The impact of last year's election was clear in this year's legislative session. Though there are many things the House DFL advocated for only to be shut down by the Republican-controlled Senate, we passed a progressive, inclusive budget that will improve Minnesotans' lives. We succeeded in making significant investments in education, blocked a hard-fought Republican proposal to remove health care for 1.2 million low-income Minnesotans, and made equitable investments in economic development.
Below is a quick overview of some of the things we accomplished.
This year, Republicans threatened to permanently eliminate access to affordable health care for Minnesotans - it was the thing they fought the hardest to achieve. In response, people poured into the Capitol to tell Republicans their stories, and how their plans to gut funding for the Health Care Access Fund would put their lives at risk. Thanks to Minnesotans’ determination, we protected health care for our working families, seniors, children, and people with disabilities.
• Elder Care: licensure framework for assisted living facilities, more streamlined enforcement of care standards, and enhanced rights, including the use of electronic monitoring for older and vulnerable adults and their families. Prior to this law, Minnesota was the only state in the country that did not license and regulate assisted living facilities.
• Medical Assistance Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (MA-TEFRA): reduce parental fees for families receiving TEFRA assistance.
• Women’s Health: In addition to resisting GOP attempts to interfere with women’s health care, we succeeded in achieving an increase in MA reimbursement for doula services and designate May as Maternal Mental Health Awareness Month
• Funding Safe Harbor for Sexually Exploited Youth
• Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program for MDH to award grants for community-driven and culturally relevant practices to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault.
• Prescription Drugs: establish pathway to emergency drug refills and creates a Minnesota prescription drug and medical supply repository program to allow donation of prescription drugs and some medicinal supplies if certain conditions apply. Furthermore, change in MA fee-for-service reimbursement outpatient prescription drugs to conform to MN law to federal requirements, keeping $190 M of at-risk federal funding.
• Health Coverage: Step therapy to control costs and risks associated prescription drugs by starting with the most cost-effective drug for a condition and then moving to costlier and riskier options only if necessary. Another change is requiring coverage for annual mammogram to include digital breast tomosynthesis (3-D) if an enrollee is at risk for breast cancer. Another legislation is including coverage mandate for Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome and Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANS/PANDAS).
The House DFL successfully prevented Republican cuts to education, securing four times their proposed funding level. Our budget makes investments in our teachers, students, and schools so we can prevent further cuts, layoffs, larger class sizes, and higher property taxes.
We made a small investment in increasing teachers of color and Indigenous teachers, but it's a fraction of the investment we need. While 34 percent of our students are students of color, only four percent of teachers are. This is a proven factor in our persistent opportunity gaps, and we'll continue to fight to close it.
• 2% and 2% increase in the general education formula ($388.8 M this biennium)
• 4,000 Voluntary Pre-K/School-Readiness Plus extending for an additional two years,
• Teacher Mentorship & Retention: Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers Act providing $1.5M in funding for a new program to recruit and support educators
• College State Grant Increase: invest $18M, a full-time student who qualifies will receive increase of $235 more per year
• MN Reconnection $2M program to help former students return to MN colleges to finish their degrees
• Student Loan Debt Counseling: $400K for grant from Office of Higher Education to Lutheran Social Services to administer statewide student loan/debt counseling service to MN residents
Jobs and Equity
We need to continue to fight for Minnesota’s working families by allowing men and women to take time off work for illness or for newborn children. Paid Family and Medical Leave was a priority this session, and we will continue to fight for it. However, we were able to establish some of the toughest wage theft laws in the nation this session -- a win for Minnesota families. Minnesota’s employees deserve an hour’s pay for an hour’s work, and we’re going to hold accountable those who deny workers their full paychecks.
We also took a comprehensive view of workforce development by investing a historic $15 million in affordable housing, protected pre-K for our youngest learners, promoted jobs in the clean energy sector, and passed a bill to increase workforce diversity for women, veterans, minorities, and small businesses.
• American Indian Opportunities & Industrialization Center, Northwest Indian Community Development Center: $1M to reduce academic disparities for American Indian students and adults
• Big Brothers & Big Sisters: $500K for workforce readiness, skills development for youth ages 12 to 21
• C.L.U.E.S.: $1.25M to address employment and education skill gaps for working families and underserved youth
• Hmong Chamber of Commerce: $250K to provide support for small businesses
• EMERGE: $500K address African and African-American employment opportunities, readiness training, credentialed training, support services, general education development fast track and adult diploma program
• YWCA St. Paul: $250K to provide job training services and workforce development programs
• Women in Nontraditional Jobs: $1.5M grant program to increase number of women in high-wage, high-demand, nontratidional occupations
• Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP): first increase since 1986 for cash assistance for low-income families
All Minnesotans deserve access to safe and affordable housing. We face a housing crisis and how we respond in the next several will determine if we are going to maintain our economic competitive edge as an affordable, high-quality of life state or whether housing costs will become unsustainable here. This year, we focused on protecting tenants’ rights and expanding access to affordable and safe housing.
• Housing Infrastructure Bonds: Additional $60M funding development of permanent rental housing and homeownership opportunities for low-and-middle income Minnesotans.
• Homework Starts with Home: $3.5M supports collaborative efforts between schools, housing organizations, and local governments to identify, engage and stabilize students experiencing homelessness and their families through rental assistance and supportive services.
• Family Homelessness Prevention & Assistance Program: $3.5M assisting families with children, single adults, and youth who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless by providing funding for direct assistance or services related to coordinated entry, street outreach, prevention, and rapid re-housing.
• New lease requirements require the unit rented, duration of lease, move in and move out dates (if different then first or last day of the month), and prorated rent if applicable to appear on the first page of the lease. Also requires the tenant and landlord to have the option of the same notice period to ensure mutuality in the agreement. This ensures that tenants get exactly what they pay for and know what to expect when they sign the lease which helps prevent sudden expenses or unexpected gaps in housing.
We fought successfully to make our tax system fairer for families, seniors, and small businesses. We’ll put more money in the pockets of working families by providing a middle class tax cut, cutting taxes on Social Security, and increasing the income level Minnesotans can earn before paying a penny in taxes to $24,000. The bill expands tax credits for low-income people who work, especially those who are raising children, through a Working Family Tax Credit. For too long our tax system has favored corporations and the wealthy while under-funding schools and contributing to race, geography, and income-based opportunity gaps.
To-Do List For 2020
The Republican-led Senate blocked several important bills that were priorities for many of you. I look forward to working together to move the ball forward on these bills in the months to come:
• Pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act and other reforms to make prescription medication more affordable and hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable
• Enact common-sense gun violence prevention reforms
• Legalize cannabis, reparation and expunge the records of those who have used it
• Pass the 100% clean energy by 2050 standard, making Minnesota a national leader in renewable energy
• Make new investments in housing, specifically to address the loss of naturally occurring affordable housing in our communities
• Invest in a 21st Century transportation system that addresses roads, bridges and transit needs across the state including funding to replace Third Street/Kellogg Boulevard
• Restore voting rights for ex-felon Minnesotans who have served their time
• Ban conversion therapy
• Pass the Equal Rights Amendment
• Enact Logan’s Law so mothers can become rightful parents of their child
• Pass guaranteed paid family leave and earned sick-and-safe time for Minnesota workers
• Allow all Minnesotans to earn their driver's license, regardless of immigration status
Thank you for showing up this session, for your advocacy, and for sharing with me your priorities and challenges. I look forward to continuing the conversation about how to make our state a better place to live throughout the summer!
Rep. Jay Xiong
Vice Chair, Military & Veterans Affairs Policy & Finance Division