For more information contact: Mike Molzahn 651-296-1774
There have been a lot of exiting things going on at the Capitol. I’d like to update you on the progress of three bills I’ve been working on.
House Republicans Release Budget
This week the House GOP released their budget targets for the 2015-16 biennium. The proposed $40 billion budget prioritizes $2 billion in tax cuts, (mostly benefiting the wealthiest Minnesotans) by cutting vital areas of the budget such as housing and health care.
Despite a $1.9 billion surplus, the Republican budget calls for less than a 1% increase in education and higher education, saying “no” to needed investments in early learning and K-12 education. After the Democratic led legislature and Governor Dayton froze tuition over the last two years, the budget proposed by Republican State Representatives would mean actual tuition increases and a worsening of Minnesota’s college student debt crisis.
This proposed House Republican budget includes over $1 billion in cuts to Health and Human Services (HHS) and the most vulnerable Minnesotans, as well as cutting $20.6 million from Job Growth and Energy Affordability, $20.8 million from Capital Investment, $67.4 million from State Government and $24.5 million from Environment and Natural Resources. It is unclear exactly how much would be cut from affordable housing which is included inside the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Committee budget.
Drivers Licenses for Undocumented Workers
I’m happy to announce that my bill, along with an amended version by Rep. Hamilton, both of which would ensure that non-documented Minnesotans can use alternative identification to receive drivers licenses was heard in the MN House Transportation Committee this week. Powerful personal testimony was provided by several Latino families without driver’s licenses who face deportation in some instances if stopped by police. However, two police chiefs from Greater MN testified in support of the bill as a “safer roads and insured drivers” issue. The Catholic Auxiliary Bishop also provided strong testimony in support of the bill, noting it is a moral and human rights issue to prevent families being broken-up. Additionally we had a strong support letter from the MN Business Immigration Coalition that included signatures from the MN Chamber of Commerce, Agri-Growth Council, Food Processors, Nursery and Landscape Association, Milk Producers, Lodging and Restaurant Associations. Unfortunately, since the Republican leadership informed us the evening before that they were not providing enough votes to pass it in the House Transportation Committee, this was only an informational hearing and the bill is at least temporarily stalled.
On a positive note, this “driver’s license for all” bill received a positive hearing in the Senate and continues to move ahead there. These are bipartisan bills that have been in the works for nearly a decade. I’m confident that we’ll be able to pass some form of this legislation this year. It’s a an issue of human rights and economic justice that hard working people here be allowed to come out of the shadows and drive cars legally; to be able to buy car insurance; and to take part in the economic opportunities that are often denied without proper identification.
As previously noted, my Urban Agriculture bill got a very positive hearing in the House Agriculture Policy Committee and was moved along to the Agriculture Finance Committee. I’m happy to announce that it will be heard before the finance deadline and has a good chance of becoming law.
Here is a bit of background: For the first time ever, Urban Agriculture will become a new program within the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. This bill will provide grants to develop urban agriculture programs within metropolitan areas around the state. The grants provided under this program will allow cities to establish urban agricultural zones with a minimum guaranteed life of 10 years. Additional grants will be made available to individual farmers and nonprofit organizations interested in farming that land in cities which now will have an incentive to adopt the proposed “urban agricultural zoning”. Priority will be given to grantees that demonstrate an ability to increase access to fresh and organic food for local residents who are experiencing food insecurity issues.
With this bill we’re setting the framework for urban residents to establish farms that can provide much needed home-grown produce for low income families. These farms are a step toward ensuring greater food security for so many urban residents who haven’t had access to fresh, affordable and healthy foods.
Pickle Bill Moving Forward
The aptly named “pickle bill” is moving forward. Currently, a person cannot package and sell more than $5,000 worth of food a year without getting a commercial food handler license. This bill will raise that amount to $18,000 a year. This will allow more people to grow, harvest or process foods and offer them for sale at farmers markets without having to go through an onerous licensing process. This legislation will help more people in our district by allowing more sales of local and fresh foods.
Ummah Project Funding
This week I introduced legislation to fund the UMMAH Project related to workforce development, crime prevention, leadership skills, and information technology training for Somali youth. These projects will help foster a safe and sustainable Somali community in Minneapolis. I’ve requested a hearing and expect to get a hearing that will enable the bill to move forward.
I am continuing to work on legislation which will help promote environmental justice in Phillips Neighborhood. Stay tuned for details and community meeting to discuss these proposals. I will get a hearing on one of the bills after the legislature returns from Spring Break.
As always, feel free to contact me with your concerns as the legislative session moves forward. You can call my office at (651) 296-0294 or respond to this email.
No image galleries found