out a systematic approach to establish Minnesota as a clean energy leader while also ensuring a just transition from our legacy energy systems, which have supported our state and local communities for decades. This bill prioritizes energy equity so Minnesotans who are typically left behind benefit from the clean energy future. To ensure we do more with less, this bill creates more pathways to increase energy efficiency through weatherization and foster new energy development.  

I’m honored that the committee accepted multiple of my proposals into the bill, including:

  • Innovative Investment into Energy Storage- directs utilities to propose a plan to install at least one energy storage system
  • Residential Electric Panel Upgrades- creates a grant program to upgrade residential electrical panels in single-family and multifamily homes to increase the available electrical capacity in those dwellings
  • Intervenor Compensation- establishes a framework for community groups, nonprofits, tribes, and Minnesota residents to be compensated for providing useful contributions to a determination made by the PUC
  • Solar on Demand Credit Rider- requires all investor-owned utilities to submit a plan to the PUC for a photovoltaic demand credit rider to reimburse qualified customers with solar systems over 40 kilowatts
  • Electric School Bus Deployment- enables a public utility to file a plan with the PUC to promote the deployment of electric school buses
  • Tribal Advocacy Council on Energy- requires the department of commerce to provide technical support to any of the 11 federally recognized Indian tribes in Minnesota that choose establish a tribal advocacy council on energy 


Continuing the Work for Real Public Safety

Transparent, high-quality public safety is important.

We continue to work hard on our $150 million legislative package for public safety. We need resources to be funneled into high-crime areas across the state. We need every officer to have a body camera. We need to invest in crime prevention, with community partnerships that work. We need to lean into the data-driven co-responder model. We need to invest in recruitment, retention, and training of officers. This bill addresses all of those needs.

Here's an article from the AP on the issue.

If you have any questions about this, please reach out! I want us all to work together for a public safety system that keeps everyone in Minnesota safe. We need to stop the fearmongering and address what’s actually going on.

Here’s video of our press conference.


Supporting Workers

Last week we passed several pro-worker bills on the House floor. I was co-author of the legislation ratifying the 2020-21 public employee labor contracts.

Also approved was legislation to protect and empower Minnesota’s warehouse workers and to address practices that have led to high injury rates at Amazon facilities. No one should be concerned about getting injured while at their workplace.

Lastly, the House also approved legislation, that I co-authored, to require Minnesota employers to provide workers Earned Sick and Safe Time. The legislation would ensure, at a minimum, one hour of paid time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year and can be used to attend to physical and mental health needs – including illness, injury, or a doctor’s appointment – for workers and their family members. Nearly 900,000 Minnesota workers, including two-thirds of workers in the lowest wage positions, lack access to paid time off.

At a time of sickness, injury or emergency, everyone should be able to take care of themselves or a family member. The pandemic demonstrated the urgent need for this proposal, which allows employees to earn time off. This is a matter of worker dignity and necessity. It’s time this important measure becomes law.



Transgender Day of Visibility

Last week, we celebrated Trans Day of Visibility, a day created for trans joy. But visibility isn’t enough- it’s time the Minnesota Legislature takes action on real support that we can pass for the trans community. Let’s ban conversion therapy, protect access to healthcare, make it easier for official documents to reflect your gender, and make the equal rights amendment a reality.


Support for Public Defenders

Public defenders play a vital role in our criminal legal system. If they are not funded adequately they cannot do their job well. Adequately funding our public defenders means we care that our poor get the same zealous representation as the wealthy. I’m honored to be an author on Chair Becker-Finn’s proposal to provide this needed support.


Supporting ALS Research, Caregiver Supports

The House recently approved a groundbreaking package of investments to support research into a cure and to help caregivers of those with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative condition that results in progressive loss of motor control of voluntary muscles. It affects approximately 30,000 Americans, with about 5,000 new cases diagnosed every year. At any one time, there are an average of 450 Minnesotans living with ALS. It’s 100% fatal and there is no known cure. My father-in-law died of ALS, so I know first hand how devastating this disease can be.

