The past few weeks at the Legislature have been particularly busy and eventful! My colleagues and I have been busy passing our budget bills – plans for each area of the budget (E-12 Education, Public Safety, and so on) that contain many of the individual bills we’ve worked on this year. Together, these bills form a strong and equitable budget that would help Minnesotans recover from the pandemic and thrive once it’s behind us.
Our Senate counterparts approved their own budget bills, but in many cases, there are significant differences between the two versions. To resolve these differences, legislators work together in “conference committees.” Members of these committees consider both versions of the bill, gather input from Minnesotans, and try to reach a compromise. While finding consensus in a divided state legislature isn’t easy, I’m confident we can find some common ground.
I’m honored to share that I am one of the first term legislators who was appointed to a conference committee this year. As a member of the Housing Conference Committee, I am fighting for strong, equitable investments to increase the supply of affordable housing and ensure homeowners, renters, and people experiencing homelessness have a safe and affordable place to call home.
Protecting Minnesotans from Eviction
On a related note, the House recently approved legislation to prevent a wave of evictions that may occur when the current moratorium is lifted. While the end of the pandemic is in sight, people are still unemployed and experiencing economic challenges. These Minnesotans could lose their homes when the eviction moratorium eventually comes to an end. Our plan would help ease this transition and ensure that renters and landlords have time to access assistance.
Rent and Energy Assistance Available
Help is available for low- and moderate-income renters who are struggling due to COVID-19. If you’re behind on rent or utility payments, I encourage you to visit renthelpmn.org. You can download a renter checklist to find out if you’re eligible and apply for assistance on this website.
People who need help with utility payments, disconnections or fuel deliveries, and repairing or replacing heating systems may be eligible for Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program. For more information, check out the Department of Commerce’s webpage.
Advocating for Police Accountability and Reform
Finally, I’d like to thank those of who responded to my legislative survey. I’ve been reading all of your responses, and I am so grateful for the thoughtful feedback and experiences that you shared. I will take your input into account as I make decisions in the critical final days of the legislative session. Stay tuned for a full report of survey findings.
Your responses indicated that addressing racial disparities is one of the top concerns in our community. I’m fighting for several proposals that would make Minnesota more equitable, including the Public Safety, Criminal Justice Reform, Judiciary, and Civil Law budget that I’ve covered in previous emails. This legislation – which the House passed recently – contains critical police accountability and reform measures. These steps will help ensure every Minnesotan is safe and able to thrive, no matter where we live or what we look like.
Preventing Deadly Encounters Between Minnesotans and Police
We’re considering another bill that would make our communities safer this afternoon. Under current law, arrest warrants are issued for people who miss court appearances, even if they’ve only been charged with a low-level offense. This is unnecessary, and it can lead to dangerous interactions between Minnesotans and police officers. It’s also a poor use of law enforcement resources. This bill requires judges to issue “sign and release” warrants instead of arrest warrants for certain offenses; police who encounter Minnesotans with these warrants would provide them with written notice of a future court date instead of arresting them.
If this law had been in effect last month, it may have prevented the killing of Daunte Wright. Police officers likely wouldn’t have tried to arrest Mr. Wright, who might not have known that he needed to appear in court since his summons was sent to the wrong address. I’m supporting this bill because it will help prevent potentially deadly situations like this one.
Honoring Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women
I joined community members at a powerful event at the Capitol yesterday to honor missing and murdered Indigenous women. While Indigenous women make up just one percent of the state’s population, eight percent of the women and girls who were murdered in Minnesota between 2010 and 2018 were Indigenous. The House recently passed legislation that would create a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Office to address this crisis, as recommended by the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Task Force. We need to move forward with this important bill.
Breaking News: Winding Down COVID-19 Restrictions
Today, Governor Walz announced a three-step timeline to end most of Minnesota’s COVID-19 restrictions, including the statewide masking requirement. Starting tomorrow, capacity limits for outdoor dining, events, and other get-togethers and mandatory closing times for bars and restaurants will be eliminated. Minnesotans will no longer be required to wear masks outdoors unless they are at a venue with more than 500 people. Remaining capacity and distancing limits – including those for indoor events and gatherings – will expire on May 28.
The mask requirement will end once 70 percent of Minnesotans who are 16 or older get at least one dose of the vaccine or on July 1. Local governments and businesses may still require masks and other precautions after that date.
The eviction moratorium, a ban on price gouging, and eligibility exemptions for people who receive state services will remain in place to protect Minnesotans. Since the youngest Minnesotans aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine, the Safe Learning Plan will continue until the end of the school year. You can find more information about the governor’s plan to end COVID-19 restrictions at staysafe.mn.gov.
Please continue sharing questions, ideas, and feedback and let me know if I can be of assistance. You can reach me by email at email@example.com or by phone at 651-296-4128.