You still have a couple days to make your New Years' resolutions! I hope you're staying safe and warm during the holidays. This marks the end of the first year I've had the honor of being your State Legislator - I sincerely thank you for your input, your advocacy, and your engagement. Here's a quick review of the past year and some goals for Minnesota to meet in 2020.
Over the past year I fought to protect Minnesotans’ health care access, legalize adult-use cannabis, make historic investments in affordable housing, fund our schools and infrastructure, and to make our state more equitable and fair. Everyone deserves a fair shake and a level playing field.
While Senate Republicans blocked progress on common-sense gun legislation, climate change, paid family leave, earned sick & leave time, and emergency insulin, that work will be at the forefront of what we hope to accomplish when the legislative session begins in February. Below are highlights and goals for education, healthcare, infrastructure investments and the environment.
All students deserve the tools and education necessary to succeed in and outside the classroom. This year we stood up for our students and fought successfully for sustainable investments in our schools.
We delivered an additional $27 million for St. Paul Public Schools, and funding to increase the number of teachers of color from K-12 through higher education. But this work is just the beginning of our fight to reform and improve education for all children in Minnesota. Continuing this effort will be a priority for me when the 2020 session begins.
The House DFL attempted to make about 500 undocumented Minnesota resident students whole by filling in their unawarded federal Pell Grants (for which they are ineligible) with a State Grant stipend. The Senate GOP refused to negotiate on this provision, which would have cost the state just over $3 million every two years. Minnesota has been attempting to fix this funding gap for undocumented Minnesotans who are graduates of Minnesota high schools since the passage of the Minnesota Dream Act in 2013.
I worked hard to ensure all Minnesotans can afford their health insurance, prescription drugs, and the care they need when they need it. I supported legislation to get tough on middlemen who drive up the cost of medications, and we enacted sweeping oversight to improve drug pricing transparency. I will continue to fight for affordable, accessible health care. That includes passing the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act as soon as possible.
- We implemented measures to combat opioid abuse and hold opiate manufacturers accountable for their role in this epidemic.
- We reformed “middle man” pharmacy benefit manager practices to increase transparency and accountability in order to make prescription drugs more affordable.
- We instituted new protections against elder abuse for seniors living in assisted living facilities.
- We protected health care for 1.2 million Minnesotans by preserving the Health Care Provider Tax.
In the upcoming 2020 legislative session, we will put together a "Bonding Bill," which is a package of local infrastructure and public works projects. A priority for this year's bonding bill for me will be a strong investment in the Kellogg Bridge. The 10,000 commuters who cross this bridge every day rely on it to get to work, to soccer practice, to their families, and to the doctor. It connects Eastsiders with downtown St. Paul and the rest of the St. Paul community.
It’s a huge artery that connects the large parts of the east metro to Downtown. Our state received a “C” grade on our last Infrastructure Report Card, and this bridge is the perfect example of investments our state needs to make in our roads, bridges, and sidewalks to keep our communities safe. As I did last year, I’m going to continue to fight for strong infrastructure funding.
Climate change is one of the top issues that I hear about in our community. Last year, I delivered $4.3 million to help with the Pig's Eye Lake Islands Habitat restoration. There is a huge challenge of managing waste from the Emerald Ash devastation.
We also fought hard for 100% Clean Energy by 2050 and Clean Energy First to cut greenhouse gases now to help protect future generations from the growing threat of climate change. We worked on bills to expand Minnesota’s solar energy capacity; provide rebates for electric vehicles and charging stations to increase the number of electric vehicles on our roads and decrease the our dependence on fossil fuels; transition towards electric energy that can be generated with fewer greenhouse gases than other forms of energy; and update Minnesota’s energy policy to address the current threat of climate change.
I look forward to continuing to work together with our community to fight for the progressive values that make our state a better place to live.
Happy New Year to you and your family, and best of luck sticking to those resolutions!
Rep. Jay Xiong