Let’s start this newsletter by congratulating three Kimball Area Cubs wrestlers for recently earning milestone victories: Brandon Guggisberg, 50th; Cody Leither, 75th; Carter Holtz, 100th. Nice job, boys, and the best of luck on your continued success.
Here is a look at some recent legislative highlights:
RETURNING TO SCHOOL
Gov. Walz this week unveiled his plan to get more middle- and high-school students back in the classroom – with a target of all schools offering some form of in-person learning by March 8.
The plan is not a major shift from current practice. It also does not provide incentivize for local districts to reopen if they are currently in distance or hybrid learning. In addition, the Department of Education Deputy Commissioner admitted many schools may not be able to open for full school weeks right away.
We need to safely reopen our schools as quickly as possible — the science and data show that we can do so safely, and the governor’s own numbers indicate that transmission in schools for teachers is nearly zero.
The impact school closures are having on student mental health, social wellbeing, and academic achievement has been devastating, and the governor’s choice to delay reopening schools until now is going to have long-term consequences, especially for at-risk students.
It is good to see the governor has finally embraced what we’ve known for months – it's time to get our students safely back in the classroom.
MORE DENTISTS NEEDED IN GREATER MN
Access to dental care in rural Minnesota remains one of the state’s biggest health problems and a bill (HF 620) I authored to address this issue cleared its first committee hurdle this week.
A 2018 review by DHS found that 55 percent of Minnesota counties were designated as full county dental health professional shortage areas. Another 7 percent of counties were partial health professional shortage areas.
We know that poor dental and oral health doesn’t stay constrained to a person’s mouth. Science shows that poor dental health is linked to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Beyond these health impacts, poor oral health can also impact a person’s self-esteem. Preventing poor oral health can sometimes be as simple as just ensuring people see their dentists regularly.
If people don’t have access to dental care though, these basic steps become much more difficult. My bill aims to take on this problem by attracting more dentists to work in Greater Minnesota. It does this through three routes:
By both creating new solutions and building on existing ones, this bill will help attract new dentists to rural areas. And by addressing this critical shortage of providers, we can protect the health of residents in Greater Minnesota. Stay tuned for more on this as my bill makes its way through the process.
More and more people are asking what needs to happen for our state to start taking serious steps toward re-opening for business. The governor has not done well to relay that kind of information to citizens as we now reach nearly a full year under his peacetime emergency rule.
House Republicans have been working to put the wheels in motion and recently were joined by representatives from the hospitality industry for a news conference to outline a plan to wind down the governor’s emergency powers, establish timeline for reopening, and provide trigger mechanisms in the event of case spikes. The mission is to ensure there are clear, predictable, data-driven metrics that determine future closings/reopenings.
A replay of the news conference can be viewed here.
DVS open Saturdays
Many people who received driver’s license renewal extensions due to the COVID-19 pandemic still need to complete the process. To help clear up that backlog, St. Cloud’s Department of Vehicle Services site is one of 15 locations statewide that will be open on Saturdays through March 27.
About 200,000 Minnesotans have regular Class D driver’s licenses that expired during the pandemic and need to get them renewed before the end of March. The commercial driver’s license deadline to renew is Feb. 28. It will take time to process these licenses, so people are urged to take care of this soon. Click here for more.
Have a good weekend, stay in touch and, as always, let me know how I can help.