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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Kristin Bahner (DFL)

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May 3: Advanced Budget Bills, Conference Committees

Monday, May 03, 2021

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Rep. Bahner

Dear Neighbors,

The past few weeks have been an emotion roller coaster for our communities. One thing is clear, no verdict will bring back a father, a son, a brother, a friend. 

While the justice system can grant accountability, we also know true justice would be for George Floyd to hold his daughter close once again and justice for every Minnesotan, would mean regardless of race or religion, to feel safe in the community. We will work towards justice, until everyone is free from fear.  

I ask that we grant the grace and space for those hurting in our communities to heal and above all, hold close your family and friends to cherish one another - today and every day.

Conference Committees

The next step for the bills that have passed in the House and Senate chambers is to convene a conference committee that will review all the provisions on which the House and Senate agree, iron out language and technical differences and finally negotiate on policy that may differ between the two chambers. 

Ultimately, when negotiations are complete and provisions are matched up, the bill will be sent back to both chambers for a final vote and passed on to the Governor to sign it into law. 

I expect to be deeply involved with the committees on State Government and Elections and the Health and Human Services Conference Committees which includes Mental Health, Preventative Health, Long Term Care, Disabilities and some provisions on Homelessness. But I am also following specific items important to our community in other bills.  I may post insights on social media on relevant topics if you wish to follow along. 

Vaccinations

The Minnesota State Fairgrounds is in their final week of first round vaccine appointments and is accepting walk-in appointments for all eligible Minnesotans. I am hopeful we can get record vaccination turnout to allow us to meet at the great Minnesota get-together this year. I know my family is hoping to keep our annual family traditions of meeting at the fair once again. So let’s get vaccinated, Minnesota! Walk-ins are available through Tuesday, May 4. Click here for more information. 

Budget Bills Advanced Through the Minnesota House

In this phase of session, we move a majority of our work to the House floor. The bills moving through the legislative process have been thoroughly debated in different committees and been finalized to move to a vote on the House floor. In the past two weeks, I was proud to vote yes on several crucial budget bills to support all Minnesotans across the state. 

I have enjoyed my work as Vice Chair on the Human Services Committee and as a member of the Health Committee, I could not be more grateful to our staff, researchers, and members.  This week, we debated the Health and Human Services budget on the House Floor for before passage of the bill. We have approved a budget focused on helping Minnesotans get through the pandemic and to thrive after this unprecedented public emergency, building a brighter future for everyone.  

This budget bill is so crucial as it impacts the lives and health of so many Minnesotans from healthcare access and affordability and mental health to long term care, home healthcare, disabilities and homelessness. We took a deep dive this year as COVID has made this bill more vital than ever. We make critical investments for Personal Care Attendants in the form of compensation, increase transparency around prescription drug pricing, including my bill on reimbursement rates. The bill also addresses price gouging on prescription drugs and increases reimbursement rates for pharmacies which will ensure our small independent pharmacies remain a resource to our communities.  This is crucial for rural and small towns and in suburban and urban areas where access can be challenging.

We also fund more on the bottom line, ensuring healthy babies through expansion of healthcare benefits to moms and babies for 12 months postpartum (6 months in the Senate version) and then carry through on expansion of Home Visiting Programs to get them off to a good start. I want to take a moment to share this last piece with you as it has been my passion the past cycle and this one. 

Home Visiting is my bill and I have been honored to carry it. The bill is one whose benefits span multiple generations by providing moms and families the tools they need to grow strong and healthy kids. We know families in the program are more likely to be kindergarten ready, more likely to remain at home and out of foster care, to experience healthy nutrition, to have greater economic achievement and go on to higher education. We also know their moms are more likely to have steady employment and provide a stable home, and bonds between mom and little ones are stronger and healthier.  Right now, we only serve about 10% of the families in need of these vital services.  Decades of study, show that Home Visiting Programs pay dividends down the road and have the potential to stop achievement gaps before they begin. It is with great pride that I can say this bill increases these investments to reach more families. While our priorities are many and our budget limited, I am grateful for these additional investments in our most precious resource, our children.

