Yesterday was International Women’s Day, and this year’s theme was “Choose to Challenge.” There is plenty for us to celebrate regarding the increased empowerment of women, but we cannot also lose sight of the inequities, biases, microaggressions, and other roadblocks women – especially women of color – still have to face every day. I hope we can all commit to challenging each of these barriers throughout the year to make our community, state, and nation more inclusive.
Here’s a reminder to please take my 2021 legislative survey. I'm grateful for those who have already shared their input, and I'd love to hear from more people to help guide my work this session.
State budget officials have announced the February Economic Forecast, showing a turnaround in the state budget projections from a deficit to a $1.6 billion positive balance. This is good news, and indicates an economy headed in the right direction overall.
However, the improved budget projection unfortunately doesn’t reflect the difficult reality too many Minnesotans are facing. We all need to come together to help students, families, workers, and small businesses pull through this crisis. The economic forecast specifically notes that our lowest wage workers – those who were having the most difficulty before the pandemic – aren’t sharing in this recovery. As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, I’ll be working to make sure our new state budget will include the bold investments Minnesotans are all counting on to ensure they can successfully rebound from this predicament and once again succeed and thrive.
I recently appeared on TPT’s Almanac at the Capitol to discuss the path forward as we create a new state budget. While the interview aired before the new forecast was released, my goals to deliver a state budget that will help all Minnesotans recover and thrive have not changed. With an eye toward equity and a particular focus on helping those who have been impacted the worst, we can pull through this challenge together and emerge stronger.
Last year, our communities experienced incredible pain following the killing of George Floyd. In the civil unrest which followed, countless businesses along University Avenue in Saint Paul, as well as West Broadway Avenue and Lake Street in Minneapolis, experienced property damage through no fault of their own. Many of these businesses were owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) Minnesotans as well as our immigrant communities, and insurance didn’t cover much of the damage to property or inventory.
The Providing Resources, Opportunity and Maximizing Investments in Striving Entrepreneurs (PROMISE) Act, legislation of which I am a co-author, would invest $167 million in direct assistance to small businesses as well as $125 million to compensate individuals and businesses for uninsured property loss. The legislation would also give local units of government flexibility and tools to prevent gentrification, establish a Metropolitan Area Redevelopment Corporation to create a long-term plan for equity-driven redevelopment and transformation, and create a Civil Unrest Investigatory Commission to conduct a neutral investigation into the government’s response to the unrest.
The House passed similar legislation last summer, but Senate Republicans continue to withhold support. Minnesotans care for one another, and when one community is in need, traditionally, the state steps together to help. We’ve done this for floods, tornadoes, and other natural disasters in the past, and it’s time to come together and deliver this critical aid so our community can rebuild and recover.
It’s no secret Minnesota’s students from BIPOC communities face an awful opportunity gap in the classroom. Studies show that one reason for this is the lack of educators from these same communities. Students having access to more teachers who look like they do is one way to increase achievement.
The Increase Teachers of Color Act is aimed at recruiting and retaining more teachers of color and Indigenous teachers to Minnesota classrooms. Through goals, mentorship, hiring bonuses and other strategies, the bill aims to ensure the diversity of Minnesota’s teachers better reflect the diversity of our students. Last week, the Star Tribune had a story with a comprehensive summary of the problem and the legislation’s solutions. Yesterday, the paper’s editorial board offered support for the bill.
Minnesota continues to make good progress in delivering the COVID-19 vaccine with over one million Minnesotans now receiving at least one shot. The arrival of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose shot has helped increase the pace of vaccinations, and we’ve reached our benchmark of 70% of seniors receiving a vaccine. Today, Governor Walz announced eligibility will be expanded to new groups beginning tomorrow.
More than 1.8 million Minnesotans will become eligible to receive a vaccine including:
People in the next phase with these qualifications will also be eligible:
If you haven’t yet, sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector which will tell you when you are eligible and connect you to vaccination opportunities.
Undoubtedly, we still have work to do to meet our state’s diversity goals and ensure our BIPOC Minnesotans have access to shots. COVID-19 Community Coordinators are available to help connect communities to testing and vaccination resources, as well as other information and services. Find a Community Coordinator here.
Please feel free to reach out throughout the session to share your feedback, offer your ideas, or let me know if I can be of help. It’s an honor to represent you.