I hope that your summer is off to a great start. I got some feedback that my most recent e-update
was fairly downbeat. There was a good reason for that; this was a particularly difficult legislative session. But there are certainly good things going on in state policy. This update highlights just a few.
Praise for Pension Reform
As discussed in the previous update, the pension reform bill that passed unanimously in the final minutes of session will benefit public employees, retirees, and taxpayers alike. This was a strong example of the policy process working well, and both the Star Tribune
and Pioneer Press
published editorials lauding the bill’s passage.
Investments in Infrastructure
The bonding bill, which authorizes state borrowing, will finance a number of investments in important infrastructure. These include building upgrades for campuses in both the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State systems, the revitalization of Fort Snelling, funding for affordable housing statewide (with plenty more needed), and a new headquarters for Second Harvest Heartland, to aid the fight to end hunger. In St. Paul, the bill will fund the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary, the Minnesota Humanities Center, and the Minnesota Museum of American Art. I had a number of concerns with the bill, as again discussed previously
, including that it was not nearly large enough. But I’m glad for the investments that it will support.
Fighting to Protect Health Care for the Vulnerable
In an earlier update
, I mentioned a Republican proposal to impose work requirements on many of those receiving health insurance coverage through Medical Assistance, the health plan for the most vulnerable Minnesotans. One success this session was the defeat of this proposal by a coalition of advocacy groups
. A recent editorial applauded the coalition’s work
Bipartisan Action Against Sex Trafficking
Outside of the Legislature, I serve as a prosecutor; for several years I directed statewide training for law enforcement and others in the fight against sexual exploitation and trafficking. This year I worked closely with Republican colleagues to pass a bill
to require hotel staff to be trained on how to identify these situations. In my role as a prosecutor, I had developed a poster
for hotels to use, and I’m now assisting state agencies in developing the content for the new trainings. I also helped to craft language for a separate bill (which also passed) to examine the links between pornography and trafficking.
Ensuring Healthy Pregnancies
My top priority continues to be getting every child off to a great start. This session, I authored a bill to help close disparities in prenatal care. The disparities among racial and ethnic groups that our community sees in education, employment, and the criminal justice system are paralleled by disparities in the care that women receive while they’re pregnant. We won’t close gaps later in life unless we close this one.
Dr. Nathan Chomilo joins U of M Professor Katy Kozhimannil and Akhmiri Sekhr-Ra of the Cultural Wellness Center in testifying for my bill on prenatal-care disparities.
The terrific news is that my prenatal-disparities was included in the House majority’s Health & Human Services omnibus bill. While it was eliminated in negotiations with the Senate, its progress shows bipartisan support for healthy births - progress on which we’ll build in future session.
Moving Forward for the Youngest Minnesotans
With early childhood as my top priority, this summer I’m continuing to work on it on multiple fronts. Mayor Melvin Carter appointed to his task force
to develop College Savings Accounts for every child in St. Paul. I’m working with a group led by Councilmember Rebecca Noecker on a program to provide high-quality care and education to every three- and four-year old in the city. I’m working with a statewide group (with national funding) to develop a prenatal to age three policy agenda for 2019 and beyond
Last but not least, the quarterly Prenatal to Three Policy Forums that I founded will celebrate their second anniversary at the next Forum, coming up on the morning of Monday, July 16 at the University of St. Thomas. If you’re interested in this critical issue area, please consider joining us. More details at www.p3minnesota.org
Finally, I thought that you would appreciate knowing about two recent honors. The first is the Excellence in Diversity Award, from the Ramsey County Bar Association, in recognition of my work as a private attorney, prosecutor, and legislator. I’m so grateful to have my work recognized by my fellow lawyers in this way.
In addition, I’ve been selected as Minnesota’s Toll Fellow for 2018
. The Toll Fellowship program, operated by the Council of State Governments, selects 48 officials each year from different parts of state government and brings them together for an intensive leadership-development program later in the summer. I look forward to learning more about how to serve you and our state.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community,