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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sandra Feist (DFL)

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April 28: Legislative Update

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

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Dear Neighbors,

The events of last week have forced our community to reckon with weighty issues and questions about what type of a society we want to be. Personally, I want Minnesota to live up to our collective, shared vision of a state that is just, where everyone’s voice is heard, where all of our friends and neighbors and family members feel safe, and where “public safety” means “public safety for all.” 

It’s important that Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for the death of George Floyd. But as demonstrated by the tragic shooting of Daunte Wright, we need systemic-level reforms in order to ensure public safety for all. I have been engaged in far-reaching conversations with my colleagues, with community members, as well as with our district’s law enforcement officials. I am extremely grateful to everyone with whom I’ve discussed these reforms, who took the time to share their expertise and varied perspectives. I'm committed to advancing reforms in the legislature, such as those included in the recently passed House Judiciary and Public Safety Omnibus bill. This great article from the New York Times outlines the national trends around reform, and how these reforms can be bipartisan. We need to come together to meet the moment and answer the call for accountability and build trust between law enforcement and the community. 

Conference committees

Conference committees are tasked with reconciling the differences within each bill. Five appointed members of the House and five members of the Senate will work over the course of the next few weeks to find a compromise we can bring to our respective chambers for a final vote.

Vaccinations

The Minnesota State FairGrounds are accepting walk-in appointments for everyone who is eligible. If we want to have a state fair this summer, everyone who can get vaccinated should. Walk-ins are available through Tuesday, May 4. Click here for more information. 

Update: Veterans Restorative Justice Act

This past weekend, the Star Tribune featured the Veterans Restorative Justice Act, for which I am the lead author. The article described the transformative impact rehabilitative sentencing can have on the lives of struggling veterans and its legislative past. This is a glimpse into a hopeful future of a Minnesota where “no veteran is left behind,” as eloquently stated by one such veteran in Ramsey County. Click here to read the article.  

Recently, I have been engaging with experts and the community to develop a framework for youth restorative justice legislation as well. I’d love to hear from anyone who is interested in this topic and would like to share their thoughts and experiences around restorative sentencing. 

Columbia Heights Earth Day Clean-Up 

I joined the hearty crowd that assembled on a dreary, snowy morning last weekend to pick up trash from the sidewalks and vegetation along the sidewalks and parks in Columbia Heights. It was very nice to work alongside Sen. Mary Kunesh and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar as we helped clean the community and protect our natural resources. It was enjoyable, inspiring, and not too cold once you had picked up enough debris!

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Education

We advanced our E-12 Education budget bill which provides ongoing funding for every child in every public school, with additional funds to help close the opportunity gap and increase the number of teachers of color. As a member of the Education Finance and Education Policy Committees, I was particularly proud of this budget, which makes heavy investments in equitable education across Minnesota. I had the honor of speaking on the House Floor on “third reading” to share my support of this bill: Click here to watch the video.  (Stick with it for a few seconds- my video feed eventually pops up!)

Last Monday, we passed the Omnibus Higher Education Finance and Policy Bill, on a vote of 74-59.The legislation continues the House DFL’s commitment to students by proposing strong ongoing investments to Minnesota’s public colleges and universities. The higher education budget holds tuition flat at Minnesota State and increases funding to the State Grant Program, impacting over 75,000 students and expanding access to over 3,000 grant applicants. Special shout-out to Rep. Connie Bernardy, Chair of the Higher Education Committee. She is an amazing expert in this realm and a great leader of this committee! 

Labor, Industry, Workforce, and Business Development

The bill helps families, workers, and small businesses emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic, and includes critical investments and protections for Minnesotans’ economic security, like Earned Sick & Safe Time and Paid Family & Medical Leave. The bill passed on a vote of 69-64.

