On Sunday night, the 2020 legislative session adjourned. Usually this marks the end of our legislative work, but this year we will likely be called upon to return to the Capitol for a special session. I’ll keep you updated as I receive more information.
In the last week of session, I volunteered to be the House Chaplain for the day and shared a poem by Joy Harjo. Here is a link to me sharing it on the House floor: https://youtu.be/nYIwLWM96GY.
Addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic challenges it created became our top priority this session. When the virus emerged, my colleagues and I worked quickly to keep Minnesota safe. We created a COVID-19 fund to purchase critical equipment and supplies, ensured health care workers and first responders would receive workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19, and provided resources and flexibility for Minnesotans. We delivered aid for those struggling with housing and food security, funding for child care, small business loans, and assistance for veterans. We were able to pass the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act and bipartisan legislation to keep our elections safe and secure as well.
My colleagues and I approved many bills in the final days of the legislative session. Here’s a brief summary of what was accomplished and what we’ll continue advocating for in the days and weeks ahead:
Bills Signed into Law
Over a year ago, we learned that our community had been exposed to trichloroethylene (TCE) in our air for nearly two decades. Since then, a tireless group of area residents have worked towards legislation to protect other communities statewide. Their hard work and dedication finally paid off. Governor Walz signed a bill to prohibit the use of TCE, making Minnesota the first state to ban this toxic chemical. It was an honor to work on this bill with the White Bear Area Neighborhood Concerned Citizens Group!
On the day the House passed this bill, I spoke about the importance of passing the TCE ban. You can watch a video of the speech here.
Addressing Prescription Drug Pricing
All Minnesotans deserve access to the prescription drugs they need to survive and thrive. The Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, which Governor Walz recently signed into law, requires drug manufacturers to report pricing information for medications with prices that exceed certain thresholds or increase by a certain percentage over a 1- or 2-year period. The information will be posted on a public website in a clear and easily accessible format. This is an important first step towards driving down the cost of health care.
Investing in the Outdoors
The Legacy bill, which allocates $117.9 million from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, received strong bipartisan support in the Minnesota House and Senate. These investments will keep important projects running, secure jobs for Minnesotans working on these initiatives, and preserve our great outdoors for future generations. The bill also includes a provision to require live-streaming meetings of the Outdoor Heritage Council, a group of citizens and legislators who make recommendations regarding the spending of these Legacy dollars. As a member of the Council, I’ve been pushing for this measure for months. I’m pleased that we were able to provide better public transparency and accountability. MinnPost recently published an article about this accomplishment. You can read it here.
Bills We’ll Keep Working On
Bonding Bill: Jobs and Local Projects Plan
The House Jobs and Local Projects Plan is a capital investment bill that would repair and enhance Minnesota’s higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure, housing, correctional facilities, roads and bridges, parks and trails, municipal buildings, and other important public assets. It invests in job-creating projects in every corner of the state, including ours. Projects that would have received funding include Roseville’s John Rose Oval, the Highway 35E and County Road J intersection, the Rush Line Corridor transition, and more. I’ll continue advocating for passage of this bill in the days and weeks ahead.
Protecting our Environment and Natural Resources
The Senate also blocked funding for dozens of environmental projects through the Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund. That means the funding for 49 projects will expire on June 30, and no funding will be allocated for new projects. Impacted projects include important research at the University of Minnesota and the popular Lawns to Legumes program. I’ll keep fighting for these measures as well.
Stay Safe MN
Governor Walz’s “stay at home” order expired on Monday, and we have a new “stay safe” order in effect. This doesn’t mean that things are back to normal, but some restrictions have changed. Minnesotans may gather in groups of 10 or less with social distancing, and malls, retail stores, and main street businesses will be allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity once they create a safety plan.
Yesterday, Governor Walz outlined the next phase in his Stay Safe Plan, which aims to protect customers and workers while allowing Minnesotans to support local businesses. Starting June 1, limited outdoor dining will be permitted at restaurants and bars. Salons and barbershops will be able to reopen and operate at 25 percent occupancy. All customers will be strongly encouraged or required to wear masks, make reservations, and follow social distancing practices to keep themselves, other customers, and employees safe. You can find more information about the various phases of the Stay Safe Plan here.
The Stay Safe Plan includes protections for Minnesotans who are concerned about the safety of their workplace. It ensures workers can raise concerns without fear of discrimination or retaliation and protects those who refuse to work under unsafe or unhealthy conditions. If you don’t feel safe at your job, please call the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at 651-284-5050.
Minnesotans are still strongly encouraged to maintain six-feet social distancing, to wear masks, and limit their exposure to people outside their households. The virus is still circulating in our community, and we need to continue to work together to keep each other safe.
Assistance Available: Twin Cities Hospitality Fund
The Twin Cities Hospitality and Event Workers’ Relief Fund supports workers who’ve been impacted by business closures and event cancellations related to the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’ve lost income due to these circumstances, you can request support and find resources here.
If I can be of help during this crisis, please contact me at email@example.com or 651-296-7153. You can find up-to-date information about COVID-19 and the resources available for Minnesotans on the state’s COVID-19 website, linked here.