The Legislature is in the middle of a “special session” to finalize the state budget that will start on July 1 and run for two years. Negotiating the budget has been lengthy and challenging. I keep recalling that Minnesota has the only divided legislature in the country (one chamber controlled by Democrats, the other by Republicans). Not surprisingly, many important priorities have been blocked in these negotiations.
The process of passing the budget bills has been challenging too; House Republicans delayed proceedings for several days last week – check out media coverage here.
The good news is that the budget agreements resulting from all of this do for the most part represent strong steps forward in each of their respective areas. Brief reports on the bills that have passed thus far are provided below. Other bills, including in the critical areas of police oversight and criminal legal reform, are still coming together. We are pushing to get the budget through quickly to keep state government funded past June 30.
Higher Education Budget: Investing in Minnesota Students
All Minnesotans deserve a world-class education, no matter where they live or how much money their family has. The Higher Education budget that we passed several days ago will help make higher education more accessible for students and their families. It provides critical funding for the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State colleges and universities and expands the state grant program, which is of particular importance for St. Kate’s, Macalester, and St. Thomas in our neighborhood. Other notable measures increase funding for mental health and food insecurity and provide scholarships for aspiring teachers of color and Indigenous teachers.
Commerce, Climate & Energy Budget: Investing in Clean Energy and Consumer Protections
As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Several days ago, we approved a Commerce, Climate & Energy budget that takes several steps to address this crisis. The bill funds energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives like Solar on Schools, a grant program that will help school districts reduce energy costs and create educational opportunities by installing solar energy systems on their buildings. It also invests in a clean energy training center in North Minneapolis and creates an Energy Transition Office to support workers and communities during the transition to clean energy.
The Commerce portion of the budget aims to protect Minnesotans from those who seek to take advantage of them. It tackles rising rates of catalytic converter theft, a rising issue in our neighborhoods, creating new tools that deter theft and make it harder to sell stolen parts. The Student Loan Borrower Bill of Rights, another notable provision, gives students a fighting chance against the worst lending practices.
Transportation Budget: Investing in Roads, Bridges, and Public Transit
Minnesotans deserve a reliable transportation system that allows everyone to travel safely, no matter where they live, what they look like, or which mode of transportation they use. Yesterday, we approved a Transportation budget that invests in all of the ways people move - roads, bridges, trains, buses, bikes, and by foot. Our budget addresses racial and economic disparities by reforming the way unpaid tickets are handled, ensures students can travel to and from school safely, and reduces unnecessary traffic stops. In recognition of the fact that transportation is Minnesota’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, it also establishes sustainability goals that will help cut carbon emissions and protect air and water quality.
Agriculture Budget: Investing in the Future of Food Production
The COVID-19 pandemic has been incredibly challenging for many farmers. The Agriculture budget which passed the House over the weekend will help them recover from the past year and succeed well into the future. In addition to supporting current farmers, it invests in the future of agriculture. In order for agriculture in Minnesota to thrive, we need new farmers to join the industry. Our budget includes resources for those who haven’t had direct avenues to the field, including young people, people in urban areas, and BIPOC Minnesotans. It also invests in environmentally-friendly food production practices and the development of new markets.
One big disappointment from this bill, however, was the loss of the Market Bucks program, which allows families in need to obtain fresh food at farmers’ markets – a true win / win. My colleagues and I will work to reinstate this terrific program in future years.
Legacy Budget: Investing in the Outdoors, Water, the Arts, and Parks and Trails
The first budget passed uses funds generated by the Legacy Amendment, a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008, to support critical projects throughout Minnesota. It invests in maintaining and improving our great outdoors, clean water, arts and culture, and parks and trails, for the benefit of current and future generations of Minnesotans.
Local Vaccination Clinics
Our metro area COVID-19 vaccination rate is good, but we need to continue to push it up in order to protect younger children and those who are immuno-compromised or otherwise can’t be vaccinated. Do you still need a vaccination or know someone who does? Ramsey County has pulled together a list of convenient community vaccine clinics all over town – check it out here.
Celebrating Pollinator Week
This is Pollinator Week! This annual event highlights the importance of bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators. These species play a critical role in our ecosystems and food supply. Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining worldwide. The Board of Water and Soil Resources’ website has several resources for people who want to protect our pollinators, including a wealth of information about creating pollinator habitats.
Again, the House will pass several important bills in the coming days. Please keep in touch! If you have any questions about the bills or what I’m working on, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
State Representative, District 64B
503 State Office Building
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