While we work to pass our final budget bills here in the Minnesota legislature, it has also been an eventful week in Congress. In response to the increasing attacks on voting rights in states across the country, Democrats in Congress have prioritized passing two important democracy bills -- the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. These bills passed the U.S. House and enjoy broad bipartisan public support. Nevertheless, Senate Republicans used the filibuster to block the For the People Act. This is a setback and deeply disappointing. But the work to protect and expand the freedom to vote will continue. I’m grateful for the leadership of our Minnesota Senators Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith and committed to fighting for these critical bills to defend the right to vote and strengthen our democracy.
Progress at the Capitol
We’ve started wrapping up negotiations at the State Capitol. After reaching bipartisan agreements in several areas, legislators began voting to pass our state budget bills last week. Despite theatrics from House Republicans who are determined to delay this process, we’ve approved six budget bills, and we’re considering a seventh one today. In addition to spending hours on the House floor each day, I’ve spent the week working to finalize the State Government, Elections, and Veterans budget.
There’s more work to be done in a few areas, including police accountability and reform. House DFLers are working hard to overcome resistance from our Republican colleagues and resolve these outstanding issues. We’re fighting to prohibit police officers from affiliating with white supremacy groups, enhance community oversight, prohibit altering or withholding body camera video, support community organizations working to prevent crime, and more. I’m confident we’ll finish our work and pass a new budget before the end of the month.
Commerce, Climate and Energy Budget
As one of the fastest warming states in the country, Minnesota is already experiencing impacts of climate change. Our Commerce, Climate and Energy budget takes steps toward a clean energy future. While Senate Republican opposition kept us from doing more, this bill does make important investments in energy efficiency and clean energy initiatives like Solar on Schools, a grant program to help school districts reduce energy costs and create educational opportunities by installing solar panels on their buildings. It also provides funding for a clean energy training center in North Minneapolis. Our goal is to prepare for the transition to clean energy and ensure the people most impacted by climate change - including Black, Brown, and Indigenous Minnesotans - can access the jobs and opportunities created during this transition.
The Commerce portion of the budget is notable too. It contains several measures to prevent catalytic converter theft, a growing issue that many community members have shared with me. The budget creates new tools for law enforcement, scrap metal dealers, and vehicle owners, such as adding identification numbers and unique markers to deter theft. These proactive measures will make it harder to sell stolen parts and help protect Minnesotans from being victims of this costly crime.
Minnesotans deserve a reliable transportation system that allows everyone to travel safely, no matter where they live, what they look like, or which mode of transportation they use. On Wednesday, we approved a Transportation budget that invests in all of the ways people move - roads, bridges, trains, buses, bikes, and by foot. Our budget addresses racial and economic disparities by reforming the way unpaid tickets are handled, ensures students can travel to and from school safely, and reduces unnecessary traffic stops. In recognition of the fact that transportation is Minnesota’s largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, it also establishes sustainability goals that will help cut carbon emissions and protect air and water quality.
Higher Education Budget
All Minnesotans deserve a world-class education. The Higher Education budget we approved on Saturday will make it more accessible for students and their families. In addition to providing funding for the University of Minnesota, the budget expands the state grant program, which will impact more than 75,000 students and provide access to nearly 3,000 applicants. Thanks to the advocacy of House DFLers, the budget also includes scholarships for aspiring teachers of color and Indigenous teachers. This will get more teachers of color into the classroom and help address Minnesota’s persistent opportunity gaps.
Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment - a constitutional amendment voters approved in 2008 - has generated more than $4 billion in the past decade. This year’s Legacy budget builds on that success. It provides funding for the outdoors, water, parks and trails, and arts and culture. One of the notable provisions supports swimming lessons for low-income children. Drowning is the second leading cause of death for children under 14, and this funding will help teach more kids how to be safe in and around water.
In addition to supporting current farmers, our Agriculture budget invests in the future of farming and food production. It creates opportunities for more people to join the industry, including Black, Brown, and Indigenous Minnesotans, those living in urban areas, and young people, and provides resources for future farmers. Other investments will help develop new markets and environmentally-friendly food production practices.
It’s Pollinator Week in Minnesota! This annual event highlights the importance of bees, birds, butterflies, and other pollinators - species that play a critical role in our ecosystems and food supply. Pollinator populations are declining worldwide, but there are things all of us can do to help. The Board of Water and Soil Resources’ website has a wealth of information about creating pollinator gardens and other steps you can take to protect our pollinators.
If you have questions or input, please email me at email@example.com or call (651) 296-4200. I look forward to hearing from you!