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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Fue Lee (DFL)

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Legislative Update - May 4, 2018

Friday, May 04, 2018

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Students from Open World Learning Community school presenting on Minnesota’s investment to combat human trafficking

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Test driving an electric vehicle in support of expanding energy efficient transportation.

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Speaking with neighbors from MAD DADS attending the Council for Minnesotans of African Heritage Day at the Capitol (Photo Credit: Justin Terrell)

THIS WEEK IN THE LEGISLATURE

We have less than 17 days left in this legislative session. This week the legislature debated and passed five major bills: 1) Tax Bill, 2) Legacy Finance, 3) combined Health & Human Services and Transportation Bill, 4) Public Safety, and 5) Omnibus Supplemental Budget Bill. The House Capital Investment Committee also released their 2018 bonding amendment and spreadsheet, which includes my Upper Harbor Terminal request.

UPPER HARBOR TERMINAL UPDATE

The Upper Harbor Terminal Redevelopment request is included in the bonding bill that was unveiled this week. The bill would provide $15 million for a grant to the city of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, or both, for predevelopment, predesign, design, and construction work for site preparation and for park and public infrastructure improvements to support an initial phase of redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal on the Mississippi River. This site was rendered inoperable for barging after the federal closure of the Upper St. Anthony Falls Lock. I will continue to monitor the status of the bonding bill to ensure that this request stays in the bill.

The City of Minneapolis and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board is still continuing their planning and community engagement on this topic. Below is excerpt of an email update that the City of Minneapolis sent out on May 1.

Planning and Community Engagement

The City of Minneapolis, Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and selected development team continue their work to research and find solutions for a variety of complicated topics that impact the feasibility of redeveloping the Upper Harbor Terminal. These include:

  • the design, cost, funding and organizational/ownership structure for the potential community performing arts center,

  • the basic layout and cost for the anticipated park and infrastructure investments,

  • options for resolving the overhead powerlines that impact development,

  • private development projections and feasibility, including an affordable housing strategy, and

  • the overall financial feasibility of the necessary City and Park Board investments.

Good progress is being made, but some additional time is needed in order to finish the process. Watch for future announcements of community input meetings and other engagement options once the planning is completed.

Stay informed!

If you haven’t already done so, please sign up for GovDelivery email updates on the UHT web site or watch for social media notices on Facebook, Twitter and NextDoor, as meetings may need to be adjusted. Information on the webpage and meeting notices also will provide more details about specific meetings and topics.

TAX BILL

On Monday, the House passed the Omnibus Tax bill 90-38. I voted NO because this Republican tax bill put corporations and the wealthy first. It prioritizes long-term permanent corporate tax cuts over tax fairness for lower and middle income families. The bill provides a $24.3 million tax cut to corporations in 2019 and $129.7 million in 2020-2021. The bill does not include any provisions proposed by Governor Dayton for new state individual deductions. Additionally, it does nothing to provide help through local aid (to cities or counties) and does nothing to help homeowners or renters through either of the Property Tax Refund programs. Minnesota needs to do more to provide individuals with tax cut as a result of the new federal tax bill.

LEGACY FINANCE BILL

Also passed Monday was the Legacy Finance bill, which passed unanimously. Overall, the bill funds all parts of the State. The bill funds the unanimous recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) and $26 million for the Clean Water fund (CWF) to protect, enhance and restore water quality. It also funds arts and cultural heritage grants including the Veterans’ Voices program to educate and engage communities about the Korean War and Humanities Center for supporting the work of the Women’s Suffrage 100th Anniversary Commemoration Commission.

COMBINED HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES AND TRANSPORTATION BILL

On Tuesday, the House passed the combined Health & Human Services and Transportation bill 82-43. I voted NO because this combined bill had several provisions that continue the Republican’s priorities of helping insurance companies, big pharmaceuticals, and special interests instead of making affordable health care a reality for everyone.

The bill fails to do anything to lower health care costs and insurance premiums, nor increase access or improve care. It did not include the MinnesotaCare Buy-in that would allow consumers from around the state to take advantage of affordable, high-quality, and a broad network of care that is currently unavailable in the individual market. The Republicans included language to prevent its potential future implementation.

