As a first term state representative, I am learning an abundance of knowledge and wisdom from my DFL colleagues and most importantly the local advocates and community leaders. We would not be accomplishing our goals at the pace we are without the dedicated support and rallying of our constituents and allies. Here is what going on at the Capitol:
Town Hall Event Recap
I am grateful for community members who took the time out of their busy schedules to join me and my colleagues, Rep. Mary Frances Clary, and Rep. Rick Hansen on Sunday for our town hall event. It was great to hear from you and to provide an update on the legislative session.
Your voices and perspectives matter to me, and I am honored to serve our community. I look forward to connecting with you all soon.
Be sure to sign up for my e-newsletters to get up-to-date information from the Capitol. You can sign up by accessing my webpage here.
Holy Month- Easter, Ramadan, Passover
It is a Holy season indeed! Blessed Ramadan, Passover, and Easter season to all. I hope you find time for rest, reflection, and rejuvenation. The House and Senate joined by Governor Tim Walz and Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan gathered for our first Iftar since 2019. I want to thank Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman and President of the Senate Sen. Bobby Joe Champion for hosting a beautiful gathering.
Thank you to the Muslim American Society of Minnesota for inviting members of the community to join us.
While we have made a great deal of progress together this session, there is nothing quite like sharing a meal to bring people together, celebrating community, and uplifting each other's stories and rich cultures. I am already looking forward to next year.
Black Maternal Health Week
April 11-17 is Black Maternal Health Week. Black Maternal Health Week, originated by the Black Mamas Matter Alliance, was created to raise awareness of diminished maternal health outcomes in America, especially among Black women.
In the U.S., maternal mortality rates have steadily increased since the 1990s with a sharp 64 percent rise between 2019 and 2021, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The United States has had one of the highest maternal mortality rates among economically comparable countries for many years. Hennepin County has the largest concentration of African Americans in Minnesota, and here the infant mortality rate among U.S.-born African Americans is 3.4 times higher than among white infants.
The Black Maternal Health Caucus is working to enhance equitable and culturally competent prenatal care and postnatal care to lower the mortality rates among our Black babies and increase strategies to improve their quality of life starting at birth.
Recent Events at Tennessee Legislature
On April 6, Tennessee House Republicans voted to expel two Black Democratic legislators, Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson of the General Assembly for “disorderly behavior” after three members led protest chants for gun safety on the Floor of the chamber last week. I am happy that Rep. Justin Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson were reinstated.
The Tennessee House Republicans continue to fail to act on gun reform to protect innocent lives from deadly consequences. Instead, they have doubled down in a horrifying attack on democracy, rooted in anti-Blackness and white supremacy. These events are a reminder that racism is alive and well and the fight for justice continues.
Not only was the expulsion of these Representatives an injustice to the members, but in doing so, it left nearly 140,000 Tennesseans without the Representation they elected. Here in Minnesota, we are taking steps to ensure our democracy and the people’s voices are uplifted and honored by working to pass bills like the Democracy for the People Act and Rank Choice Voting. On March 3, Governor Tim Walz signed into law the largest expansion of voting rights in Minnesota in the last half-century. The law restores voting rights for over 55,000 formerly incarcerated people in Minnesota.
Latino Museum of MN
In the Capital Investment Committee, I proudly presented my bill, HF 2809, which appropriates funding to establish the first Latino Museum of Minnesota. As an artist that was raised in the district that I now represent, it is my honor to enhance the art and music experience for all of our neighbors. I believe art will unify us, art will help us change the world, and art will educate and heal our communities.
I am proud to champion this bill because our heritage and our Latino diasporas should be on display and properly captured to show our communities persistence, resilience, and ingenuity over the decades.
Metropolitan Center for Independent Living
My bill HF 1719 was heard in the Captial Investment Committee last week, which would invest in the Metropolitan Center for Independent Living. The funding would acquire land for the renovation and expansion of the existing Metropolitan Center for Independent Living facility on Robert Street in St. Paul. The updated facility will provide a broad range of independent living, vocational, case management, and other important services for people with disabilities in the seven-county metropolitan area.
As an artist and educator at heart, I carry my HF 1629 with a passion. I was able to have my second hearing for the bill in the Education Finance Committee last Friday. The bill appropriates funding for the MacPhail Center for Music of 1629 to provide its Learning with Music program in four early childhood centers, with a focus on meeting the needs of children experiencing economic hardship in the Twin Cities metropolitan. Music is powerful and has an abundance of healing properties. I want to ensure all children in our state have the opportunity to develop a love for music while learning key techniques and tools of music production.
Advocacy Day for Children Rally
I am #allinforkids! Last Wednesday was Advocacy Day for Children at the Capitol! I had a phenomenal time speaking to early childhood education advocates, teachers, parents, and our littlest Minnesotans about the importance of setting strong foundations for our children. Our children are our future, and we must ensure we are investing in high-quality programs, providers, and especially educators who dedicate their lives to supporting our youngest students on a daily basis. Investing in early childhood education is a cost-effective strategy for promoting economic growth and greater returns in education, health, and productivity.
We will continue to fight for your youngest Minnesotan students to have access to high-quality affordable early education across the state.
Trans Refuge Bill
I am incredibly proud of Rep. Leigh Finke and her leadership. On Thursday March 23, the debate was tough but love always wins. Here is the Queer Caucus's official statement on the passing of the Trans Refuge bill.
“We are so proud of Representative Finke for her incredible leadership on this issue, and for passing the Trans Refuge bill today on the House floor. At a time when the trans community is constantly under attack by anti-transgender and anti-LGBTQIA2S+ legislation, we need more leaders as brave, caring, and dedicated as Representative Finke. She has been relentless in her work to advance equity for all trans, gender-expansive, and two-spirit community members. No matter the hateful climate she endures, she stands tall and continues to persevere. We cannot thank Rep. Finke enough for her valor and strength.
The Trans Refuge bill ensures access to life-saving healthcare for all families in the state of Minnesota, including age-appropriate, gender-affirming care. This health care is founded on sound research and echoed by positive outcomes. Minnesotans trust each other to make these decisions with their families and health care providers. Today the House of Representatives voted to protect the trans community and affirm the human rights, personal autonomy, and freedom of all trans, gender expansive, and two-spirit Minnesotans.”
Saint Paul Promise School
I met with Saint Paul Promise staff advocating for funding to support the Education Partnerships Coalition (EPC). Saint Paul Promise is a member of the EPC alongside eight other cradle-to-career initiatives across the state. All coalition members are locally controlled, data-driven, public-private partnerships focused on bringing communities together to enact solutions that improve outcomes for children and families. I am grateful for the work Saint Paul Promise School is doing for our youngest learners.