For more information contact: Gina Vega 651-296-5526
Neighbors and Friends,
As we prepare to break for the Easter and Passover holiday, the House and Senate are continuing to assemble the state budget. This week, several omnibus budget bills are being heard on the House floor. Even with committee deadlines past, bill introductions have not stopped. To date, the Minnesota House has already introduced 2,587 bills. Here is an update from the Capitol:
Public Safety Omnibus Bill
There are several good provisions in the Public Safety bill, but the measure doesn’t go far enough to protect Minnesotans and reform our criminal justice system. As a member of the House Public Safety Committee, I offered an amendment that would fund the Youth Intervention Program, which helps keep kids and adolescents out of the corrections system, moving them toward productive and healthy contributing members of society. Although this amendment has had bipartisan support as a stand-alone bill, the House Majority did not include it in their final bill, and this amendment was not adopted.
Speaking in support of the Youth Intervention Program at the Youth Intervention Program Association’s Rally at the Capitol.
Additionally, the bill underfunds 21st century public safety tools, such as bomb squads, criminal investigation analysts and correctional institution security upgrades. There was also controversial language to allow for-profit prisons in Minnesota and to increase criminal penalties for certain types of peaceful protest. During the debate, several House members questioned the constitutionality of this provision as it relates to Americans’ First Amendment rights.
Legacy Omnibus Bill
As Minnesotans, we take pride and enjoyment from our natural resources and the arts. The Legacy bill allocates constitutionally dedicated funds to clean water, parks and trails, and arts and cultural heritage. This package funds all parts of the state and includes many diverse projects and initiatives, including the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, Parks and Trails Fund and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. The bill passed unanimously.
Higher Education Omnibus Bill
Minnesota carries the 5th highest amount of student debt in the nation, which strains the system and makes the cost of college out of reach for far too many students and families. Given the size of the budget surplus and the staggering burden placed on students, this bill comes in millions less than what is needed to address the problem. Higher education is essential to the prosperity and quality of life that we enjoy in Minnesota.
Costs and tuition are rising; many young people are delaying major life events such as starting a family and buying their first home due to the burden of student loan payments. We as a legislature should be working together to find real solutions to tuition increases and student loan burden, instead of initiating the House Majority’s short term band-aid proposals that will only hurt our students more in the long term.
Other bills on the schedule for debate this week include State Government, Jobs and Energy, and Health and Human Services.
Advocacy Fair - April 8
In the last few months, I've heard from many constituents asking how they can get involved to work for policy change. In response, several of my colleagues have put together an Advocacy Fair, to connect community members with advocacy organizations that could use their help. The Fair, which will be held on Saturday, April 8, 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church (700 Snelling Ave. S.) in St. Paul, will feature nearly 20 advocacy organizations. Click here to see the Facebook event page.
Please keep me updated on your views of these bills and other areas of interest. I appreciate gaining your input.