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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL)

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Legislative Update – April 8, 2021

Thursday, April 08, 2021

Hello Northlanders,

I want to thank everyone who attended the recent Virtual Town Hall meeting on Facebook Live. It was a new way of connecting with folks, but gave us an opportunity to discuss a wide array of issues important to people across our vast district.

The Timberjay had a comprehensive recap of the discussion available. If you couldn’t make it and would like to watch the event, it’s available here on Facebook. Additionally, you’re invited to be in touch any time with your questions and input.


Veterans Legislation

Much of our attention at the State Capitol is on our work to build a new two-year state budget that invests in what Minnesotans need now to move beyond the pandemic and to succeed and thrive once it’s over. I’m honored to be the chief author of two pieces of this puzzle in the House, the first of which is our budget legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs and Department of Military Affairs. The bill contains a series of investments and new policies to help Minnesota veterans, including significant funding to address veteran homelessness and prevent veteran suicides.

The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA) estimates there are approximately 150 Minnesota homeless veterans who aren’t eligible for housing services through the VA. The new funding will be used to provide housing vouchers and help the MDVA work with the Interagency Council on Homelessness to identify individuals on the Homeless Veteran Registry and provide them with necessary help.

The bill also invests $1.65 million to prevent suicides among veterans, the funding from which will go toward hiring new staff at the MDVA devoted to preventing veteran suicide, increasing outreach, training, and marketing efforts to raise awareness, and strengthen partnerships with local units of government, mental health care providers, state agencies, and other partners. MDVA would also perform an intensive review of records of veterans who have died by suicide to identify trends and warning signs.

The legislation also contains the Veterans Restorative Justice Act, which creates alternative sentencing options for veterans who commit certain crimes resulting from service-related trauma. The measure builds upon the Veterans Court model to help eligible veterans receive chemical dependency or mental health treatment as opposed to incarceration.

I’m proud of the bipartisan, thoughtful work we’ve done in our committee to deliver solutions to help ensure those who’ve served can have the healthy and successful future they deserve.


Labor and Industry Legislation

I’m also the chief author of our Labor and Industry legislation to protect Minnesota workers during the pandemic and beyond. It includes Earned Sick and Safe Time legislation, rehire and retention protections for workers laid off during the pandemic, and emergency paid sick leave for health care workers. It also includes the Safe Workplaces for Meat and Poultry Processing Workers Act to address health and safety concerns, many of which existed before COVID-19 and only grew worse during the pandemic. The bill requires outside contractors working at oil refineries to have apprenticeship training to protect workers and communities surrounding the facilities. Finally, it expands nursing and pregnancy accommodations to require paid break times for nursing and lactating employees.

Minnesota workers have borne a massive share of the COVID-19 pandemic’s brunt, and the crisis has widened job security and job safety inequities in workplaces across the state. House DFLers are prioritizing the health, safety, and economic security of workers when they’re on the job, when they need to recover from illness, and if they lost their job during the pandemic due to no fault of their own.


Vaccine Update

Today, Governor Walz announced more than three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Minnesota. We continue to lead the nation in doses administered and have also moved into the top ten states for people with complete series administered per 100,000.

As of today’s vaccine report, 1,900,248 Minnesotans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 1,247,045 Minnesotans have completed the vaccine series. If you haven’t already done so, sign up for the state’s Vaccine Connector to receive updates on availability to get your shot.

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.

Sincerely,

Rob Ecklund
State Representative