The opioid epidemic has caused many tragedies, yet Republicans have refused to hold big pharma accountable – through a modest penny a pill fee – to fund the prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies we desperately need. Overall, the bill does little to help families across the state to gain access to affordable health care.

The Transportation Bill portion fails to build a comprehensive transportation system for all Minnesotans and pits regions of the state against one another. The Republican plan does little to address the massive need for investments in our roads, bridges, and transit. The bill includes no new funding for Metro Transit or Greater MN Transit. This comes at a time where Metro Transit has a projected structural budget deficit of $100 million for Fiscal Year 2020-2021. This will mean a cut in services and have a detrimental impact for our neighbors who rely on transit to get to school, work or medical services.

PUBLIC SAFETY BILL

Also passed Tuesday was the Public Safety Bill. I voted NO. This bill had provisions attacking our right to organize and failed to address some of our most pressing public safety issues, including gun violence prevention and opioid addiction prevention and treatment.

The Republican anti-protest bill enhanced criminal penalties for obstructing traffic under public nuisance and unlawful interference with transit, highways, and airport. This language mirrors the language from the 2017 omnibus bill, which I voted against and sparked a debate of several hours on the House floor. You can read the statement I sent with other members of the POCI Caucus protesting the anti-protest portion of the bill here.

The bill did not address the Governor’s recommendation in expanding access to opioid addiction treatment for people in the correctional system. The Governor’s proposal will provide funding for clinical program therapists and a clinical program director to provide pre-release planning services, and connect offenders with community-based services upon release. This is because individuals released from correctional institutions are at the highest risk of drug overdose.

OMNIBUS SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET BILL

Yesterday, we passed the Omnibus Supplemental Budget bill 77-49. This bill is a combination of the State Government Finance; Agriculture; Housing, Jobs and Energy; and Environment and Natural Resources finances bill. I voted NO because all Minnesotans deserve the opportunity to be safe, healthy, and successful. This monstrosity of a bill fails on all three counts. Again, the Republicans put corporations ahead of working Minnesotans.

Under the State Government Finance portion of the bill, Republicans made across-the-board cuts to our state agencies and important programs. Most notably was the 30 percent cut to the Department of Human Rights. At a time when hate crimes are on the rise, prejudice is on display in Washington, D.C. and Minnesota, and women are speaking up about harassment, this Republican cut undermines the state’s ability to protect Minnesotans from discrimination. Additionally, this bill underfunds cybersecurity measures that keep our sensitive and private financial information safe and fails to take action to keep Minnesota’s elections free from hacking and interference.

The Environment and Natural Resources portion of the bill rolled back environmental protections and disregarded science for short-term gains for corporations and special interests. It nullified the state sulfate standard, which removes important protections for wild rice, conflicts with federal law, and guarantees ongoing litigation. It also did little to ensure all Minnesotans are safe from pollution or from drinking unsafe water.

The Jobs and Energy portion of the bill made cuts to programs that create good paying jobs across the state and took us a step backward on renewable energy. The Republicans made cuts to the Minnesota Investment Fund and Job Creation Fund despite the fact that these are two of the best job creation tools for the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Since the DFL Legislature created the Job Creation Fund in 2013, over $37 million has been awarded to 82 businesses that expanded or decided to set-up-shop in Minnesota. This has leveraged over $1 billion in private investment and created 5,200 full-time jobs.

The Energy policy fails to advance Minnesota’s position as a national leader in the development of clean energy. It slashed the Renewable Development Account and is completely out of funds until 2022, while it includes several provisions to make Xcel Energy happy. This bill fails to do anything to strengthen the Renewable Energy Standard (50 by 30) or help to launch storage as the next great technological advancement in the clean energy revolution.

AIR QUALITY IN NORTH MINNEAPOLIS

I’ve recently heard from some neighbors about the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s (MPCA) notice regarding high levels of airborne particles in North Minneapolis. I share the concern about our air quality and the need to address this environmental justice issue.

