It has been an incredible legislative session so far. My colleagues and I are working diligently daily to ensure we are providing the best policies for Minnesotans. When we say, “we are makers of the future,” we mean it literally.
Here is what we have accomplished thus far this session-
? Reproductive Codification Act
? Driver's License for All
? The CROWN Act
? Restore the Vote
? Juneteenth State Holiday
? Early Care and Learning Stabilization Grant, Increasing Reimbursement Rates
? Universal School Meals
? Emergency Funding for Food Shelves
? 100% by 2040 Climate and Clean Energy
? Sick/Safe Time
? Conversion Therapy Ban
? Office for Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls
? Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention
It is an honor to co-author the Minnesota Indian Family Preservation Act with Rep. Keeler and Rep. Becker-Finn. The objective of HF 1071 is to reinforce the federal regulations of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) into Minnesota law. The bill results from recommendations from the Tribal MIFPA working group with input from the Minnesota Department of Human Services, the Minnesota Association of County Social Services Administrators, and more. The bill will incorporate all federal ICWA provisions into Minnesota law to avoid an overwhelming amount of litigation in Child Welfare and Family Law if ICWA is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, as it may be by the case Haaland v. Brackeen. We heard some painful stories shared by our relatives from various tribal nations and it is clear, our Indigenous children must be protected and the Indigenous family must be preserved.
I’m proud to lead HF 1423 in the Minnesota House Environment Committee. HF 1423, seeks to fund the Fond du Lac Band's elk reintroduction plan in Northeast Minnesota. There are many positives from viewing and hunting elk such as boosting our economy, restoring our environment, and, most importantly, reclaiming our relationship and cultural ways with our four-legged relatives. "Omashkooz we're here before. And they're going to be here again." Miigwech to Fond du Lac Band Chairman DuPuis for your testimony, leadership, and trust in our work.
Increase Teachers of Color Act
This transformational bill has been years in the making by The Coalition to Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers in Minnesota. Our youngest leaders and changemakers are counting on us to diversify their classrooms and provide representation in the classroom. The Increase Teachers of Color Act will address the severe and chronic shortage of teachers of color and Indigenous identities. This legislation will give our kids and our families a fighting chance on even ground.
Currently, there are over 2,000 teachers of color and American Indian candidates who need and deserve our support to graduate and enter our schools. We cannot afford to lose these potential educators from our education workforce and communities. We need to invest in teachers that not only look like our extensively diverse student population but those who share similar lived experiences to help encourage, affirm, and motivate them toward their dreams and goals. With this transformative legislation, we are investing in the future of our state's economic development and our future workforce generation.
First Generation Homebuyers Program
Owning a home is a privilege many Minnesotans work towards. HF 1219, is about equipping first generation homebuyers with tools to expand and deeper their knowledge of the intricate processes of purchasing a home. Unfortunately, people from second generations are often the first to own a home in their family. First gen homebuyers have major responsibilities to provide housing security for their family and, as a state, we need to support them by developing a program that will allow professionals from the housing sector to educate and provide first generation homebuyers the information and tools they need to be successful homeowners.
Senate Votes to Pass Restore the Vote Legislation
The Senate passed the ‘Restore the Vote’ bill to solidify the message that our state cares about the restoration of the basic dignity that comes with the right to vote. As we reflect on our history as a state and nation, we must acknowledge that voter disenfranchisement has been used as a tool to limit and restrict historically underserved and marginalized communities’ participation in the political process. I am proud of Senator Bobby Joe Champion and Minnesota DFLers for making it clear, voting is not a privilege for some, it a right for everyone.
Catalytic Converter Theft
House File HF 30, seeks to establish strict provisions on the theft of catalytic converters by prohibiting anyone from possessing a used, unattached catalytic converter unless the owner has the vehicle identification number (VIN) for the vehicle, and the date the converter was removed from the vehicle. It prohibits the sale and purchase of catalytic converters by anyone other than registered scrap metal dealers and would impose a fine of up to $5,000 for unlawful possession and sale.
Minnesota ranks in the top five for catalytic cover thefts. In November of 2022, a federal takedown of a catalytic converter theft ring of over a half-billion dollars included more than a dozen search warrants across Minnesota. It’s going to take all levels of government working together to address this issue, and our bill puts us on the right path. Thank you, Rep. Ruth Richardson for carrying this legislation. I was proud to have voted ‘yes’ for this legislation!
Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls
House File 55, which would create an Office of Missing and Murdered Black Women and Girls, was also recently heard on the House Floor. I voted ‘YES’ because there is a lack of urgency from our public institutions when Black women and girls are reported missing. This new office will set strong standards for promptly sending alerts and supporting the community members closest to the pain of not knowing what happened to a missing family member or loved one.
The Queer Caucus and I are incredibly proud that we voted to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy. We need to affirm and celebrate all youth no matter their identity. Thank you to all the courageous advocates in the queer community who fought relentlessly to end this hateful practice. It is because of your relentless advocacy and determination that Minnesota will finally ban this dangerous and discredited practice.
Our youth need to hear from the Legislature loud and clear, we HEAR you, we ACCEPT you, and you MATTER.
Universal Free Meals
We passed a bill to provide free school meals for all students! We pride ourselves on our strong education system, but with 1 in 6 students trying to learn on an empty stomach we are not living up to our values. We have the resources to prevent student hunger and it’s our duty to step up and provide the food security families need and the high-quality education our children deserve. Children learn better when they are nourished and have the resources they need to successfully engage in their classroom.
Child Care and Early Learning
I voted with all my DFL colleagues to pass a pair of bills to deliver investments to stabilize childcare and early learning in the state. HF 13 would increase the maximum rates for all childcare assistance (CCAP)-eligible children from the 30th or 40th percentile to the 75th percentile of the most recent survey of provider rates. A review of state rates shows that Minnesota is currently near the bottom. The rate change would apply to Minnesota children of all ages.
The second bill, HF 150, delivers $12.25 million in emergency investment in childcare stabilization grants. It also includes $40 million in early learning scholarships, with expanding eligibility to start at birth, rather than the current age of three. This will provide early learning and care to an estimated 4,000 additional children.
The 2021 Legislature established the childcare provider stabilization grant program for monthly base grants to help providers stay open and continue to provide care and learning. 70% of the funds go directly to compensate childcare workers. But the size of the payments is currently scheduled to drop in half starting in March, threatening the fragile stability of providers. HF 150 would reverse this cut.
Video of the floor debate can be viewed on the House Public Information’s YouTube Channel.
Sick and Safe Time
I voted for sick and safe time for all workers in Minnesota. Everyone deserves the chance to rest and recover when they need to. I'm proud to support a bill which puts everyday workers first! It is inevitable that we all get sick or need to care for a loved one who is ill. As legislators, we should never put Minnesotans in a situation where they need to choose between their family and their paycheck.
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