Budget Bills Advance, Conference Committees Start
With four weeks remaining in the legislative session, my colleagues and I are working hard to create meaningful change and develop a strong, equitable budget for the next two years. This week, we finished passing our budget bills, comprehensive plans for each area of the budget (E-12 Education, Health and Human Services, and so on) that contain many individual bills. Together, the budget bills reflect our vision for the future and the feedback we’ve heard from Minnesotans.
Now that the Senate passed their own budget proposals, legislators from the House and the Senate meet in conference committees to develop bills that both bodies can agree on. I am honored to be sitting on the Public Safety Conference Committee and be contributing to decisions that could help keep our community safe and correct the systemic flaws of our law enforcement system. Finding strong compromises will be difficult, but I will keep fighting to ensure that all Minnesotans have the resources to weather the pandemic and thrive afterwards. You can watch along here and follow the daily legislative schedules here.
Below are more details about the budget bills advanced through the Minnesota House in the past few weeks:
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 Housing budget will produce more affordable housing in Minnesota as well as ensure Minnesotans have access to safe and stable housing. A copy of the legislation can be reviewed here. The bill includes a number provisions to:
- Fund the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency (MHFA) for specific programs;
- Establish the lead safe homes grant program;
- Create a task force on shelter resident rights and shelter provider practices;
- Deliver investments in various affordable housing related programs;
- Enact provisions related to the Minnesota Bond Allocation Act, residential rental housing/landlord and tenant law, and manufactured housing.
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.
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.
Many of our bridges across the state are at risk of deterioration, including the Third Street/Kellogg Bridge, which is near collapse. It’s our job to make sure our roads and bridges are safe and efficient. The transportation budget 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.
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 this 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.
Finally, 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.
The Minnesota House also passed our Agriculture budget bill to strengthen farming and food production in Minnesota. It makes new investments in emerging farmers, has more resources for meat processors, expands Farmer/Lender Mediation, and adds two new members to the Board of Animal Health: one veterinarian and one tribal member with knowledge of animal health.
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.
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.