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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL)

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Legislative Update: February 15, 2021

Monday, February 15, 2021

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Dear Neighbors, 

This week, I would like to begin with a heartfelt thanks to the many community members who have reached out to me with questions, opinions and concerns. In particular, I'd like to note my respect for those of you who disagree with some of my positions who still took the time to email in depth with your thoughts. 

Our democratic system by its nature means that elected officials represent constituents with diverse opinions. I find it valuable to hear from everyone, even if we don't share the same opinions, so that I can truly know where our community is coming from and what is top of mind in our district. This helps me to best represent our community and I feel that it also makes me a more empathetic, well-rounded public official. 

Here is a video from a recent Public Safety Committee hearing where I spoke up about how the positive exchange of ideas in committee hearings is the point of the legislative committee process. These comments equally apply to the exchange of ideas with my constituents. Thanks to everyone who has reached out - I look forward to an ongoing dialogue!

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Progress as Lead Author on Bills

The legislative process moves rapidly as the many puzzle pieces that move a bill to becoming law fall into place. I’d like to share a few updates on bills I am “carrying” in the legislature this week. 

U Visa Certification Bill - I have presented this bill, which advances the interests of victims of domestic violence and other serious crimes and of law enforcement simultaneously, in the Public Safety and Judiciary Committees. At the Judiciary Committee, the bill was passed with 100% bipartisan support due to its importance for victims, and also the fact that it facilitates the important role of law enforcement in identifying, investigating and prosecuting perpetrators. At present, I am seeking a Senate author, and looking at other strategies to navigate this bill forward. 

Veterans Restorative Justice Act - This week, I will present this bill in the Veterans Committee alongside Veterans who have successfully undergone the restorative, rehabilitative treatment that led them back to the community of law-abiding citizens. This bill creates an important model policy and statewide continuity in how we work with Veterans who have committed low-level criminal offenses for reasons related to their service to our country. This restorative approach not only fulfills our obligation to these Veterans, but it also saves the state money - an estimated $1.3 million in its first year of implementation. I am extremely proud of this ambitious bill, which has bipartisan support and is making progress in the MN Senate with a Republican lead author. This bill is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday, February 17th, at 3 PM. You can catch the live broadcast on the Minnesota House YouTube Channel here.

Bills introduced to support our schools - I have introduced a number of bills that address our students’ and schools’ needs that are awaiting hearings. These bills provide important funding for suicide prevention training to teachers, for online music instruction to supplement music programs in our public schools in collaboration with the MacPhail Center for Music, and adjust the funding formula to target funds where they are most urgently needed. 

I am honored to be the lead author on these and a number of other bills that reflect key priorities - supporting our schools, supporting our immigrant communities and victims of domestic violence, and expanding access to justice so that our criminal legal system functions in a way that is thoughtful and humane.

Governor Tim Walz Announces Loosening of COVID-19 Restrictions

Last Friday, Governor Walz loosened restrictions on businesses. Effective Saturday, February 13 at noon, this new Executive Order takes steps to further reopen Minnesota’s economy safely, including:

  • Increasing the “not to exceed” capacity in restaurants to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 50 percent
  • Increasing indoor entertainment “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25 percent
  • Increasing private events and celebrations “not to exceed” capacity to 50, while leaving the maximum capacity at 25
  • Increasing gym and pool “not to exceed” capacity to 250, while leaving maximum capacity at 25 percent, and reducing distancing requirement to 6 feet.
  • Allowing restaurants to stay open until 11 p.m.

Additionally, the White House recently signed a contract for 200 million more doses. The speed at which the state can administer shots is tied directly to the supply we receive from the federal government, so this will help more Minnesotans get vaccinated. Case counts and positivity rates continue to trend downward, too, so there are many reasons to be optimistic. Still, we can’t take our eye off the ball, especially with new, more contagious variants emerging. Be sure to continue wearing a mask around others, practice social distancing, and get tested if you think you need one.

MNSure Special Enrollment Period 

Minnesota's health insurance marketplace, MNSure, will be open for a special enrollment period, starting February 16 through May 17, 2021. Certain life changes like moving, having a baby, getting married, or turning 26 allows for the special enrollment period to occur. Minnesota residents and families deserve access to quality, affordable health care. It’s critical, now more than ever, for everyone to have insurance. Learn about how to enroll here.

Missing Money/Unclaimed Property

As a result of successful legislation in recent years that is now law, the Minnesota Department of Commerce has developed a secure site that allows Minnesotans to check on their unclaimed property. Common types of unclaimed property can include:

  • Dormant bank accounts
  • Uncashed checks
  • Unclaimed wages
  • Insurance claim payments or benefits
  • Stocks or bonds
  • Safe deposit boxes

If you, or someone you know has left a job or moved, this may be of interest to you! The Department is responsible for safeguarding the funds until claimed by the rightful owners. Check to see if you have missing money waiting for you here.

 

Staying In Touch

I've received many emails from the community and enjoyed correspondence on a wide variety of issues, including questions about vaccination progress, tax policy, support for the comprehensive sex education bill, how we elect the president, and many wonderful emails encouraging me to support a number of bills funding our schools (which I do!).

Regardless of whether I and the emailer agree on the subject, I always appreciate hearing from the community and having the chance to share my perspectives or be a resource.

You can stay up to date on our work for the 2021 Legislative Session by subscribing to these legislative updates and “liking” my official Facebook page. For any questions you have on the resources available to our community or our work in the Minnesota House, you can reach me at rep.sandra.feist@house.mn or leave a voicemail at (651) 296-4331. I look forward to hearing from you.

In Solidarity, 

Sandra Feist

Minnesota State representative (House District 41B)

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