I hope this email finds you and your loved ones well and enjoying the start of spring! The past few weeks at the Capitol have been very eventful. Last week, we passed a series of bills to support Minnesota workers and a strong summer learning plan.
Supporting Minnesota Workers
Minnesotans shouldn’t have to choose between a job and caring for a family member; staying home when they’re sick; or dealing with domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Unfortunately, more than 900,000 workers don’t have access to paid sick days. Last Thursday, the Minnesota House passed legislation to ensure that all workers earn, at a minimum, one hour of paid Earned Sick and Safe Time for every 30 hours worked, up to at least 48 hours per year. I was proud to cast my vote for this bill! You can watch the speech I made to highlight the importance of this bill and urge other members to support it here.
We also passed a bill to help hospitality and service sector workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Under this bill, certain hotels, airports, event centers, and related businesses would be required to provide information about available positions to qualified workers who were laid off and rehire these employees based on a preference system of qualifications and seniority.
In addition, we passed legislation that prohibits employers from requesting job applicants’ pay history. Since women, especially women of color, are often paid less than men, employers who use pay history to evaluate applicants and determine compensation for new hires may perpetuate gender- and race-based discrimination. Putting an end to this practice is a key step toward closing the wage gap and ensuring that all Minnesotans receive equal pay for equal work.
Finally, we approved a measure to make sure frontline workers will continue receiving workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19 or are exposed to it on the job. We passed legislation to protect doctors, nurses, paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police officers, correctional officers, and the child care workers who look after their children last year, but it’s set to expire on May 1. Our bill extends that deadline until December 31.
Supporting Minnesota Students
We also passed a summer learning plan last week. This legislation aims to help students recover from any difficulties they’ve faced over the past year and get back on track. It provides funding for summer programs, tutoring, hands-on learning opportunities, mental health services, and more. These critical investments will help meet our students’ academic and emotional needs and ensure that they’re prepared for a bright future.
Aiding Minnesotans with High Utility Bills
Many Minnesotans will soon face higher heating bills through no fault of their own. Many of the state’s utilities had to purchase natural gas at a much higher price than usual in February, when costs skyrocketed due to extreme cold in the southern U.S. As a result, some people could see their utility bills increase by hundreds of dollars. In response, I introduced legislation that provides assistance to low-income Minnesotans who used natural gas in during this period and loans to help municipal utilities manage the crisis.
My bill has bipartisan support and easily passed out of the House and Senate Energy Committees. The Senate passed a portion of it last Thursday, but unfortunately chose not to include the relief for ratepayers. This only solves half the problem and makes the path forward more challenging. I hope that we can continue conversations with the Senate to address both needs.
Vaccine Eligibility Expanded
All Minnesotans 16 and older are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, I encourage you to check out the COVID-19 Vaccine Connector, which will alert you if there are vaccine opportunities nearby. To sign up, visit mn.gov/vaccineconnector or call 833-431-2053. You can also contact your healthcare provider, local pharmacy, or use the state’s Vaccine Locator Map to search for providers in your area.
This doesn’t mean that everyone will be able to get vaccinated right away. Providers will continue prioritizing older Minnesotans, people with underlying health conditions, and those in frontline jobs. Following that, they’ll have the flexibility to offer appointments to others who are eligible. Opportunities to get vaccinated will increase over the next few weeks as Minnesota receives more vaccines from the federal government.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at 651-296-5375 if you have any questions or comments that you’d like to share. I appreciate hearing from you!