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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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2019 Session Wrap Up

Thursday, May 30, 2019
2019 Session Wrap Up

Dear Neighbors,
 
The legislative session ended on Saturday after we finished approving a two-year state budget. I’m proud that we were able to come to an agreement to pass a budget that protects health care for 1.2 million Minnesotans, makes strong investments in our students, and enacts the strongest
 wage theft protections in the country.
 
Below in the review I’ve highlighted key accomplishments in education and health care, and legislative goals for the future. You can read a more comprehensive overview
 here.   
 
Education
The original House E-12 Education budget included a historic investment of $900 million over the next two years and would have provided a 3% and 2% increase to the general education formula, significant funding for special education, historic levels of funding to diversify our classrooms, post-secondary education opportunities (both college and career/technical), and funding to help schools meet the specific needs of students.
 
The Senate’s E-12 Education budget did not come close to matching the House investment, and would have provided only 0.5% and 0.5% increases to the general education formula, resulting in teacher layoffs, larger class sizes, program cuts, and higher property taxes.
 
The final compromise E-12 education budget includes $543 million of new funding and will increase the per-pupil funding formula by 2% in 2020 and by another 2% in 2021. There is also funding to freeze the special education shortfalls or ‘cross subsidy’. The House proposal would have directed more investments toward special education to address the financial hardships our public schools are facing, but this is a good first step. The final education budget also extends voluntary pre-k programs for 4,000 Minnesota children. This is a huge victory for families across the state.
 
In final negotiations in our public conference committee meetings with the Senate, I fought for the inclusion of significant policy provisions to the budget. As the Chair of the Education Policy Committee, our members on both sides of the aisle worked hard throughout the session to find ways to improve learning environments for every student. Unfortunately, the Senate stood firm on their opposition to include: changes to tiered teacher licensure, non-exclusionary discipline policies to keep children learning in the classroom, radon testing in schools, and many more. Despite these exclusions, I was glad we adopted policy provisions that will reduce special education paperwork and require dyslexia screenings for all students who are not reading at grade level in grades K-12.
 

Health Care
The House DFL focused on several health care priorities this session. We worked hard to protect health care access for over a million Minnesotans, including successfully addressing the rising costs of prescription drugsWe also took on elder abuse, working closely with advocates and the AARP by requiring state licensure of assisted living facilities and enhancing resident and family members’ civil rights. Before the Governor signed this into lawMinnesota was the only state in the USA that did not license and regulate assisted living facilities.
 

After years of being blocked by a Republican-controlled House, the DFL majority this year led the way with an aggressive and comprehensive proposal to combat the opioid crisisIt finally brings pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors to the table and holds them accountable for the crisis they helped create, while generating massive profits.

I'm pleased to report that my legislation to fund the suicide prevention hotline was included in the final Health and Human Services budget.


Transportation
Senate Republicans blocked revenue to fund transportation projects, including the needed funding for transit, which would have delivered sustainable, dedicated and long-term funding to build a modern transportation system that people and employers need and deserve.
 
The transportation budget maintains the status quo in a time when transportation investments are desperately needed. The American Society of Civil Engineers rated Minnesota’s roads as, “D+” on their most recent infrastructure report card. Bridges received a “C” and transit was awarded a “C-.” I advocated for the inclusion of my legislation that would allow the Met Council to buy new energy efficient and electric buses and trains with bond funds. These would help with wear-and-tear, and congestion on our roads and bridges and I'm glad they were included in the tax portion of the budget.
 
House Democrats fought for permanent, sustainable, on-going, and dedicated funding for transportation that meets the needs of a growing state. Strong investments in transit remain a priority for the House DFL, despite Republican’s firm opposition to any increased revenue for transportation.

Focus on the Future
Minnesota is one of the only divided legislatures in the country, and our final budget agreement is a significant bipartisan compromise to help improve the lives of Minnesotans.
 
It’s the first step on a much longer road toward a more prosperous, more equal state. The House DFL will continue working to prioritize proposals such as emergency insulin affordability and accessibility, sustainable and long-term funding for our transportation infrastructure, paid family and medical leave, gun violence prevention, clean energy initiatives, and drivers’ licenses for all to improve people’s lives.

 
Upcoming SD 46 Town Hall Meeting 
Senator Latz, Rep. Winkler and I will host on June 11 a Senate District 46 town hall meeting to listen to concerns, answer questions, and deliver updates from the 2019 session. The meeting will take place in St. Louis Park at the City Hall at 6:00 p.m. I hope to see you there!

Keep in Touch
Even if you can’t make it to the town hall in June, please always contact me anytime to express your viewpoints, ask questions, or provide feedback. I am happy to meet with you individually, at a local neighborhood association, or any organization gathering. I'd welcome a tour of your business anytime! You can reach me at rep.cheryl.youakim@house.mn or 651-296-9889. I appreciate hearing from you and value your input!
 
Sincerely,
Cheryl