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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Elkins (DFL)

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Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 27, 2021

Dear Neighbors,

I wish you, your loved ones, and our entire community a happy holiday season. Now is a time for us to reconnect with one another and to reflect on what is really important in our lives. Even though times can seem grim, there is still plenty of joy and beauty to be found. Happy Holidays!!!


EMS Ride Along

The holiday season can be a stressful time for many of us. After spending last Thursday evening with HennepinHealthcare Emergency Medical Services Commander Marty Scheerer I have a better understanding of just how stressful it can be for the least fortunate among us. I experienced ambulance rides with a elderly heart attack victim and his wife; a heroin overdose patient who nearly died on a downtown Minneapolis sidewalk before being revived and delivered to HCMC; and an alcoholic who came close to freezing to death on the sidewalk outside a rehab shelter; as well as visits to the Stabilization Room at HCMC for cases involving an automobile rollover accident and severe alcohol poisoning. Quite an adventure over the course of a 5 hour ride!

This was a deeply moving experience for me.  In every case, the patients were treated with the utmost care, courtesy and respect, regardless of their station in life. It was truly heartwarming to observe these compassionate interactions between the Hennepin Healthcare EMS staff and their patients, all of whom had good outcomes – at least on this evening.


MMB Budget Forecast

Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released a new budget forecast showing a projected balance of $7.7 billion for the current two-year budget cycle. This forecast is broadly good news, but it highlights the fact that the impacts of the COVID recession and ongoing economic recovery have fallen unevenly upon the population. Those of us who can work from home and conduct our business via Zoom are doing just fine. If you're on the front lines in a low paying customer-facing job or a small business owner struggling to hire employees, not so much. 

Legislators are, of course, being bombarded with ideas on how to address this surplus. Some of these funds will almost certainly be returned to taxpayers in the form of tax reductions, such as further incremental relief for Social Security recipients (most Social Security income is already untaxed for low and middle income taxpayers). We also need to replenish our Unemployment Insurance Fund without burdening small businesses with increased UI premiums. Some of it will be added to our rainy day fund. 

In my opinion, our most urgent need is to improve compensation for those providing direct care to our most vulnerable citizens. This includes workers in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, personal care assistants serving Minnesotans with disabilities out in the community and the drivers who provide mobility to these populations. The agencies and small businesses which provide these services cannot hire and retain the employees they need to provide these services at the wages they can afford to pay at our current state-funded reimbursement rates.

The worker shortages at these facilities are so severe that National Guard members are being called up to pitch in at  nursing homes. Persons with severe disabilities are going months without the personal care they need on a daily basis. A person who is providing direct personal care to a vulnerable Minnesotan should not be paid less than someone who is flipping burgers at a fast food restaurant. The legislature made a significant contribution to solving this problem last year. This year we need to close the remaining gap. These workers also deserve to be included in the hero pay for front line pandemic workers that is currently being negotiated between the House and Senate.


The projected budget surplus does not include about $1.1 billion in reasonably anticipated cost inflation – even assuming that inflation returns to “normal” levels over the next year or so. It’s time to reform the legislature’s current policy of including anticipated revenue inflation in the forecast, but not cost inflation. An honest budget forecast would reflect inflation on both sides of the ledger and I will be developing legislation to require one. 

Cold Weather Rule and Energy Assistance As the weather gets colder, here is some info you should keep in mind. Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule (CWR), which is administered by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, protects residential utility customers from having electric or natural gas service shut off between October 1, 2021 and April 30. 2022. For more information, see the PUC’s Shutoff Protection page or call the PUC’s Consumer Affairs Office at 651-296-0406.

You may qualify for the Energy Assistance Program. By submitting one application through the Energy Assistance Program, you could qualify for payments to cover both water and energy bills, and qualify for the Minnesota Weatherization Program. See the 2022 income guidelines and apply.

COVID-19 Update

The COVID-19 situation in Minnesota remains serious, with hospital admissions increasing and intensive care units, nearing capacity. As a result, others needing emergency care – often for non-COVID related conditions – are forced to wait. Overwhelmingly, those with the most serious COVID illnesses admitted to hospitals are unvaccinated.

Doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals working in hospitals are physically exhausted and emotionally drained. Leaders from Minnesota’s health care systems recently purchased a full-page ad pleading with Minnesotans to do their part to help end this crisis. If you haven’t yet, please get your COVID-19 vaccine and if you’re eligible, a booster shot. The vaccine is free, safe, and effective toward preventing community transmission. Perhaps most importantly, if you happen to contract COVID-19, the vaccine is remarkably effective in reducing the risk of serious illness or death. Also, wear a mask around others and if you have symptoms, stay home and get tested.

Auto Theft

Edina police have apprehended two of the three suspects in the attempted carjacking at the 50th street Lunds & Byerlys. There is a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the third suspect. All four of the cities that I represent, Bloomington, Edina, Eden Prairie and Minnetonka are now collaborating in a suburban partnership to address the current epidemic of car thefts.

A year ago, retiring Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman announced that his office would no longer be requesting bail for defendants charged with “low-level” offences, including vehicle theft. While armed carjackings have never been considered low-level offences, it’s nonetheless time to drop any kind of vehicle theft from the list of no-bail offences. A large percentage of the vehicle thieves who have been apprehended for both armed and unarmed vehicle thefts have been repeat offenders, and our local police departments have grown weary of dealing with the effects of the DA’s “catch and release” policy as it pertains to these crimes.

Remote Undergraduate Internship Opportunity

The House Sergeant-at-Arms Office will administer a remote Undergraduate Internship Program for the 2022 legislative session.

The undergraduate internship program is structured around a focus on serving and learning. A sincere interest in public service is expected of all applicants for a House internship. A genuine desire to learn is also expected and in a dynamic and influential institution like the House, opportunities for learning abound. For a detailed description of the program click here.

Keep in Touch

Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can provide any assistance. Please follow me on my Facebook page for further updates and invite your friends and family to do so as well. 

Thanks for the honor of representing you at the Capitol. 


Steve Elkins 
Representative, District 49B 
Minnesota House of Representatives 
515 State Office Building 
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. 
St. Paul, MN 55155 
(651) 296-7803