HHS

Education

We advanced our E-12 Education budget bill which provides ongoing funding for every child in every public school, with additional funds to help close the opportunity gap and increase the number of teachers of color. As a member of the Education Finance and Education Policy Committees, I was particularly proud of this budget, which makes heavy investments in equitable education across Minnesota. 

Last Monday, we passed the Omnibus Higher Education Finance and Policy Bill, on a vote of 74-59.The legislation continues the House DFL’s commitment to students by proposing strong ongoing investments to Minnesota’s public colleges and universities. The higher education budget holds tuition flat at Minnesota State and increases funding to the State Grant Pimpacting over 75,000 students and expanding access to over 3,000 grant applicants

Transportation

Many of our bridges across the state are at risk of deterioration, including the Third Street/Kellogg Bridge, which is near collapse. It’s our job to make sure our roads and bridges are safe and efficient. The transportation budget would make direct investments in transportation to address the long-term safety risk posed by our aging roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure. The bill helps Minnesota grow our multimodal transportation system to help people get where they need to go no matter where they live, with investments in including pedestrian and bike infrastructure, transit investments in both the metro and greater Minnesota, road safety improvements, rail projects, and more.

Labor, Industry, Workforce, and Business Development

The bill helps families, workers, and small businesses emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes critical investments and protections for Minnesotans’ economic security, like Earned Sick & Safe Time and Paid Family & Medical Leave. The bill passed on a vote of 69-64.

Energy and Commerce

The Energy and Commerce budget bill is another comprehensive bill passed through the Minnesota House this week on a vote of 70-64. The Climate and Energy portion of the budget puts Minnesota on a path to achieve 100 percent clean energy in the electricity sector by 2040. It improves energy efficiency goals, strengthens the renewable energy preference, and updates state emissions targets to align with the latest scientific projections. The budget takes steps to ensure the transition to clean energy is just and equitable and that people and communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change can access jobs and other benefits during this transition.

Finally, the Commerce portion of the energy budget contains several strong consumer protection provisions for Minnesotans, by establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help drive down prices, halt the rising cases of catalytic converter theft by creating a statewide catalytic converter theft prevention pilot program, and ensuring strict guardrails are in place that make it more difficult for bad actors to make a quick profit by price gouging. This budget bill takes important, proactive steps to protect Minnesota consumers from bad actors looking to take advantage of folks already enduring financial hardship during the ongoing pandemic.

Agriculture 

The Minnesota House also passed our Agriculture budget bill to strengthen farming and food production in Minnesota. It makes new investments in emerging farmers, has more resources for meat processors, expands Farmer/Lender Mediation, and adds two new members to the Board of Animal Health: one veterinarian and one tribal member with knowledge of animal health. 

State Government, Elections and Veterans

The State Government, Elections, and Veterans bill includes investments that meet the moment and assists in our economic recovery. The bill invests in Minnesota’s veterans with additional funding for our state veterans’ homes, funding to help end veteran homelessness, strategies to prevent veteran suicide, and a pathway for veterans who have been charged with crimes stemming from service-related trauma to get mental health or substance abuse help as an alternative to incarceration. 

The bill also includes several provisions to strengthen our democracy and elections including those to solidify and expand Minnesota’s nation-leading election administration system. These measures include provisions restoring the vote to Minnesotans on probation or parole, making the proposal for Automatic Voter Registration more efficient and effective, and reforming Minnesota’s campaign finance disclosure system to make it more transparent.


While we overcome the COVID-19 crisis and create a better Minnesota, I urge you all to stay in touch with me through email, and help make our community a place for unity.

Thank you for the honor of representing our Maple Grove and Osseo residents and families in the Minnesota House! 

Sincerely,

State Representative Kristin Bahner

Common Sense - Common Ground - Common Good

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