These last two weeks we have again been forced to confront our state’s issues around systemic racism and injustice for Black, Brown and Indigenous Minnesotans. I am grateful that Derek Chauvin was held accountable for his murderous actions, but just a week earlier we saw the tragic killing of Daunte Wright. We clearly have significant work to do so that Black lives are valued and all Minnesotans are safe in their communities. I encourage you to read the People of color and Indigenous Caucuses statements on the killing of Daunte Wright here, and on the guilty verdict of Derek Chauvin here.
I was in the grove at the Capitol when the verdict come in, and, after I caught my breath, I heard from the nearby light rail station a rejoiceful voice call out “He's guilty!!” I couldn't see the person behind the voice, but I could hear the smile on their face and see a little weight evaporate by the feeling of justice sweeping through the air over the fences and armored vehicles around the premise. I rejoiced from afar along with the unknown person and returned to my office to rejoin session knowing there is still so much more work ahead.
This verdict is unprecedented, important, and right. I hope to someday live in a world where we don't have to wonder if accountability will be achieved. George Floyd and hundreds of other stolen lives should be with us today. This verdict is simply the beginning, not the end.
Budget Bills Passed
We are entering the final weeks of session so we are passing our comprehensive budget bills (also called omnibus bills) on each legislative topic. These will form the base of our negotiations as work to craft a budget that works for all Minnesotans. This means we are staying up late on the House floor debating the final amendments before we pass the bills. We have passed most of the omnibus bills for the session and only have a couple left. Here are some highlights:
Climate & Energy: Climate change is warming Minnesota rapidly, reshaping our entire state and how we interact with it. Our climate omnibus bill sets us on the path to achieve 100% clean energy by 2040 while improving efficiency and emission targets. We have to take action to reduce greenhouse gas and this bill funds these necessary actions.
Public Safety & Judiciary: The past year has proven time after time that our public safety and justice system need deep systemic changes. Our legislation increases accountability for law enforcement while also increasing investments in public safety. Furthermore, it expands justice for survivors of sexual assault and helps to equip communities with the resources for keeping their neighborhoods safe. The bill also focuses on reducing racial bias, decriminalizes poverty, and ensures that every Minnesotan faces equitable treatment under our justice system.
This omnibus package also included Travis' Law. On March 12th I presented Travis' Law in the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance and Policy committee alongside Travis Jordan's mother. This bill brings us closer to a world where mental health professionals are engaged in mental health emergencies just like we deploy firefighters to fires and paramedics and EMTs to non-mental health medical emergencies.
Thank you again to Flo Jordan Ching for her heartbreaking testimony. Words cannot express how terribly Travis' life was taken, and we must make these changes to prevent any other family from experiencing tragedy like this. Thank you again to Michelle with Communities United Against Police Brutality (CUAPB), Sue Abderholden with NAMI, and so many others for advocating on behalf of all people who've lost their lives during a mental health emergency.
Jobs & Labor: Strong worker protections are integral to the health of our economy, that’s why we put workers first in our Jobs bill. 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.
Education: The House DFL is committed to providing every child with a quality world class education, no matter their race, income or zip code. I am proud of our education budget that increases funding for all students, provides funding for full service community schools, funds programs to increase teachers of color, and so much more. Our budget will take us closer to ensuring every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Housing: Even before COVID-19 we were in the midst of a housing crisis, with more and more Minnesotans facing housing instability. More than 572,000 Minnesotan households pay more than they can afford for housing, more than 1 in every 4 households in the state. On any given night, over 10,000 Minnesotans experience homelessness, a number that has only grown since 2015, and greatly impacts Black, Indigenous, and Minnesotans of color. OUr housing bill funds programs to relieve and prevent homelessness while creating more affordable housing throughout the entire state.
Rent help is now available if you have fallen behind on rent, utilities, or have an upcoming rent payment you won’t be able to make. Please learn more and apply for aid here.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce has funds available for Energy Assistance, and the recently approved federal stimulus includes over $100 million for Minnesota’s Energy Assistance Program, nearly doubling the amount of support. If you qualify, you could receive significant assistance to help pay your energy bills. Eligible applicants receive an initial grant between $300 and $1,600 for energy expenses and can be eligible for up to $1,200 more to help pay overdue bills, avoid a utility shut off, or get a fuel delivery. There are energy service organizations (CAPs and others) across the state providing energy assistance services. There is a map that denotes these providers across Minnesota. Eligibility is based on income and family size. Individuals need to earn less than $28,266 to qualify, while families of four can earn up to $54,357. You can learn more here.
Virtual Food Drive
The MN House and Senate far surpassed our goal in the Feeding Minnesota Food Drive. COVID-19 resulted in an unprecedented public health and economic crisis, with no community in Minnesota left unaffected. Over the last year, many of our neighbors faced food insecurity for the first time, while those struggling to make ends meet before the pandemic have needed greater assistance to stay afloat. Demand for food assistance skyrocketed.
This fundraiser, driven by Members and Staff in the Minnesota Legislature, will benefit food banks across the state, including Channel One Regional Food Bank, Great Plains Food Bank, North Country Food Bank, Second Harvest Heartland, Second Harvest North Central Food Bank, and Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank. Together, these food banks serve Minnesotans in every corner of the state, ensuring food makes it to every community where there is need.
Wishing all in our Community members that celebrate a blessed and prosperous Ramadan. Ramadan Mubarak.
Stay in Touch
Please feel free to reach out to me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-4212. If you have a friend, neighbor, or relative who wants to receive updates about the Legislature, let them know they can subscribe to my email list here. You can also follow my Facebook page here. It’s an honor to represent our community. Please stay in touch and stay safe.
Rep. Jess Hanson, District 56A
421 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155