Today a new budget forecast was released, setting the roadmap to create a new state budget for the next two years. Our budget outlook has improved from the one released in November, and while we still have a long road to recovery, our economy is headed in the right direction. Looking ahead we will need to focus on the bread and butter items we valued before the pandemic, like a world-class education for all students, and affordable, quality health care, both of which will help us emerge from this crisis.
Also at the Capitol we’re continuing our work to provide the flexibility Minnesotans need as we continue to navigate the pandemic. Yesterday, we unanimously passed a bill to allow dentists to offer vaccines. More information on the progress of our COVID-19 vaccine distribution is available below.
The United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t require any type of paid family leave. Minnesotans deserve the ability to stay home to bond with a newborn, get well after an illness or injury, or take care of an ill loved one without risking their livelihoods.
In the Minnesota House, legislation is advancing to create a Paid Family & Medical Leave plan for all Minnesota workers. The bill would allow Minnesotans with qualifying family events and medical conditions to apply for 12 weeks of paid leave per year. It would be modeled after our unemployment insurance system, with employees and employers both paying premiums. You can learn more about the importance of this bill for Minnesota workers here.
Another bill moving through the committee process is one to legalize adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. On Wednesday, I chaired a hearing of the House Labor, Industry, and Veterans Affairs Committee where we focused on how a legalization framework would impact workers (both regarding the jobs that could be created, as well as some potential concerns from employers) and the benefits cannabis can provide our veterans. Many veterans with certain conditions qualify for the current medical cannabis program, but this program has barriers, including high costs.
I know there are many diverse viewpoints on this topic and I hope we can incorporate input from all perspectives. There’s also a lot we can learn from other states. As the legislation continues to develop, please share your feedback with me on this topic.
Yesterday, Governor Walz announced the next steps in our state’s plan to ensure every Minnesotan can receive the vaccine. The Governor is aiming to vaccinate 70% Minnesotans 65 and older by the end of March, with educators and child care workers also receiving their shots. Next, people with specific high-risk health conditions will become eligible, as will targeted essential workers.
There are many reasons to be optimistic this crisis is nearing its end. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all dropping. Among those living in long-term care settings, perhaps the most vulnerable population, deaths are down 97% from their November peak, and cases are down 89%. Approval for Johnson & Johnson’s version of the vaccine appears imminent, and that version is effective after just one dose. Spring is just around the corner, and there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you haven’t yet done so, I encourage you to sign up for Minnesota’s Vaccine Connector, which will notify you when you become eligible.
Please continue to contact me with your feedback and ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.