Congratulations to the Paynesville American Legion Post #271 for celebrating its 100th anniversary this week! The Paynesville Legion signed its charter on Oct. 6, 1919. An open house will take place at the Legion during the Vikings/Giants game this Sunday with chili, hot dogs and beverages for sale.
As for legislative news, the House is set to descend upon Winona for a three-day mini-session this week. State statute bars official House votes on bills from taking place outside of St. Paul, causing some people to ask why this mini-session is happening. The stated purpose is to facilitate citizen engagement with legislators and the legislative process. Hearings will take place on a variety of subjects, including child care in Greater Minnesota (more on that in a minute).
I will attend the mini-session to use it as a learning experience, receiving input and providing my own perspectives to gain whatever value I can from the event. That said, I would much rather conduct an official one-day special session in St. Paul – where we can vote on bills – to address serious problems within the Minnesota Department of Human Services. We are now reaching 80 days of inaction on cleaning up the DHS turmoil, dysfunction and errors, including now an even larger estimate on money that needs to be returned due to DHS overpayments.
While the House majority has not placed DHS on the mini-session agenda, I will be attending other important meetings such as the one I mentioned related to child care in Greater Minnesota. I recently submitted a piece to newspapers in our area (and in Winona) to take a closer look at this subject. Here are the key parts:
Access to quality, affordable child care is an especially challenging issue in Greater Minnesota and I look forward to taking a hard look at this subject during an Oct. 3 hearing the House of Representatives is conducting in Winona.
A main focus of mine since joining the House in January has been to mitigate the child care shortage we are experiencing. My appointment to the recently created Family Child Care Task Force has allowed me to work especially close to this issue. 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.
My mantra is that healthy families result in healthy communities and a key component to that is to ensure quality, affordable child care is available to families while they are working. Our mission as a state should be to find that sweet spot 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.
To the contrary, high child care costs have reduced child care choices for families and have compounded problems regarding our workforce shortage in Greater Minnesota. It is hard to attract young families to many parts of the state where choices for quality, affordable child care are limited.
It is concerning that our state’s onerous and burdensome regulatory structure has led to the closure of numerous family child care opportunities. Issues related to state licensing and inspections are among the most significant hindrances.
We also need to focus on eliminating rampant child care fraud, waste and abuse that has been revealed in Minnesota to ensure assistance from the state is reaching the families who need it. The continued lack of transparency and information from the Department of Human Services regarding rampant child care fraud is especially concerning. We have been waiting several months for details of exactly how child care fraud has been allowed to continue in Minnesota, but the public continues to be shut out amid extreme dysfunction within DHS.
I am sincerely grateful for this opportunity to serve on this task force so I can help find workable solutions to prevent our state from doing such a disservice to so many highly skilled, underappreciated child care workers – and our families.
Until next time, please stay in touch and keep sending me your thoughts on these issues or any others that may be important to you.