The past few weeks have been full of harrowing images from Ukraine as Russia continues their violent invasion.
Last week, in a broadly bipartisan move, legislators introduced a bill to divest Minnesota’s state pension fund from Russia and codify Governor Walz’s Executive Order barring the state from contracting with Russian companies. Prior to the invasion of Ukraine, the estimated worth of Minnesota's state pension fund investments in Russia was approximately $53 million. The legislation will also sanction Belarus for its complicity in the Russian invasion.
In what has been a conflict of ever-growing atrocities, my heart goes out to the Ukrainian people, including the 17,000 Ukrainian-Americans who call Minnesota home. Minnesota is standing with Ukraine and by swiftly passing this bill, we can add to the international pressure that will hopefully soon lead to peace.
The agriculture and food production industries aren’t just major pieces of Minnesota’s economy; they are critical to ensuring we all have healthy, nutritious food to eat. Unfortunately, due to persistent drought conditions starting last year, many farmers and ranchers have faced enormous challenges. I was proud to support significant drought relief legislation to help them recover, with the funding targeted toward the smallest operations, including specialty crop producers who are unable to access federal crop insurance. Many of them are immigrants and those just starting out in agriculture, and have products for sale at our farmers markets.
Great to meet with these inspirational Minnesota FFA State Officers! They're advocating for robust Agriculture, Food, & Natural Resources Education to help gain relevant industry skills and food and environmental literacy through classes and experiences. I appreciate their input and leadership.
We also need to recognize the impact of climate change, including extreme weather swings, so it’s imperative we invest in climate resiliency. The bill includes investments to help communities remove and replace impacted trees and prepare for future water challenges, replace seedlings on DNR-managed lands killed by the drought, and to help private forestland owners and tribal and county governments replace seedlings on their lands.
The House Transportation Committee heard expert testimony from ISD 279 on the success of the district's usage of three electric buses. Since receiving a pilot grant for the fleet from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the electric buses have been operational since October, and so far, the district reports: ?Students are more focused and aware of their surroundings without the engine noise. ?Mechanics have reported less work, lowering maintenance costs. ?Neighborhoods and families are enjoying clean air and water, pollution-free.
Banning Private Clubs for Lobbyists
All Minnesotans deserve equal access to the elected officials representing them in state government. In response to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board’s approval for the Senate Majority last fall to create a private meeting space for legislators, lobbyists and other dues-paying members, I’ve authored legislation to restrict this practice.
Legislators have a moral obligation to deliver on meeting the needs of their constituents and communities- not the highest bidder who can afford to ‘pay to play’ in our shared democracy. The Minnesota Reformer covered this initiative and you can read more here.
Supporting our Students
This week, the House Higher Education Finance and Policy Committee, on which I serve discussed a pair of bills I'm authoring to provide greater mental health and academic support for college students.
COVID-19 has exacerbated the mental health crisis in Minnesota that existed long before March of 2020. Our students are asking for help with resources to cope so they can thrive on and off campus.
We heard compelling testimony in the House Higher Education Committee in support of legislation I'm carrying to require each of our state colleges to employ at least one full-time counselor for every 750 enrolled students. There's more to do to address the shortfalls in access to care, but this is a good start.
Today, the committee discussed legislation I'm authoring to create an Inclusive Higher Education Technical Assistance Center within the Office of Higher Education (OHE). The center’s primary mission would be to increase access to higher education for students with intellectual disabilities. The bill also creates a grant program to assist higher education institutions with creating or expanding postsecondary programs for students with intellectual disabilities.
Brynn Sexton shared her story with committee members of her dream to attend college so she can become an American Sign Language interpreter.
Annual Low-Cost Tree and Shrub Sale
Plymouth’s annual low-cost Tree and Shrub Sale is now open through May 1. The sale features seven shade trees, two evergreens, six shrubs and four fruit plants. Orders will be accepted through May 1. View more information and place an order here.
Renaming County Road 47
The City of Plymouth has approved a jurisdictional transfer with Hennepin County to take over ownership of the roadway to make necessary safety improvements. As a part of these efforts, and as I work to secure the $20 million in state bond funding, the City is asking residents to submit name ideas here through March 31. The Plymouth Council will select the new road name, which will be announced in April.
Keep in Touch
Please continue to reach out anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-5511. I appreciate your input and questions! Thank you for the honor of working with you at the State Capitol.