I hope you had a great Memorial Day Weekend.
The legislative session wrapped up on May 25 on a somewhat flat note. While I’m glad we passed a two-year state budget with compromise, the Republican-led Senate refused to incorporate several solid House proposals that would help move Minnesota forward and improve the lives of all. The compromise that ended session is really less each party ending up with half a loaf and more a sense that we did the best we could, given the partisan circumstances. Below is comprehensive review of the good, the bad, and the ugly results of the 2019 session. You can also find an overview of which proposals prevailed and those that didn’t make it in the budget here.
Racially Restrictive Housing Covenants Removed
In response to the racially restrictive covenants that many of us in South Minneapolis inherited on our home titles, I sponsored legislation this year to have these removed. While the covenants no longer have any force of law, they still are a moral injury to the current homeowner. I was pleased the Governor signed the bill into law, making Minnesota the second state in the country after California to enact such a law.
Strong Investments in Education & Protection of Health Care Access
The $48 billion state budget protects access to affordable health care for over a million Minnesotans and voluntary pre-k for 4,000 kids. It also secures 2% per-pupil funding increases for each year (2020 and 2021) and importantly adds $91 million in special education funding in our public school across the state. Although at not the historic level House Democrats fought for, the GOP Senate compromised on securing funding to retain and recruit more teachers of color in the budget.
Democrats fought hard to freeze tuition for students enrolled at University of Minnesota and Minnesota State campuses, but Senate Republicans blocked it from happening during budget negotiations. The final higher education budget was a bipartisan compromise that makes some investments in college affordability. There is much more work to do to ensure all Minnesotans have access to quality higher education and job training, and I’m committed to continuing this work.
These were significant victories for Minnesota. I discuss our substantial new investments in schools and students on the latest Minnesota Values Podcast with co-hosts Representatives Liz Olson and Jamie Long here. Governor Walz signed the bill into law last week.
Facing a June 30, 2019 sunset, House DFLers were successful in maintaining the funding stream for the state’s Health Care Access Fund. This revenue – a tax on health care services enacted 27 years ago – has funded MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance, and other health programs. House DFLers were also successful in maintaining dental and vision coverage for low-income Minnesotans, and the budget makes the first increase in the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) in 33 years.
I am pleased that the Legislature secured $78 million was secured in new investments for emergency shelter, rental assistance, and preservation and new production. The Housing portion of the budget also includes tenant protections. At the same time I was disappointed that no bonding bill passed this year that would have allowed greater investments in housing.
Thanks to House Democrats, the Legislature enacted nation’s toughest wage theft prevention and enforcement law. We also fought against Republicans’ attempts to preempt local laws relating to minimum wage and employee benefits, efforts that specifically targeted Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Backlogged Bipartisan Legislation Signed into Law
The House didn’t give up on what Minnesotans were asking from the then Republican-led Legislature over the last two years: addressing the opioid crisis, elder abuse and neglect, and helping keep Minnesotans safe from distracted driving.
No Adopted Policies to Address Climate Change
Despite overwhelming support in the public for a robust clean energy economy, Senate Republicans blocked numerous measures that would have put Minnesota at the forefront of combating climate change. One of these would have moved Minnesota to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050. With over 50 Republicans in the House who deny the science-based reality of climate change, this will be an uphill battle moving forward. Nonetheless, I’ll continue to make this a priority for future generations to come.
No Long-Term Funding for Transportation, Including Transit
Republicans blocked all proposals to raise new constitutionally dedicated funding for our roads and bridges, and the needed funding for transit expansion and improvements. All Minnesotans deserve a strong transportation infrastructure designed for the 21st century, regardless of how they get around to run errands, go to work or school, or stay connected to family. I am also disappointed in Republicans for preventing immigrant drivers licenses from being included in the final transportation budget.
No Paid Family and Medical Leave
House DFLers fought hard to ensure that working Minnesotans would not be forced to choose between earning a paycheck and taking care of themselves or a family member with a serious medical condition. The legislation proposed would have created a state program that would allow workers to take up to 12 weeks of paid leave when they are pregnant, to bond with a new child, to obtain cancer treatment, to take care of a child with severe health problems, or to care for a dying parent in their final days. Ultimately, Senate Republicans and their corporate special interest allies blocked this proposal from becoming law.
Republican Senate Refusals
Gun Violence Prevention
Senate Republicans blocked two common sense gun violence prevention measures: one would expand criminal background checks prior to gun sales, and another would provide for “red flag” laws which would allow law enforcement officials to temporarily restrict access to firearms if a court of law determines an individual may be a threat to themselves or others.
In final negotiations at the public conference committee hearing, after hearing expert and supportive testimony from law enforcement, Republicans sided with an NRA lobbyist who flew in to fight against these common sense bills, once again halting progress on gun violence prevention in Minnesota.
I’m committed to continuing the work on these common sense safety measures Minnesotans are asking us to address. The recent mass shooting in Virginia only illustrates the need to move forward on gun violence prevention.
Despite bipartisan support in the Legislature for the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, Republicans refused to include the provision in the health and human services budget. This legislation would’ve created a statewide insulin assistance program to help Minnesotans who struggle to afford the insulin they desperately need.
Senator Republicans blamed its omission on a clerical error. Although these kinds of errors can occur, there was plenty of time to re-open negotiations to reach an agreement. House Democrats fought hard, but Senate Republicans refused to do so, instead brushing it aside and casually noting it could be a priority next year. Democrats are committed to holding Republicans and Big Pharma lobbyist allies accountable for their inaction.
Looking Ahead to 2020
The House DFL will continue working to prioritize proposals such as emergency insulin affordability and accessibility, sustainable and long-term funding for our transportation infrastructure, paid family and medical leave, gun violence prevention, clean energy initiatives, and drivers’ licenses for all to improve people’s lives. These are just a few of our priorities moving forward into 2020.
Reminder-Upcoming Town Hall
There is lots more to say about what did and didn’t happen this session. I hope you’ll be able to attend our upcoming Senate District 63 End of Session Town Hall. Senator Torres Ray, Representative Wagenius and I will provide a post-session recap and would love to hear your comments and answer your questions. All are welcome. Details are listed below:
Keep in Touch
Please continue to reach out with feedback, questions, or ideas. I appreciate your input! Don’t hesitate to let me know how I can be of assistance.