I hope this update finds you well and enjoying the extra evening light and spring thaw. I know this is a busy week with spring holidays to celebrate and our Richfield and Minneapolis students getting a much deserved spring break in the weeks to come. It has been a busy time at the Minnesota Legislature as well with committee work wrapping up as our focus shifts to the House floor and to the work of creating a strong, equitable budget that meets the needs of Minnesotans. In the weeks to come, I’ll be sharing more of that work with you and my experiences as a new member of the legislature.
And for those of us preparing to gather this weekend (virtually or in person) for the beginning of Passover - Chag Pesach sameach!
On Tuesday, House DFLers announced the framework of our budget proposal. We’re crafting a budget that equitably centers the needs of Minnesotans, particularly those most impacted by the pandemic, and invests in a brighter future for everyone in our state. The framework includes:
Saying “thank you” to the people who’ve made sacrifices to keep the rest of us safe and healthy during the pandemic isn’t enough; we need to take action to protect and support frontline workers. This week was “Heroes Week” in the Minnesota House, and we passed several bills that aim to meet the needs of these Minnesotans and their families.
On Monday, the House passed a summer learning bill that will ensure students from preschool to college have the opportunity to be successful. The plan provides funding for summer programs, tutoring, hands-on learning opportunities, mental health services, and more. These critical investments will ensure all of our kids have what they need to catch up from the pandemic and prepare for the future.
The Minnesotans who power our hotels, our airports, our event centers, and related businesses faced devastating layoffs last year. Like so many consequences of the pandemic, this disproportionately impacted women and people of color. Since many people are still avoiding travel and large events, the hospitality and service sectors have been slow to recover and many Minnesotans are still out of work. The most compelling reasons to support this bill came from listening to the workers themselves. Leona Williams, who is quoted below, was one of the Minnesotans who shared her story in committee. I mentioned Ms. Williams’s testimony in a speech I gave on the House floor, which you can watch here.
Yesterday, I proudly voted to help these workers get back on their feet and to their jobs. We passed legislation that gives hospitality and service sector workers the opportunity to return to their jobs when their employer is ready to bring people back to work.
Wednesday was Equal Pay Day, the date that symbolizes how far into the year women must work, on average, to earn what men earned the previous year. For every dollar that their male counterparts make Asian women make 85¢, White women make 82¢, Black women make 61¢, Indigenous women make 58¢, and Latina women make 53¢.
The Preventing Pay Discrimination Act, which we passed yesterday, is part of our continued commitment to ending the wage gap. This legislation puts a stop to a common practice that can exacerbate economic inequality: employers using pay history to evaluate job applicants and make compensation decisions. In states that have implemented similar policies, pay for women rose eight percent and pay for Black workers increased by 13 percent.
Throughout the pandemic, health care and public safety workers have put themselves in vulnerable positions in order to keep the rest of us safe and healthy. Last year, the Legislature passed a bill to ensure these Minnesotans would receive workers’ compensation if they contracted COVID-19 or were exposed to it on the job. That provision is set to expire on May 1. We recently voted to extend the deadline so doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, and the child care workers who take care of their kids will continue to receive these benefits.
Governor Walz announced this morning that all Minnesotans who are 16 or older will be eligible to get vaccinated next Tuesday, March 30. While not every Minnesotan will be able to make an appointment immediately, the vaccine supply that the state receives from the federal government is expected to increase substantially over the coming weeks. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I encourage you to check out the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector. This tool can connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment and alert you if there are vaccine opportunities nearby. You can sign up at vaccineconnector.mn.gov or call 833-432-2053.
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 651-296-4200 if you have any questions or feedback. I always appreciate hearing from you.