I hope you’re enjoying the start of summer! Now that the legislative session is over, I’m looking forward to talking with you about how we can keep Minnesota moving forward.
My work doesn’t stop when session ends! Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn and I recently met with the White Bear Area Chamber of Commerce to learn more about their priorities and provide an update on what happened during the legislative session.
In my last update, I talked about what we got done this session. This week, I’d like to focus on areas where there’s more work to be done. Based on what I’ve heard from all of you, here are some of the issues that I plan to focus on in the future:
Student Mental Health and Safety
Keeping Minnesota students safe and healthy is one of my top priorities. That’s why I introduced legislation that would require school districts to establish safety assessment teams. These teams would help recognize and manage threatening or concerning behavior while connecting students with underlying behavioral or mental health issues to the resources that they need. I also support giving schools the ability to hire more staff. School counselors, psychologists, and social workers play an important role in supporting students inside and outside the classroom. Neither of these bills made it past the finish line this year. I’ll continue to fight for them next session.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Many community members have told me heartbreaking stories about struggling to work and care for their families during difficult times. That’s why paid family and medical leave is so important. This policy allows workers to take time to care for themselves and their loved ones while retaining a percentage of their salary.
Paid leave is good for small businesses too. Small employers say that it would help them attract and retain workers. Since many large employers already offer these benefits, paid family and medical leave would make small businesses more competitive. I will advocate for this legislation so that Minnesotans no longer need to choose between losing a paycheck and bonding with a new baby or caring for aging parents.
Lowering the Cost of Prescription Drugs
In response to the soaring cost of prescription drugs, we passed bipartisan legislation to get tough on pharmaceutical middle men who drive up costs. This was a significant step forward, but we need to go further. I’m committed to ensuring that you and your family can afford the medications you need to stay healthy.
The Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act, a bill that gives Minnesotans access to an emergency supply of insulin, will be a top priority next year. I hope we can pass similar legislation for other lifesaving medications. We must also improve transparency in drug pricing and hold pharmaceutical companies that are inflating costs accountable.
Access to Affordable Higher Education
According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are 775,000 Minnesotans with student debt that totals $27.1 billion. The higher education budget that we passed this year provides counseling that will help borrowers pay off their loans, but we need to address the source of the student loan crisis. I’ll keep advocating for holding down the cost of tuition at the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and for investing in the state grant program that provides students with financial assistance.
Addressing Climate Change
As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing the impacts of climate change. We made historic progress towards clean energy in the House, but Senate Republicans were unwilling to take meaningful action on climate change this year. I’ll continue to support reducing carbon dioxide emissions, developing community-owned clean energy, and providing Minnesotans with new opportunities to conserve energy and switch to cleaner energy sources.
I was honored to be appointed to serve on the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL) Education Committee. Legislators and staff from across the country serve on this committee. Members share information on how their home states are addressing educational issues and help educate Congress and federal agencies about state matters. I’m excited to talk about the great things that we’re doing here in Minnesota and to learn more about where we could go next.
Community Events: Marketfest
I had a great time talking with folks at the Marketfest kickoff this week! This free community event takes place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Thursdays from mid-June until the end of July. Marketfest has activities that people of all ages will enjoy, including live music, games, arts and crafts, food, a petting zoo, and more. Stop by next Thursday, June 20 to learn more about the history of White Bear Lake, participate in a cake walk, and say hello to me at the DFL booth!