I am working with the MPCA and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to figure out the source of the pollution and to brainstorm solutions to mitigating the cause of the pollution. As the MPCA notice states, the level of airborne fine particles was detected to be above the federal standard for PM10 on Tuesday, April 24, which is incredibly concerning. The notice also states that strong winds, combined with rapid spring warming, have left debris from melting snow on roadways. This has contributed to the high PM10 amounts.

The MPCA briefed me on the situation and also explained that excessive truck traffic may also be contributing to the problem as this is a major industrial area. As of now, the MPCA is working with the City of Minneapolis and was able to send out street sweepers late last Friday to remove some of the street debris that is worsening the PM10 levels. I’m also glad to learn that the ten major industrial facilities in the area signed an agreement with the MPCA to reduce dust from their handling materials. Certainly much more needs to be done to combat this pollution, but this is a good start. The MPCA informed me that they are continuing to monitor the situation and are further investigating other potential causes.

The MPCA website shows collected data from the air monitoring site in North Minneapolis on Pacific Street (site 910). I will continue to monitor this data in conjunction with working with the relevant state agencies to alleviate the problem. You can click here for data if you are interested in taking a look as well.

HAPPENING AROUND

CITY OF MINNEAPOLIS ANTI-DISCRIMINATION ORDINACE PROTECTING RENTERS

Below is the press release from the City of Minneapolis regarding their anti-discrimination ordinance protecting renters.

City anti-discrimination ordinance protecting renters takes effect

May 1, 2018 (MINNEAPOLIS) Enforcement of the City’s amended civil rights ordinance prohibiting public assistance discrimination in housing, including discrimination against renters who participate in the Section 8 program, takes effect today. Families in Minneapolis who participate in public assistance programs face an especially challenging task of finding affordable housing in Minneapolis.

The housing discrimination amendments to the civil rights ordinance, approved by the City Council in March 2017, prohibit landlords from denying public assistance participants the opportunity to apply for available housing, or refusing to rent to potential tenants because of the requirements of a public assistance program. The amendments also prohibit landlords from imposing unique rental standards or otherwise treating potential public assistance tenants differently from other tenants.

Landlords, however, still maintain the ability to screen all prospective tenants as permitted by law.

The Minneapolis civil rights ordinance has always prohibited discrimination based on a person’s receipt of public assistance. The amendments taking effect May 1 continue with that tradition. Sixty other states and cities across the country have similar protections against discrimination.

People can report violations of the ordinance by calling 311 or the Civil Rights Department at 612-673-3012. People may also report violations in person at City Hall, Room 239, or online.

The City’s Civil Rights Department is also accepting public comments on draft guidelines relating to what would constitute an “undue hardship” for landlords with respect to the requirements of a public assistance program. The “undue hardship” provision in the ordinance provides an affirmative defense for landlords if a landlord can prove that he or she will suffer “undue hardship” as a result of a requirement of a public assistance program. The draft guidelines can be found on the City’s website. The department is accepting public comment on the draft guidelines until May 30, 2018.

U.S. BANK STADIUM HIRING FAIR – MAY 10, 14, 16, 22, AND 24

U.S. Bank Stadium is hosting several hiring fairs in May. The available positions are: custodial attendant, guest experience lead, and guest experience representative.

WHERE: U.S. Bank Stadium

520 11th Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55415

Use the Verizon Gate (on the east side of the Stadium)

WHEN:

Thursday, May 10 | Monday, May 14 | Wednesday, May 16 Tuesday, May 22 | Thursday, May 24

All job fairs are from 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Please bring two of the following: government-issued photo ID, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, or valid Passport/Passport Card

Job Requirements

You must be 18 years or older, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass a background check.

To Apply

It is highly recommended to apply online prior to arriving. If you are unable to apply online you will have the opportunity to complete an application in person.

All open positions are posted at: https://www.usbankstadium.com/stadium-info/employment

I encourage you to contact me with any questions, comments, concerns, or ideas on any legislative topic. Also, I am available during select hours on Monday and Friday mornings most weeks for in-district meetings, if Northside residents aren’t able to make it to the Capitol. If you would like to send me a message or set up an in-district meeting, you can reach me by phone at 651-296-4262 or by email at rep.fue.lee@house.mn. I look forward to hearing from you!