For more information contact: Bennett Smith 651-296-6422
I wanted to update you on several important issues that have been debated in February. I have appreciated the in-person visits and contact from many of you on important issues, and I also appreciated hearing from so many of you at our town hall meeting in January. A round-up of some of the recent floor votes is below:
IN THE NEWS
We have an excellent group of American Indian women serving in the Minnesota Legislature this year, and I was recently featured with them in an issue of The Circle, a Native news outlet. You can read more about our service in the legislature by clicking here.
ENERGY & CLIMATE BILLS IN 2017
Earlier this month we debated several energy related bills that I strongly opposed. HF 113 would allow the Sherco II coal power plant in Becker to be replaced with a natural gas power plant without going through the Minnesota Public Utilities review process to see if the move is what is most cost effective for rate payers, and leaves unanswered questions about the care of Minnesota’s nuclear waste from our nuclear plants. HF 234 places burdens for installation and maintenance on greater Minnesota residents who want to install solar power and sell back to their electric cooperative. HF 235 would repeal the ‘Made In Minnesota’ program that provides incentives to residents and businesses who own solar panels that was enacted by law in 2013. Not only is this bill harmful to the growth of solar power generation, but it’s doubly harmful to a new Minnesota solar power industry that is creating renewable energy jobs here in Minnesota. If you’d like to stay on top of environmental issues at the legislature here are some good organizations to engage with:
Minnesota Environmental Partnership: https://www.mepartnership.org/get-involved/
Minnesota Interfaith Power & Light: http://mnipl.org/take-actioni/volunteer-with-mn-ipl.html
ANTI-PROTEST LEGISLATION MOVING
Several Republican lawmakers have authored bills attempting to restrict or criminalize the ability of Minnesotans to express their First Amendment rights to freedom of assembly and speech. I have opposed all of these bills. You can read more about the hearings that happened this week on the issue of protests here.
POLITICIZING THE REDISTRICTING PROCESS
Redistricting legislation is also generating debate in St. Paul. A DFL bill authored by Rep. Schultz (HF 246) would create a non-partisan redistricting panel and remove the process from legislators. Another Republican proposal moving through the House by Rep. Anderson (HF 314) would tighten legislators control and force only the legislature to approve redistricting plans, allowing legislators to choose their constituents instead of the other way around.
Unfortunately, those bills have been treated very differently in committee, with the DFL proposal being stalled and the Republican plan moving forward through committees. It’s worth noting that the legislature almost never passes a redistricting plan and has to defer to court-drawn plans because of the partisan nature of redistricting. The nonpartisan panel proposed in the DFL plan is the correct path for the future health of our democracy.
For several years now, the House Republican majority has blocked attempts to advance a set of employment policies - paid family leave, paid sick & safe time, and more - which would help families and benefit our economy and quality of life. In response to this refusal at the state level, cities like Minneapolis and St. Paul have been passing fair labor policies at the local level. Last week, Republicans advanced a bill in committee to stop these local attempts to protect worker rights. The “preemption” bill would prevent communities from democratically adopting local labor policies such as paid leave or a minimum wage. It would block the progress we’ve made to raise wages and expand benefits for hardworking Minnesotans.
It’s better for all of us if people who are sick stay home from work. The parents of a newborn should be able to take care of them. People who work full-time should be able to support themselves. If state policy doesn’t yet reflect these principles, our city policy should be allowed to do so. My DFL colleagues & I will continue to fight this bill.
THREATS TO LGBT STUDENTS
I was pleased to hear Governor Dayton’s remarks yesterday encouraging schools to continue complying with the Obama-era guidance on inclusive policies for transgender students. Governor Dayton was right- this is not a state’s rights issue, it’s a human rights issue and we need to stand strongly in support of every single student in our schools and their ability to learn in a safe supportive environment.
Yesterday, a bill came to the House floor that would prepare Minnesota to become Real ID-compliant. This is something that needs to happen quickly, since Minnesotans may be unable to board airplanes or access federal buildings as of January 2018 if we don’t change our state ID (driver’s license) to comply with federal rules.
Unfortunately I was forced to oppose this bill because the Republican majority used yet another deadline as leverage. Their bill included unnecessary language that turns a simple compliance issue affecting Minnesotans’ ability to travel around the country into a broader debate over immigration practices and the ability of undocumented citizens to drive safely and acquire auto insurance.
It wasn’t a problem in the Senate, where there is a clean bill that only addresses Real ID moving forward.
FIGHTING FOR A FAIR ECONOMY
My colleague Rep. Jack Considine from Mankato has been proudly taking the House floor at every opportunity and featuring home healthcare and personal care workers from around Minnesota. I’m proud to support his fight to raise their wages, and that requires legislative action. He recently featured one of our neighbors, Susanne Beasley. Susanne has been a Direct Support Professional (DSP) for 37 years, and she had this to write:
“Working as a DSP is a 24/7 job. When I hear people say they just work from home when the roads are bad or that they don't have to work on the holidays, that doesn't pertain to DSP workers. If they aren't on the job, who is going to care for the individuals with disabilities? My family knows that I may have to miss a special event, because I may have to care for the needs of someone who cannot care for themselves. I have known many of the people supported by my organization for over 30 years, and I feel like they are part of my family. Their families trust me to provide the care for these individuals that they are not able to provide.”
SUNDAY ALCOHOL SALES
On Monday the Minnesota House voted to approve Sunday Alcohol Sales for the first time. The bill still needs to pass the Senate. You can read more here. I voted yes on the bill after hearing from many of you in support.
MINNESOTA CARE BUY-IN
Twenty-five years ago, MinnesotaCare was created by a bipartisan coalition of legislators and signed into law by a Republican governor. The program has allowed 100,000 Minnesotans to purchase high-quality, lower-cost health care coverage from a broad network of care providers and physicians all across the state. I'm a coauthor of a proposal, supported by Governor Dayton as well, to permit those who purchase their insurance on the individual insurance market the opportunity to ‘buy-into’ MinnesotaCare. Participants in the program would pay their own way. This could be one avenue to provide affordable health care options to thousands of Minnesotans. For more information on the proposal, click here.
I encourage you to contact me if you have questions or concerns on any issue. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-7152.
State Representative – District 62B
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