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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL)

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Legislative Update- March 5, 2021

Friday, March 05, 2021

 

Rep. Davnie

Dear Neighbors,

It’s hard to believe March has already arrived. Last week, the Minnesota Management and Budget Agency released Minnesota’s February economic budget “forecast.” Based on the announcement, new numbers show there is no longer an anticipated shortfall for the 2022-23 fiscal year. The projected positive balance is due to a higher revenue forecast, lower state spending, and an increased balance for the current fiscal year. It’s important to keep in mind however that state budget forecasts don’t take any inflation into account in their projections.

We are on track to build a balanced budget in Minnesota; one that protects critical investments in the things we value, like good schools, affordable health care, and economic security for those hit hardest by the pandemic. I’ll be keeping this in mind as we craft our budget blueprint in the coming weeks.

Here’s an update from the Capitol:


Vaccine Update

Last week, the governor announced a plan to vaccinate 70 percent of Minnesotans 65 or older by the end of March. Following this, eligibility for the vaccine will expand based on underlying health conditions and risks of workplace exposure, like food processing plant workers. 

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Already the vaccine has proven incredibly effective in protecting our most vulnerable Minnesotans. In long-term care settings, deaths are down 97% from their November peak, and cases are down 89%. Demand continues to outpace the supply our state is receiving, but good news is here with the approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine. That announcement was before the FDA gave emergency approval to that vaccine. With the demand outpacing vaccine supply for those who wish to get one, this new development could be a real positive.

If you sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector, you’ll receive a notification when you’re eligible and be connected with opportunities to receive the vaccine. In the meantime, while having plenty of reasons to be optimistic, it’s important to continue practicing physical distancing, wearing a mask around others, and getting tested when you can.


Vaccine Roundtable Discussion-Save the Date

On Sunday, March 14 at 2:00 p.m., Senator Torres Ray, Rep. Greenman and I will be hosting an informational vaccine panel with officials from the Minnesota Department of Health, Minneapolis Health Department, and Hennepin Health. Please send any questions you have on COVID-19 and vaccines ahead of time so we can try and get them answered. 

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City and State Preparations for the Chauvin Trial

Many South Minneapolis residents and families are, rightfully, apprehensive with the upcoming trial of former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin. The trial, scheduled to begin on Monday, may be retraumatizing, bringing up any number of emotions. This may be particularly true for BIPOC members of our community.  The presence of National Guard and law enforcement from other agencies may be feared by some and welcomed by others. I suspect that many will have a mix of emotions.

My commitment is to be as timely, accurate, and reliable a source of information as possible.   

The Minneapolis legislative delegation has been in frequent communication with the City of Minneapolis and state leadership to make sure our Minneapolis neighbors are prepared and supported.

The delegation has advocated that the City be active in communications, outreach, and engagement services during the trial to keep residents, neighborhoods, businesses, and partners informed and safe, with a particular emphasis on communities of color and small businesses.  We have also pushed the City to set high expectations for MPD, National Guard, and other jurisdiction officers in their treatment and techniques with the public, including the press and medical staff to avoid the excesses and abuses we all saw last summer.

During the jury selection and trial, the City expects the engagement and community services to be very visible and law enforcement less noticeable. Only when jury deliberation begins is when Minneapolis expects an enhanced law enforcement presence. The enhanced law enforcement presence during the jury deliberation may be seen downtown and in our neighborhoods.

Key Dates of Trial:

  • March 8: Jury selection expected to start
  • March 29: Opening statements anticipated to commence
  • Mid- to late April: Instructions will be given to the jury. The jury will then be sequestered and deliberate until they reach a verdict.

Street Closures

Sixth Street South (the street and sidewalks) between Third and Fourth avenues are now closed. Metro Transit is also working on plans to mitigate any anticipated disruption to light rail and bus service.


Update on the SAFE Act Negotiations

One aspect of this is who will pay for the enhanced law enforcement and other security measures that the City and state will be implementing. Should the state help pay for this international event in Minneapolis or should the cost fall primarily on the residents of Minneapolis?

Negotiations continue to find compromise on the SAFE (State Aid for Emergencies) Act after the bill failed in the House, receiving no GOP votes and a mixed vote from DFL legislators As I mentioned in my previous newsletter, there were concerns around balancing adequate First Amendment rights protections and police accountability, with the security and cost-sharing concerns. The S.A.F.E Act isn’t about what sort of response the state and city marshal in response to the trial, but more about who pays for that response.


Rebuilding Minneapolis

As Minnesotans, we pride ourselves on our willingness to stand by and support our neighbors when they experience great hardship, especially when our communities sustain significant damage. This last year we have struggled with civil unrest, trauma, and assaults on our most vulnerable communities. Yesterday I stood with my colleagues from Minneapolis and St Paul to advocate again for state resources to support rebuilding the small businesses and neighborhoods most impacted by the civil unrest.  There is a hearing today in the Workforce and Business Development committee on several proposals to support reconstruction efforts including my HF1844 for immediate support to small businesses and neighborhoods.

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Listening Session: Community Safety and Aerial Surveillance

U.S. Congressmember Ilhan Omar and I have been hearing from the community regarding community safety and constant aerial noise happening in Minneapolis. U.S. Rep. Omar will be convening a virtual listening session on Tuesday, March 9th from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. to hear directly from you, your thoughts, and concerns regarding this matter.

To receive details to attend this meeting you will need to RSVP at MN05.info@mail.house.gov by no later than March 8th at 5 PM; if you are unable to attend you can leave a comment at the same email.


Supporting Paid Family and Medical Leave

Minnesotans shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a newborn, an ill loved one, or themselves. Recently the House Early Childhood Education Committee discussed the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill. The legislation provides workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave so that they can take time off to bond with a new child, care for an aging parent, or seek treatment for a serious illness while receiving a percentage of their regular wages. Employees and employers will both contribute to the fund that will help pay these benefits.

Research has shown that paid family and medical leave programs help increase breastfeeding rates; reduce infant deaths; increase labor force participation and employee retention; and increase lifetime earnings and retirement security, especially among women, who are already more likely to live in poverty during retirement. I support this legislation and will continue to advocate for a statewide Paid Family and Medical Leave program in Minnesota.

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Supporting our Small Businesses

As our small businesses continue to hang on one year into the pandemic, it’s clear we need to do more to ensure they can stay afloat. I’ve introduced legislation that would create and fund a Small Business COVID-19 Loan Program. The $50 million investment from the General Fund would provide forgivable loans to eligible businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. This measure has also been included in the governor’s budget proposal, so I’m hopeful we can get traction in the Republican-led Senate to pass it into law quickly.


Combatting Price Gouging

Last week, the House Commerce Committee, on which I serve, discussed a consumer protection measure that would prohibit price gouging of essential goods and services during a national or local emergency. The legislation would protect Minnesotans from exorbitant pricing of basic necessities and enact a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per transaction on bad actors engaging in price gouging. While most businesses in Minnesota would never engage in this despicable behavior, those that would, should be held accountable.

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Keep in Touch

Please continue to contact me at rep.jim.davnie@house.mn or 651-296-0173 to share your input or to let me know how I can provide assistance. I welcome your feedback and questions anytime.

It’s an honor to serve you in the Minnesota House!

Sincerely,

Jim Davnie

State Representative