We’re back at the State Capitol following the customary Easter/Passover recess of the legislative session. We’re now entering a new phase of our work to assemble a new two-year state budget that helps Minnesotans recover from the challenges of the past year, address ongoing inequities, and help all Minnesotans succeed and thrive. Next week, I’ll chair a series of Ways and Means Committee hearings to vote on budget bills from a variety of issue areas.
COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on our entire state, but the hardship hasn’t been felt equally. To pull through this crisis, we must prioritize those among us who have borne the worst brunt of the crisis, including students, workers, and small businesses. House DFLers have put forth our budget framework for the coming year, which includes significant investments in education and prioritizes assisting those impacted by COVID-19.
The budget includes:
While we’re nearing the end of the pandemic, the struggles too many Minnesotans face will continue unless lawmakers take deliberate action to help end them. Serving as chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, I’ll be working to ensure our budget delivers a hopeful, strong future for everybody in our state.
Before the Easter/Passover recess, we passed several bills on the House floor to lift up Minnesota workers. Over the last year, essential workers on the front lines – with many of them in low wage positions, and many of whom are Black, Indigenous, or People of Color – have sacrificed the most, and they deserve health, safety, and economic security.
We passed Earned Sick and Safe Time legislation to ensure workers aren’t forced to choose between losing a paycheck and taking care of themselves or a family member. Under this bill, workers would earn at least one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to 48 hours per year, to recover at home when they’re sick, bring a loved one to the doctor, or get help following an event like a domestic assault.
Many employers use pay history to evaluate applicants to determine compensation for new hires. This practice can perpetuate discrimination based on gender and race. I was proud to support a measure barring employers from requesting a job applicant or prospective employee’s pay history, a key step to delivering pay equity for women and BIPOC Minnesotans. States that have implemented similar policies have seen an eight percent increase in pay for women and a 13 percent increase in pay for Black workers.
We also approved legislation to help hospitality workers – many of whom were laid off during the pandemic – have a pathway back to their jobs. The bill requires certain employers to provide eligible workers information about available job positions for which they qualify, and rehire employees based on a preference system. It applies to hotels, airports, event centers, and related businesses.
Finally, the House voted to extend the deadline – from May 1 to December 31st – of a measure we passed last year that ensures health care and public safety workers will continue to receive workers’ compensation should they become afflicted with COVID-19.
While providers are directed to give priority to the most at-risk groups, all Minnesotans aged 16 or older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you haven’t already, sign up for the state Vaccine Connector to connect you with opportunities to get your shot. Information is also available in Spanish, Hmong, and Somali. For additional assistance, call 1-833-431-2053.
The Walz-Flanagan administration has also recognized how equity is a critical component to successful vaccine distribution. Minnesota will continue to work closely alongside local partners — including Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), local pharmacies, and the diverse array of community-based organizations that comprise the COVID-19 Community Coordinators network — to launch new vaccination clinics that specifically serve Minnesota’s BIPOC communities.
Please feel free to reach out throughout the session to share your feedback, offer your ideas, or let me know if I can be of help. It’s an honor to represent you.