The State Capitol continues to be a busy place, and many committee agendas are lengthy as we work on issues important to Minnesotans and help folks emerge from COVID-19. Part of our recovery efforts include delivering the flexibility our communities need. Yesterday, we unanimously passed a bill on the House floor to allow dentists to provide vaccines.
Today officials from Minnesota Management and Budget announced the February Economic Forecast. The state’s budget outlook has improved from a deficit in November to a projected positive balance of $1.6 billion over the next two years. This is certainly good news, but Minnesotans are still facing numerous challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
The pandemic hasn’t impacted everyone equally, with some of our lowest wage workers, seniors, students, and small business owners experiencing the greatest hardships. As we put together a new state budget, it will be critical we pull together to make the necessary investments to not just help Minnesotans emerge from the tough times we find ourselves in now, but set a solid path forward for all Minnesotans to succeed and thrive.
Yesterday, Governor Walz outlined the next steps in our state’s vaccine strategy, aiming to reach 70% of those 65 or older by the end of March, with educators and child care workers continuing to receive their vaccine. Following this, people with specific high-risk health conditions and targeted essential workers are on deck.
Waiting has been difficult, and we will need to be patient a bit longer because the demand continues to outpace supply. Still, there are reasons to be optimistic, particularly as the Johnson & Johnson one-dose vaccine will likely become available soon. 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.
The United States remains the only industrialized nation in the world that doesn’t require any type of paid family leave. Minnesotans deserve the ability to stay home to bond with a newborn, get well after an illness or injury, or take care of an ill loved one without risking their livelihoods.
In the Minnesota House, I’m proud to support a bill to create a Paid Family & Medical Leave plan for all Minnesota workers. The bill would allow Minnesotans with qualifying family events and medical conditions to apply for 12 weeks of paid leave per year. It would be modeled after our unemployment insurance system, with employees and employers both paying premiums. You can learn more about the importance of this bill for Minnesota workers here.
I’m proud of the bipartisan work we’re doing in the House Agriculture Committee to ensure our farmers can succeed and ensure our state’s food production will continue to be sustainable. We recently discussed legislation to extend the Farmer-Lender Mediation deadline to give farmers who are struggling some more time to negotiate debt. Last week, we discussed a bill to establish the Soil-Healthy Farming Program. The program would provide financial support to farmers who implement or maintain soil-healthy farming practices. Soon, we will consider a bill to strengthen regulations on seeds coated or treated with neonicotinoid pesticides that harm pollinators and require a product stewardship plan. I encourage you to follow our work – most of it bipartisan in nature – on our committee website.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me with your viewpoints, feedback, or if I can ever be of assistance. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number at the Capitol is 651-296-4308. Feel free to be in touch any time.