The bill invests $20 million toward research into the prevention, treatment, causes, and cures of ALS, and invests $5 million for caregiver support programs for families of people with ALS. Sen. David Tomassoni of Chisholm was diagnosed with the condition last year. Despite the effect the disease has had on him, he’s dedicated his remaining time in the legislature to push for these bold investments. I’m proud we could come together on a bipartisan basis to quickly move this initiative through the legislature to make a positive impact on people’s lives.


Standing with Ukraine

The past month has been full of harrowing images from Ukraine as Russia continues their violent invasion. In what has been a conflict of ever-growing atrocities, my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, including the 17,000 Ukrainian-Americans who call Minnesota home. 

In a broadly bipartisan move, legislators representing the four main caucuses in the Minnesota Legislature passed a bill that has been signed into law to divest Minnesota’s state pension fund from Russia and codify Governor Walz’s Executive Order barring the state from contracting with Russian companies. The bill has now unanimously passed in both the House and Senate.

Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, the estimated worth of Minnesota's state pension fund investments in Russia was approximately $53 million. The legislation will also sanction Belarus for its complicity in the Russian invasion.

In joining numerous other democracies in a similar action, Minnesota is standing with Ukraine and adding to the international pressure that will hopefully soon lead to peace.

You can read more about this legislation here



Black Maternal Health Caucus Agenda

The difference in life expectancy begins before birth. For as long as the state and nation has collected data on infant mortality, there has been a racial gap. Black and Indigenous infants in Minnesota are twice as likely to die before their first birthday than white infants. The disparity between infant mortality rates of Black and White babies is larger than the gap experienced under chattel slavery. 

Furthermore, research demonstrates that when Black newborns are cared for by Black physicians, they are less likely to experience death in the hospital setting. According to the research, when Black newborns in the study were cared for by White physicians, Black newborns were approximately three times more likely to die in the hospital than White newborns. But when Black physicians cared for Black mothers, the excess mortality rate dropped by about 50 percent.

We need to not only study, but take action to address disparities around maternal health. I’m proud to stand with my colleagues of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and fight for the measures listed above.


First-Generation Homeowners

House Democrats are acknowledging the housing crisis by initiating a first-of-its-kind program to provide first-generation homebuyers with down payment assistance. Minnesota has the highest disparities in home ownership in the country with 76% of White households owning a home and less than 23% of Black households owning a home.

We know that there are economic disparities in our state and one place where it shows up is in generational wealth. If your parents owned a house, you are more likely to own a house. Our BIPOC neighbors have always been left out of this system on purpose, and it has significantly disadvantaged them and poor people from all races. This down payment assistance program will prioritize disadvantaged groups and help them through the process to achieve home ownership.


New COVID-19 Testing Approach

COVID-19 numbers in Minnesota have consistently been low in recent weeks, including test positivity and hospital admissions. Meanwhile, with fewer people feeling sick, demand for saliva testing has decreased significantly. As a result, Minnesota’s testing strategy will be shifting more to a focus on at-home rapid testing.

Minnesota households are now eligible to receive two test kits (for a total of four tests) per home through the mail at Minnesota has secured 500,000 test kits (for a total of 1 million at-home tests) and the program will be available until all the test kits are ordered.

Through the federal government, Minnesotans can order free rapid at-home tests at Food banks, local public health agencies, community groups, and other community health organizations may also have free tests available. Due to actions taken by the Biden Administration, costs for over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests are now required to be covered by health insurance plans.

With the lessons we’ve learned over the last two years, Minnesota is well-positioned to respond effectively if case counts tick upward again. While we all hope to avoid another wave, testing continues to be important for preventing the spread of the virus. Getting a test is still recommended if you:

  • have symptoms of the virus.
  • have had close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
  • are returning from international or domestic travel.
  • attended a high-risk event.
  • work in a setting that has regular, close contact with many people.


Keep in Touch!

Thanks so much for your attention to this newsletter. Please remember to reach out if you ever need me- I’m honored to represent you at the Capitol.


Athena Hollins
State Representative


PS- Check out the Rice & Larpenteur events this year!