Skip to main content Skip to office menu Skip to footer
Capital IconMinnesota Legislature

Divided House committee OK's $450m DFL plan targeted at 'ending systemic racism' in MN

House Photography file photo

Edward McDonald coordinates the Minnesota Equal Opportunity Partnership. He poses a question and challenge about fairness.

“Will the Legislature send a message that Minnesota will lead in ending systemic racism and racial injustice and invest in stabilizing Minnesota’s African American communities and families?”

Rep. John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul) proffers a $457 million answer via HF784.

“The bill targets state appropriations in the African American and African Immigrant community to stabilize and expand their capacity to address socioeconomic disparities created by the poor administrative application and enforcement of Minnesota’s primary equal opportunity laws which also fuels systemic racism and racial injustice, and all of which is exacerbated by the pandemic,” he said in a statement included in an information packet.

It also aims, per Thompson, to “align African Americans and African Immigrants equitable participation in all realms of society to ensure capacity to eradicate socio-economic disparities and stabilize their families.”

Approved, as amended, Thursday by the House State Government Finance and Elections Committee on a 7-5 party-line vote, the bill’s next stop is the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

A companion, SF800, sponsored by Sen. Omar Fateh (DFL-Mpls), awaits action by the Senate State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

“We understand this bill is very heavy, but everything … is very, very important to our communities,” said Valerie Castile, whose son, Philando, was killed by an officer during a July 2016 traffic stop.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) said he sees it differently.

“This bill is a racist bill,” he said, noting it directs money or awards jobs based on the color of someone’s skin.

The proposed funding in fiscal year 2022 includes:

  • $80 million to increase affordable housing and homeownership, and provide tenant and landlord mediation services;
  • $70 million for the Minnesota Arts Board to establish an African American Advisory Committee to establish grants for African American cultural and arts organizations;
  • $50 million to establish African American-controlled business developments in St. Paul, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, Duluth, Rochester and Mankato, and provide financial assistance to African American businesses throughout the state;
  • $50 million to establish regional health clinics operated by African Americans
    that focus on services to African Americans;
  • $50 million to “provide grants to African American organizations to provide recidivism reduction services for African American ex-inmates returning to their communities”;
  • $40 million to create a school district breakfast and lunch debt forgiveness fund;
  • $30 million to establish African American-run family and community service
    centers named for Philando Castile in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, St. Cloud, and Rochester to, in part, provide tutorial services, guidance counseling, family therapy and family advocacy;
  • $20 million for African American organizations to operate STEM training programs targeted to African American students and expand access to technology in African American communities;
  • $20 million to increase staffing levels at the Department of Human Rights and create regional offices throughout the state;
  • $20 million to create guidance counseling and tutorial services for African American students using retired African American teachers and administrators; and
  • $10 million for African American urban agriculture initiatives.

Monies would need to be spent by June 30, 2024.

Thompson said the bill wants are not all-or-nothing propositions, and scaled-down funding would be a start.

Rep. Anne Neu Brindley (R-North Branch) said there is “a lot of good stuff” in the bill — but also said she believes it has notable policy absences, such as where a student learns best.

“We know that school choice with culturally appropriate charter schools and private schools have been the most successful places for Black children to be successful,” she said.

Neu Brindley and Rep. Jim Nash (R-Waconia) questioned the bill’s sustainability because the requests are one-time funding and lack specifics.

“This bill has no structure to it, no methodology on how the money would be used, where it would be used, of whom it would be used,” Nash said. Nor has he heard if other ethnic groups support the bill.

Noting the “tremendously poor time management,” Nash unsuccessfully moved to table the bill so answers could be forthcoming. It, too, failed along party lines. Testimony and discussion took less than an hour, with many members having no opportunity to opine or ask questions. And more testifiers wanted to speak.

One of those who did was Dr. Tamiko Foster. She spoke to — and submitted a letter about — the positive health aspects of the bill.

“Structural racism is a key determinant in driving health disparities,” she said. “Even when social determinants of health are addressed, African Americans continue to die and be more sick than other populations. Research has supported that patients who have access to physicians with shared racial, ethnic or cultural backgrounds have better health outcomes.”

Three policy provisions are part of the bill:

  • Minnesota Management and Budget would provide oversight and enforcement to state agencies, departments and offices in retention and terms of employment for employees in protected groups;
  • the Administration Department would be required to “enhance a narrowly tailored race-based, business-conscious contract procurement program that emphasizes utilizing African American-owned businesses that is designed to ensure equal participation of all businesses based on the proportion of their availability by race, gender, disability, and veteran status”; and
  • the Public Safety Department would be charged with proposing legislation to require public safety officers undergo a psychological evaluation and written examination on cultural competency before serving as an officer.

 

 


Related Articles


Priority Dailies

Rep. Thompson to apologize for saying member is 'a racist,' ethics complaint dismissed
Rep. John Thompson (DFL-St. Paul) has agreed to apologize the next time the House convenes for calling a Republican member racist during the June 19 special session.
House caps off special session by passing omnibus tax bill
The bill would produce $49.1 billion in revenue in the 2022-23 biennium that started Thursday and provide $4.2 billion in refunds, aids and credits, including $761 million in new tax cuts and credits.

Minnesota House on Twitter