Before we get to legislative news, I want to wish you and yours a fantastic Independence Day holiday. Please be safe out on the roads, on the water and near fireworks. We are truly blessed to live in this great nation and I look forward to seeing all the Red, White and Blue on display.
As we turn the calendar to the next month, a number of new state laws are set to take effect July 1. Many of the changes include new two-year budgets for various areas of state government, from transportation, to environment, public safety, K-12 education and more. Other subjects of new laws include heart screenings and the state’s opiate response. Click here for an overview of notable changes. In addition, all laws passed by the 2019 Legislature are available at this link.
In other news, I attended the recent 2019 Early Childhood Leadership Summit, co-hosted by the Hunt Institute and the BUILD Initiative. My main takeaways include:
The impact of brain development in the early years really underscores the importance of early learning. Investments in early learning can result in cost savings over a child's K-12 educational experience and beyond. As an example, we were told that, in Arkansas, a $1 investment in early childhood has a $3.58 return in third grade. While I’m skeptical of the complete accuracy of those numbers – and we aren’t certain how that translates to Minnesota – the general theory that investing in our children pays off in the future resonates with me.
The quality and accessibility of child care is both a workforce/support and early learning issue.
Because child care needs continue to increase, the need to develop this workforce is necessary. My recent appointment to the Family Child Care Task Force fits perfectly into this area of opportunity. (See more on this momentarily.)
It is important to identify all current funding streams and who is being served. This perspective can be used in taking a closer look at the new state budget and should be used to guide us in the future.
Circling back to the Family Child Care Task Force, I am honored to recently have received an appointment to that newly created panel.
A primary objective for us will be to help resolve issues child care providers face regarding state licensing and inspections, some of which have led to the closure of family child care programs. The task force also may propose regulatory reforms to improve efficiencies in child care.
These and other aspects I hope to take on with the task force have contributed to a shortage of child care providers throughout the state, particularly in Greater Minnesota.
I am of the firm belief that healthy families result in healthy communities and a crucial component in that equation is ensuring quality, affordable child care is available to families while they are working. The key is striking a balance between making sure our children are receiving safe care while also allowing child care providers to function as best and as equitably as they can.
A 2017 report by Child Care Aware ranks Minnesota the fifth least affordable child care state at an average cost of $15,340 per year, another issue that needs to be addressed.
High child care costs have compounded problems regarding our workforce shortage here in Greater Minnesota. It is hard to attract young families to parts of the state like ours when they don’t have quality, affordable child care options available to them.
The task force was established through legislation enacted in May. The panel is required to submit a report to the Legislature by Feb. 1, 2021, outlining the group’s findings and recommendations and including any draft legislation necessary to implement the changes.
I am very grateful for this opportunity to serve as one of only two House members on this task force and thank Rep. Kurt Daudt for the appointment. It is a responsibility and challenge I am eager to take on look forward to finding common-sense solutions on this very important subject.
Again, have a great Fourth of July and, as always, your input is welcome.