Energy and Commerce

The Energy and Commerce budget bill is another comprehensive bill passed through the Minnesota House last week on a vote of 70-64. The Climate and Energy portion of the budget puts Minnesota on a path to achieve 100 percent clean energy in the electricity sector by 2040. It improves energy efficiency goals, strengthens the renewable energy preference, and updates state emissions targets to align with the latest scientific projections. The budget takes steps to ensure the transition to clean energy is just and equitable and that people and communities who are disproportionately impacted by climate change can access jobs and other benefits during this transition. 

The Commerce portion of the energy budget contains several strong consumer protection provisions for Minnesotans, by establishing a Prescription Drug Affordability Board to help drive down prices, halt the rising cases of catalytic converter theft by creating a statewide catalytic converter theft prevention pilot program, and ensuring strict guardrails are in place that make it more difficult for bad actors to make a quick profit by price gouging. This budget bill takes important, proactive steps to protect Minnesota consumers from bad actors looking to take advantage of folks already enduring financial hardship during the ongoing pandemic.

Health and Human Services

This week, we debated the Health and Human Services budget for several hours before passage. We have approved a budget focused on helping Minnesotans get through the pandemic and to thrive after this unprecedented public emergency, building a brighter future for everyone.  

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Housing 

Having a safe and secure place to call home is critical for Minnesotans’ health, economic security, and opportunities for achievement. Stable housing is the foundation for success. Our Omnibus Housing Finance and Policy Bill budget will produce more affordable housing in Minnesota as well as ensure Minnesotans have access to safe and stable housing. The bill does a number things, including:

  • Fund the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) for specific programs;
  • Establish the lead safe homes grant program;
  • A task force on shelter resident rights and shelter provider practices;
  • Investments in various affordable housing related programs;
  • Provisions related to the Minnesota Bond Allocation Act, residential rental housing/landlord and tenant law, and manufactured housing.

State Government, Elections and Veterans

The State Government, Elections, and Veterans bill includes investments that meet the moment and assists in our economic recovery. The bill invests in Minnesota’s veterans with additional funding for our state veterans’ homes, funding to help end veteran homelessness, strategies to prevent veteran suicide, and a pathway for veterans who have been charged with crimes stemming from service-related trauma to get mental health or substance abuse help as an alternative to incarceration. The bill also includes several provisions to strengthen our democracy and elections including those to solidify and expand Minnesota’s nation-leading election administration system. These measures include provisions restoring the vote to Minnesotans on probation or parole, making the proposal for Automatic Voter Registration more efficient and effective, and reforming Minnesota’s campaign finance disclosure system to make it more transparent.

Transportation

Many of our bridges across the state are at risk of deterioration. Many bridges, like the Third Street/Kellogg Bridge, are near collapse. It’s our job to make sure our roads and bridges are safe and efficient. Last week we passed a transportation budget that would make direct investments in transportation to address the long-term safety risk posed by our aging roads, bridges, and transportation infrastructure. The bill helps Minnesota grow our multimodal transportation system to help people get where they need to go no matter where they live, with investments in including pedestrian and bike infrastructure, transit investments in both the metro and greater Minnesota, road safety improvements, rail projects, and more.

 


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Mondale, a preacher's son from southern Minnesota, an influential senator, vice president and Democratic nominee for president, died two weeks ago. He was 93. 

A favorite podcaster of mine aptly said of Vice President Mondale’s deep goodness and lifetime of public service: “You can either live by your resume or your eulogy.” 

His passing is a great loss for Minnesota and our country. Vice President Walter Mondale, a true Public servant, you made a meaningful mark on this world. Thank you for your dedication.


You can stay up to date on our work for the 2021 Legislative Session by subscribing to these legislative updates and “liking” my official Facebook page. For any questions you have on the resources available to our community or our work in the Minnesota House, you can reach me at rep.sandra.feist@house.mn or leave a voicemail at (651) 296-4331. I look forward to hearing from you.

In Solidarity, 

Sandra Feist

Minnesota State representative (House District 41B)

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