I want to thank everyone who joined Senator Sandy Pappas and me for our recent Virtual Town Hall meeting. If you couldn’t join us, the video is available for playback on my Facebook page. While we can’t wait until we can hold in-person events again, we’re incredibly grateful for the engagement from community members through virtual meetings like these. Due to time constraints we couldn’t get to every question, so if there’s something you’d like to ask me about, feel free to reach out directly both during and after the session. You can email me at email@example.com.
Last week, I appeared on “Your Legislators,” a program produced by Pioneer PBS in western Minnesota. I joined three of my colleagues from the Capitol to answer viewer questions. You can watch the show online at pioneer.org/yourlegislators.
Chairing the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee, I try to create certain weekly or daily themes. Last Tuesday was “Redemption Day,” and we discussed important ideas empowering Minnesotans to contribute to their communities. We talked about "Restore the Vote" legislation – a key piece of the House DFL's "Democracy for the People Act" – and the "Clean Slate Act" which would remove barriers in areas such as housing and employment to help people successfully reintegrate into their communities.
You can watch this powerful hearing here.
The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted how important it is for Minnesotans to have the opportunity to care for a newborn, recover from an illness, or care for a family member. However, too many workers are forced to choose between caring for a loved one and getting a paycheck. House DFLers are working to enact a plan to ensure all Minnesotans can access Paid Family & Medical Leave. Under the legislation, Minnesotans with qualifying family events and medical conditions could apply for up to 12 weeks of paid leave per year. The program would be modeled after the state’s unemployment insurance program with premiums paid by both the employees and employers.
The United States is the only industrialized nation in the entire world that doesn’t require this critical benefit. I’m proud to support working families in Minnesota by supporting this important bill.
One year ago, Minnesota’s first COVID-19 patient developed symptoms, and we know how much our lives have been impacted since then. During that time, there’s been a great deal of tragedy with 6,450 Minnesotans losing their lives, in addition to the 25,000 hospitalized. There have been more than 500,000 cases in our state.
Now, Minnesota’s COVID-19 situation is headed in the right direction with cases, hospitalizations, and deaths all trending downward, and with our vaccine distribution improving as the supply grows. Last week, 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% of Minnesotans 65 and older by the end of March, with educators and child care workers also receiving their shots. Since these vulnerable populations have started receiving the vaccine, deaths are down 97% from their November peak, and cases are down 89%. In the next phase of vaccine distribution, people with specific high-risk health conditions will become eligible, as will targeted essential workers. As part of this plan, equitable and fair access to the vaccine is a priority, recognizing our Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by COVID.
This has been a long path forward, and due to supply and demand issues, some more patience will be required. Still, we’re reaching the end, especially with the new Johnson & Johnson on its way (which requires a single dose). It’s up to all of us to continue doing our part to limit the spread of the virus by wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home when sick, and getting tested when if you feel you need one. 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 be in touch with your ideas, viewpoints, or if I can ever be of assistance. You can reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and my Capitol phone number is 651-224-6647. I also invite you to follow me on Facebook. If you have neighbors, coworkers, or friends who you think would be interested in receiving these updates, share this with them and encourage them to subscribe here.
It’s an honor to represent you.