The last couple of weeks have been extremely busy at the State Capitol. Thursday, the House Capital Investment Committee held a hearing on two proposals for our community. First, the committee discussed my proposal to deliver a grant for the Irreducible Grace Foundation’s proposed Black Youth Healing Arts Center. We also discussed my legislation to help fund the Saint Paul YWCA’s redevelopment project.
Soon, House committees will begin advancing legislation from various topic areas as the House DFL assembles a supplemental budget that invests in health, safety, and opportunity for Minnesotans. As chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, I’m dedicated to ensuring we invest our $9.25 billion wisely, with a focus on the success of families and communities instead of – as Republicans are proposing – large corporations and the wealthiest among us.
Last Monday, the House passed three bills to help Minnesota workers stay safe, healthy, and economically secure. One in nine workers at Amazon warehouses in Minnesota is injured on the job, twice the injury rate of non-Amazon warehouses in the state. Injuries are common at Amazon warehouses as workers are pushed beyond their limits, required to meet quotas that aren’t disclosed to them. Many workers are fearful to eat, pray, or go to the restroom because of how “time off task” could impact their performance.
Going to work shouldn’t hurt. We approved a bill to protect and empower Minnesota’s warehouse workers, requiring corporations like Amazon to provide warehouse workers with written notice of all quotas and performance standards. The bill also prohibits disciplinary action against a worker who fails to meet a quota that wasn’t disclosed. A fact sheet about the bill is available here.
We also approved legislation ratifying certain labor agreements and compensation plans for state employees. The bill covers contracts for Minnesota Law Enforcement Association, AFSCME, MAPE, Middle Management Association, the State Residential Schools Education Association, Minnesota Nurses Association, and employees covered under the managerial and commissioner’s compensation plans.
Finally, we approved legislation to extend Earned Sick and Safe Time to all Minnesota workers, a basic benefit all Saint Paul workers currently enjoy. Under this legislation, workers would earn at least one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours they work, up to at least 48 hours per year. Everyone gets sick, and everyone should also have the chance to stay home when they’re sick or see the doctor without it impacting their paycheck.
Delivering Innovative Public Safety Solutions
I recently joined my DFL House colleagues, Saint Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and law enforcement officials to announce an updated package of legislation with innovative public safety solutions. The plan invests $150 million toward resources to help communities address increasing crime, hire additional personnel, and rebuild community trust with law enforcement. A fact sheet is available here. Local Community Innovation Grants can be used to invest in local policing, investigation, reentry programs, victim services, co-responder programs, juvenile diversion, and other strategies to prevent crime. Local Community Policing Grants can be used to recruit officers, increase interactions between law enforcement and community members, and use crisis response teams with social workers or mental health providers.
The bill targets areas with both high and increasing crime rates, ensures adequate funding for every officer to have a body camera, and other measures to strengthen officer accountability. The proposal allows cities to empower civilian oversight councils to review complaints against officers and recommend discipline. The bill also funds new investigators at the Peace Officer Standards and Training Board to perform compliance reviews and investigate alleged code-of-conduct violations among peace officers. House DFLers know that rising crime is on the minds of Minnesotans and they are counting on urgent action. That’s why we’re working to expeditiously deliver resources to communities to help local officials, police chiefs, prosecutors, and community organizations working on the ground team up to immediately address the increase in violence seen across Minnesota.
Last week, the House Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee held an informational hearing on legislation I authored which contains recommendations from the Governor’s Council on Justice Reinvestment. I had the opportunity to serve on this council which included a six-month collaborative, bipartisan effort to improve community supervision practices. Minnesota has had some long-standing problems within our probation system, including geographic and racial disparities with regard to investments, sentences, and outcomes. In order for people on probation to be successful, and ultimately our communities to be safer, we have to invest in solutions that work.
The council’s recommendations prioritized increased, equitable statewide investment in community supervision coupled with the implementation of evidence-based supervision practices. The council also supports existing state-level efforts to improve access to behavioral health services, as well as administrative changes to strengthen notification systems for victims of crime. The initiative would create a supervision standards committee made up of key probation stakeholders, identify the transition to a permanent, transparent funding formula consistent for each county, and add tribal governments to policy and finance changes.
COVID-19 numbers in Minnesota have consistently been low in recent weeks, including test positivity and hospital admissions. Meanwhile, with fewer people feeling sick, demand for saliva testing has decreased significantly. As a result, Minnesota’s testing strategy will be shifting more to a focus on at-home rapid testing.
Minnesota households are now eligible to receive two test kits (for a total of four tests) per home through the mail at mn.gov/covid19. Minnesota has secured 500,000 test kits (for a total of 1 million at-home tests) and the program will be available until all the test kits are ordered.
Through the federal government, Minnesotans can order free rapid at-home tests at CovidTests.gov. Food banks, local public health agencies, community groups, and other community health organizations may also have free tests available. Due to actions taken by the Biden Administration, costs for over-the-counter at-home COVID-19 tests are now required to be covered by health insurance plans.
With the lessons we’ve learned over the last two years, Minnesota is well-positioned to respond effectively if case counts tick upward again. While we all hope to avoid another wave, testing continues to be important for preventing the spread of the virus. Getting a test is still recommended if you:
Please feel free to reach out to share your feedback, offer your ideas, or let me know if I can be of help. It’s an honor to represent you.