I hope this email finds you well and enjoying the sunshine. House committees continue their work and the pace is quickening as we approach our first major deadline to advance bills through the legislative process.
Here’s an update from the Capitol.
February Budget Forecast Projects Surplus of $9.3 Billion
Late last month, the Minnesota Management and Budget released its February Budget and Economic Forecast, projecting a budget surplus of $9.3 billion. MMB cites “a higher income, consumer spending, and corporate profit forecast [have resulted] in an improved revenue projection while spending is slightly lower in E-12 education and Health and Human Services.” You can review MMB’s thorough presentation here.
Minnesotans have faced some big challenges the last two years and helping them recover and thrive going forward should be our biggest priority this session. With ongoing uncertainty regarding COVID-19 and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, it’s imperative that we approach the surplus with care. It's also important to note that the budget forecast does not take inflation regarding state expenditures into account, which misrepresents the size of a surplus or potential deficit. Our supplemental budget this year should be assembled honestly and responsibly with families, students, and small businesses at the forefront. Minnesota has the resources to deliver hazard pay to frontline workers who sacrificed so much in our darkest days of the pandemic and prevent a 14% tax increase on employers by refilling the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
Responding to Minnesota’s Mental Health Crisis
Minnesota was facing a mental health crisis before the onset of COVID-19; the pandemic’s impact on our students and families has only been exacerbated over the past two years. Investing in mental health care for our kids has bipartisan support in the Minnesota Legislature and on the House side. I’m working on and supporting a variety of bills to help close gaps by increasing access to critical mental health resources.
Mental Health Screenings in Schools
I’m authoring legislation to offer mental health screening to students in Minnesota’s K-12 public schools and to connect students and families to resources in the school or community if needed. It also provides investments to help schools hire more mental health support staff, such as school psychologists, school nurses, school social workers, school counselors and chemical dependency counselors. I spoke with KTTC News about my legislation and how it could make a positive difference in our public schools across the state. The bill passed out of the Education Policy Committee and will be heard in the Education Finance Committee next week.
Great to present HF3634 to bolster mental health supports in our schools in the Education Policy Committee. Appreciate Minnetonka Schools senior Jin Bang’s testimony! We must meet this moment and provide the support our students need.
Voluntary Home Visits for New Families
I was proud to present and pass bills out of the Early Childhood Education Committee to provide a universal voluntary home visiting program in Minnesota, so families have access to visits prenatally or up to 4 months of an infant’s life. These proven programs have a great return on investment for families and the state. This can help improve outcomes and give families the best possible chance to be healthy and thrive! A special thanks to the testifiers who took the time to share their experience and expertise.
I was so proud to present and pass bill out of the Early Childhood Education Committe.
Investments in Behavioral Health Home Services
Today, I presented legislation that would improve reimbursement rates for behavioral health home services - a key part of the continuum of care for people with mental illness. Behavioral health homes offer services for primary care, mental health, substance use disorder treatment, long-term services and support, and social services for people with mental illness. I’m pleased to share it passed with unanimous bipartisan support out of the Preventive Health Committee!
I'm grateful to Julia Bluhm of Guild Services and Allison Hardwood of Zumbro Valley Health Center for testifying for my bill to improve reimbursement for behavioral health home services.
Mental Health Resources for First Responders
The House Public Safety Committee held a remote hearing yesterday to focus on legislation to address mental health in public safety. The hearing included discussions on several bills, one ensuring first responders including peace officers, state troopers, and firefighters can seek treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can read more about the legislation from the nonpartisan office of House Public Information Services here.
Connected to Community
What a treat it was to meet with this great crew of public servants! Thank you Orono Action for taking time to share your legislative priorities on how we can best serve our students attending Orono Public Schools!
I met with Minnesota Department of Transportation professionals this week to get an update on the projects in District 33B (the Hwy 7 safety audit and my bonding bill to create safe passage along Hwy 7/Galpin Lake Rd in Shorewood) and to provide the opportunity to discuss the possibility of creating a safe passage across Hwy 7 to Minnetonka High School. I’ll continue to advocate for a robust Local Jobs and Projects bill that includes these important priorities for our communities.
I appreciated Orono Police Department Chief Farniok testifying in support of my bill in the Public Safety Committee to reimburse law enforcement for EpiPens. Officers are often first on the scene of a medical emergency and they should have access to life-saving ephinephrine auto-injectors without draining department budgets.
Thank you for your critical testimony, Chief Farniok!
It was great to meet with these two constituents who are out doing so much good in the world! Thank you, Kent Richie (who volunteers with Westonka Food Shelf, Second Harvest Heartland and Prism) and Julie Robey (board president at Hunger Solutions) for meeting on Hunger Day on the Hill! I appreciate their advocacy for legislation that will help end hunger in Minnesota.
Grateful for these community leaders' work to address food insecurity.
Keep in Touch
Please continue to reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4315 with questions or input. I appreciate hearing from you!
Have a great rest of the week.