I hope you’re finding ways to enjoy the beautiful summer weather with family, friends, and our community. After spending the start of summer indoors at the Capitol for special session, I’m looking forward to spending some time enjoying everything our district has to offer - swimming at Lake Nokomis, walking at Wood Lake Nature Center, catching the great food truck offerings at Shoreview Triangle, exploring the trails around the Historic Fort Snelling at Bdote, shopping for local produce at the Nokomis and Richfield Farmers Markets, and attending all the neighborhood festivals and events that I can. If you have suggestions of other things to try, places to go, and community events I should make it to in our district, I’d love to hear from you! Just shoot me an email with the details at email@example.com.
Also, I’m eager to share the details of the state budget we passed when we wrapped up special session a few weeks ago. Please join Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, Rep. Jim Davnie, and me at a District 63 Town Hall on Saturday July 24th at 11am on Facebook Live for an overview of the 2021 legislative session - what we accomplished, the work left to do, and what we plan on tackling next. We will leave plenty of time for questions - so submit your questions now at https://forms.gle/5HY1AEVygakbw2NQ6.
In my last newsletter, I shared the big picture of the $52 billion biennial state budget that we just passed. This week, I want to focus on a few highlights in the budget that are important to our community and that advocates, residents, and lawmakers worked hard to get accomplished.
Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers Act
Students of color and Indigenous students make up 35 percent of Minnesota’s K-12 population, but just 5.6 percent of teachers identify as people of color or Indigenous people. Research shows teachers of color help address opportunity gaps that impact students of color, and all students benefit when the people teaching them reflect the diversity of our state. That’s why we need to focus on increasing the number of BIPOC educators in our schools by recruiting and retaining BIPOC Minnesotans and ensuring they have the tools and support they need.
The state budget we passed includes historic investments to increase the numbers of Black, Indigenous, and other teachers of color in Minnesota. My colleagues Rep. Ruth Richardson and Rep. Hodan Hassan led the way to ensuring our budget included investments in several programs that encourage Minnesotans of color and Indigenous Minnesotans to pursue careers in education. To support educators along the way, legislators also secured funding for retention initiatives, like teacher mentorship programs. You can read more about the programs and the Minnesotans who led this work here.
Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives
Indigenous people make up one percent of Minnesota’s population, but nine percent of the girls and women murdered in Minnesota from 2010 to 2019 were Indigenous. To prevent the deaths of Indigenous people, especially women and girls, we voted to establish an Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Relatives. This was made possible thanks to the tireless advocacy of many Indigenous women and the leadership of Indigenous women at the Capitol, including Senator Mary Kunesh and my House colleagues Rep. Heather Keeler, Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan. I look forward to seeing the new agency begin their critical work. You can read more about it here.
Missing and Murdered African American Women Task Force
Black women and girls also face higher rates of violence in Minnesota. To address this issue, we created a Missing and Murdered African American Women Task Force. This group of experts and impacted Minnesotans will take a deep dive into the important issue and recommend solutions. Rep. Ruth Richardson worked hard to ensure the budget contained funding for this important task force.
Maternal and Infant Health Measures
In Minnesota, there are persistent racial disparities in maternal and infant health. This session, we took several steps to address these inequalities and improve outcomes for all Minnesotans who give birth and their children. For example, we invested in the Integrated Care for High-Risk Pregnant Women program, which will expand services for Black women in the metro area and create care collaboratives for Indigenous women. We passed the Dignity in Pregnancy and Childbirth Act as well. This policy requires hospitals to offer a course on anti-racism and implicit bias to employees who regularly work with patients who are pregnant or postpartum. We also extended health care coverage for low-income Minnesotans from the current standard of 60 days after birth to a full year. More information about some of these measures is available here.
Child Care Investments
Thanks to the aid Minnesota received from the federal American Rescue Plan, we were able to make significant investments in child care. We delivered about $300 million worth of grants to help child care providers recover from COVID-19 and additional funding to help them continue serving kids from low-income families. We also secured grants to expand the supply of affordable child care across Minnesota. Together, these funds will help ensure businesses can hire, parents can work, and communities can thrive. You can find more details here.
More than 13,000 Minnesotans who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are able to get healthy and affordable produce at local farmers markets thanks to the popular Market Bucks program. Funding for this program was cut from the Agriculture budget due to opposition from Senate Republicans, but we worked hard to find another path forward. I’m happy to report that we secured funding for Market Bucks in the State Government, Elections, and Veterans budget I helped develop! You can read more about this program and its path through the Legislature here.
If you have any questions, ideas, or feedback that you’d like to share, please don’t hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call at (651) 296-4200.