I hope this finds you well and with a chance to enjoy the sunshine and milder temperatures. Check out Dakota County’s Parks and Trails site to find more fun spots to explore in our region.
A big thank you to everyone who attended and participated in our virtual town hall meeting last Sunday. It’s always great to see and hear from those in our community who are advocating for positive change.
We’re staying busy at the Minnesota Legislature. Various economic relief and recovery proposals continue to move through the committee process, including my bill that would create a Paid Family and Medical Leave program in Minnesota. Read about what I’ve been working on for our Mendota Heights, Inver Grove Heights, Eagan, and Sunfish Lake families below.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Minnesotans shouldn’t have to choose between a paycheck and taking care of a newborn, an ill loved one, or themselves. The Paid Family and Medical Leave bill I am authoring has already cleared two committees. The legislation provides workers with up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave so that they can take time off to bond with a new child, care for an aging parent, or seek treatment for a serious illness while receiving a percentage of their regular wages. Employees and employers will both contribute to the fund that will help pay these benefits.
Research has shown that paid family and medical leave programs help increase breastfeeding rates; reduce infant deaths; increase labor force participation and employee retention; and increase lifetime earnings and retirement security, especially among women, who are already more likely to live in poverty during retirement.
Preventing Early Childhood Students from Suspension
Minnesota is home to some of the worst disparities in school discipline in the nation. The alarmingly disparate rates of suspensions for Black and Indigenous students and students with disabilities point to an urgent issue of equity that must be addressed. Our youngest students need support, not suspensions, which is why I’m proud to sponsor legislation that would eliminate suspensions or expulsions of a student in kindergarten through grade three. Exceptions are in place if non-exclusionary discipline measures have been exhausted and there is an ongoing serious safety threat to the child or others. KSTP covered the legislation and you can learn more here.
Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women
As I mentioned in my previous update, I’m working on legislation that would create a task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women. We need to get to the root causes of the inequities and disparities that impact Black women and girls. The House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy Committee heard powerful testimony from the Lee and Clardy family, in addition to the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Women's Foundation of Minnesota and Ms. Kirkland. Minnesota Public Radio covered the hearing and you can learn more about this important measure here.
Connecting with Constituents
While working remotely can have its challenges, it also has expanded opportunities for our community members to make their voices heard from the comfort of their home.
I recently met with a constituent and the Epilepsy Foundation of Minnesota to discuss ways we can support students and staff in our schools with epilepsy. Legislation has been introduced that would provide training to teachers and school staff on how to respond to a seizure.
Access to nutritious food is a basic human need and no Minnesotan should go hungry. I was glad to meet with Hunger Solutions yesterday in recognition of Hunger Day 2021 to discuss ways we can address food insecurity, including support for food shelves, SNAP, and making sure that all students have access to meals in our schools.
Minnesota has made progress in the fight against COVID-19. Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all trending downward, and our vaccination process is improving as the vaccine supply increases. So far, 948,127 Minnesotans have received the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 500,188 have completed the series. Last week, Governor Walz announced the next steps in this process.
Our state is on track to deliver vaccines to 70 percent of Minnesotans who are 65 years old or older by the end of March. Once we hit this benchmark, people with certain underlying health conditions and those who are at a high risk for workplace exposure will become eligible. Current projections indicate that every Minnesotan should be able to get a vaccine this summer.
If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I encourage you to check out Minnesota’s COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, a new tool to help people find out when, where, and how to get a vaccine. It can let you know when you’re eligible to be vaccinated, connect you to resources to schedule a vaccine appointment, and alert you if there are vaccine opportunities nearby. To sign up, visit mn.gov/vaccineconnector or call 833-431-2053.
As part of the Minnesota’s COVID-19 Community Vaccination Program, the governor announced today the state is partnering with the Minnesota Vikings on a new community vaccination event to launch this week at Twin Cities Orthopedics (TCO) Performance Center in Eagan. Approximately 13,400 Johnson & Johnson doses will be administered to health care workers and adults 65 years of age or older beginning this week. Appointments will be prioritized for those 65 and older who signed up via the state's Vaccine Connector tool. Health care workers’ appointments will be filled through notification by local public health.
Keep in Touch
Please reach out anytime with feedback, questions, or ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also reach me via telephone at 651-296-4192. Please also don’t hesitate to reach out if you need any assistance.
It’s an honor to represent you in the Minnesota House.