In my last update, I talked about the Minnesota Values Budget and the framework which strengthens our state through investments in education, affordable health care, and safe & inclusive communities. Using this outline as a starting point, last week House committees assembled budget bills in these various topic areas.
This week marks the weeklong recess to observe Easter and Passover. Once we return to the Capitol after that, attention will shift to the House Floor as there, we will consider each of these budget proposals. There are about six weeks remaining in the legislative session. I’m committed to moving ahead in a way that strengthens the future of all Minnesotans, and makes our state work better for everyone, no matter where you live, what you look like, or what background you come from.
Keeping Families Together
Last Monday I was proud that in a unanimous vote, the House passed HF 554, my bill to allow parents, who had previously had their parental rights terminated for non-egregious harm (such as chemical dependency or mental illness), to directly seek reestablishment of these rights from the courts. Currently, only a county attorney is able to make this petition.
We all share the value that families belong together and believe that children are to be protected, loved, and nurtured. This bill would allow a parent – if a court determines it’s in the child’s best interest and the parent has their life back on track – to legally reestablish the parent/child relationship. Studies have shown when children, especially children of color, remain in the foster system, they face poorer life outcomes than those who remain with their biological families. These include lower lifetime employment rates, a greater chance of experience with the criminal justice system, and higher rates of mental illness and addiction.
This is about fairness, redemption, and giving children a bright future outside the child protection system, which we know too often leads to the criminal justice system. At the center of this, we’re focused on what’s in the best interest of a child, and whenever possible and practical, to keep families together.
It was extremely rewarding to see all the green lights pop up on the vote board on this bill. I’ll keep working to remove disparities in our child protection system.
Historic Investments in Education
All Minnesota students deserve a world-class education. As we know, inequitable, inadequate funding for a number of years has prevented all of our children from reaching their full potential. We’ve heard loud and clear from Minnesotans the desire to see bold, honest investments in our schools, and the House DFL Education budget proposal delivers these.
It does this through an increase in the state’s commitment to schools by three percent in the first year, and by two percent in the second year of the biennium. Investing in education helps our schools keep up with the cost of inflation so they don’t have to resort to teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, or pushing costs from the state onto local taxpayers.
Our budget also includes greater investments in full-service community schools, an emerging model with comprehensive academic, social, and health services for students and family members to improve outcomes. The budget also addresses diversity in the teaching profession. Wilder Research recently released a report showing only 4.3 percent of Minnesota’s teachers are people of color, while 33.5 percent of the students are. We also know student outcomes are improved when they have access to more teachers who look like they do. To address this, I’m excited our education budget includes strategies to recruit and retain teachers of color, as well as American Indian teachers.
A fact sheet on our education proposal is available here.
Making Health Care More Affordable and Accessible
As the Chair of the House Health and Human Services Policy Committee, this session we’ve been determined to strengthen health care in Minnesota by reducing costs, expanding access, and strengthening quality. Our House DFL Health and Human Services budget accomplishes this in a variety of ways. It holds Big Pharma accountable for high prescription drug prices, addresses health disparities for people of color and Native communities, ends handouts to insurance companies, improves health care for women, and expands coverage options for Minnesotans.
Significantly, the bill increases funding for the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) for the first time in 33 years. It’s remarkable to think that this meager amount of cash assistance for struggling families hasn’t been increased since the 1980s. This will give a boost for Minnesotans as they seek to emerge from poverty, and I’ll keep working to get this enacted into law
A fact sheet with more information about the Health and Human Services budget is available for download here.
Please continue to contact me with your input and ideas. It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.
Legislative Assistant: Alyssa Fritz, 651-296-2491