The legislature has returned after a brief break to observe Easter, Passover, and Ramadan, and we’ve been busy at the Capitol, passing supplemental budget bills out of the House Ways and Means Committee and onto the house floor.
Here’s an update from St. Paul:
Supporting Businesses and Workers
At the start of the pandemic, a historic number of Minnesotans relied on Unemployment Insurance. Since then, the UI Trust Fund has been depleted. At the same time, another group of workers went to their jobs, even during the pandemic’s darkest days, to keep our state running, even though they faced a higher exposure to COVID.
The House, Senate, and Governor Walz have reached a bipartisan agreement last week to both deliver bonus checks to frontline workers and replenish the UI Trust Fund. This is an important compromise to both thank our frontline heroes – health care workers, first responders, child care providers, food service and retail workers, and more – for their sacrifice while helping businesses avoid a tax increase. $500 million will be available for bonus checks – about $750 each.
If you worked in person for at least 120 hours from March 15, 2020 to June 30, 2021, you may be eligible for a hero check. Visit www.frontlinepay.mn.gov to see if you’re eligible.
Some businesses have already paid their first quarter taxes, and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development has indicated they will give them refunds and credits. Resources regarding next steps from DEED for employers can be found here.
E-12 Education Bill Advances
The pandemic has affected all Minnesota students, but research has shown Black, Indigenous, and students with disabilities have been disproportionally impacted. As the House Education Policy Committee chair, I’ve crafted legislation with my colleagues to help fill gaps in critical school support personnel that benefit students’ social, emotional, and physical health, and fund-wrap around services for students. This proposal would allow schools to hire approximately 1,100 additional counselors, social workers, school psychologists, school nurses, and chemical dependency specialists.
Minnesota currently has one of the worst highest student-to-counselor ratios in the country; this is a problem that we need to fix for our students.
If we want to close the achievement gap, it’s critical all our students have equal access to learn. To help close the opportunity gap, House DFLers want to expand opportunities for people of color and Indigenous people to pursue a career in teaching by expanding Grow Your Own Teacher Training Programs, which benefit students of color and indigenous students who see themselves in educators.
Addressing Catalytic Converter Theft
Catalytic converter theft is on the rise in our state. My bill, which would prohibit the possession of a detached catalytic converter with a few narrow exceptions was adopted into our supplemental budget bill and passed today. My bill would give law enforcement the ability to address situations where individuals are found with multiple detached catalytic converters. The approach will hold thieves accountable and regulate those profiting from the theft. I remain cautiously optimistic the Senate will join us in acknowledging this is a significant problem we must swiftly confront.
Black Maternal Health Care
Last month, I hosted a roundtable along with other members of the Black Maternal Health Caucus and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan to discuss the racial disparities in maternal healthcare in Minnesota. We were able to share our experiences and hear from other Black women. The stories I heard were moving and painful and speak to the amount of work that needs to be done.
Black women are 3 - 4 times more likely to die from pregnancy related causes than their white peers. This mortality disparity is present even when you control for income, education, insurance status, general overall health, mental health, and access to prenatal care. Furthermore, it is important to note that the vast majority of these deaths are preventable. We have work to do address these disparities.
Here is the video of the roundtable:
Additionally, here is an article from the Minnesota Reformer about the roundtable.
Paid Family and Medical Leave
Star Tribune recently reported that two-thirds of Minnesota moms use unpaid leave after having a baby. Minnesota ranks fourth out of 50 states for having the most expensive infant care in the country, averaging $1,341 a month or $16,087 a year according to the Minnesota Department of Health.
As the lead author of the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill, I want to ensure every Minnesotan can access Paid Family and Medical Leave for up to twelve weeks. The leave would cover caring for a family member with a serious health condition, bonding with a new child, pregnancy, the worker’s own health, safety leave for victims of domestic abuse, and leave for when a family member is called to active duty in the armed forces. All of us are going to need time off due to illness or to welcome a new one to our family. Right now, paid leave systems are separate, uneven, and unequal.
We need to provide a safety net for workers in the event of a medical emergency, unexpected injury, or serious illness or pregnancy complication. Our current system disproportionally excludes low-wage workers from this earned benefit, especially women and workers of color.
Keep in Touch
Please continue to reach out anytime email@example.com?or 651-296-4192 with questions or input. I appreciate hearing from you.
Thank you for the honor of elevating our communities’ voices at the State Capitol.