Friday, March 22, 2019
Longer days seem to mean longer nights at the Capitol – we’ve been working late to make sure we pass measures to protect veterans, provide relief to schools, and end the opioid crisis that’s hurt communities around the state.
Ending the Opioid Crisis
More than 400 Minnesotans died of opioid overdose in 2017, and public officials have been reluctant to make any meaningful change. This is a statewide crisis that has touched nearly everyone in our community in some way.
On Monday I voted for a bill to hold Big Pharma accountable for their role in creating this crisis. Minnesotans shouldn’t have to foot the bill for the tragedy that these companies have inflicted on our communities. The bill would support a wide range of addiction prevention, education, intervention, treatment and recovery strategies, and passed by a 94-34 vote.
Big Pharma has collected billions in profits over the years without paying a dime to help Minnesotans get treatment or help law enforcement keep our communities safe. It’s time they start contributing to the solution. Holding big corporations accountable is the right thing to do and I am proud to support this bill.
You can read more from MPR here and listen to the astonishing story of the family that profits from the opioid crisis from the New York Times here.
Snow Day Relief
This hasn’t just been a difficult winter for farmers. The record snowfall and freezing temperatures have impacted all of us, especially our teachers and students. School districts have had to make the difficult but responsible decision to call snow days, and I’m proud to say that we passed legislation giving them some flexibility in planning and compensating their employees. Schools will be exempt from making up three of the Polar Vortex days. We also included provisions to enable hourly employees who weren’t paid on those days to make up that lost time.
You can read more about snow day relief here.
Hmong Cultural Center
On Wednesday Night the Legacy Finance committee heard my bill to fund Hmong performance, cultural heritage, and history grants. It would provide educational experiences, exhibits, programs, and events that celebrate Hmong culture with programs that focus on modern and traditional Hmong music, dance, ceremonial arts, and history.
These young men and women waited long hours to share their stories about the arts program led by community leader Tou SaiKo Lee. We need to fund this movement to not just preserve, but empower and engage generations to come.
Serving those who serve us
As a legislator and vice chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee, I’m committed to doing everything we can to support the men and women who have risen to the highest level of service to our country.
This week I also had a hearing on my veterans justice bill. It would appropriate money to a program to support, through education, outreach, and legal training, military veterans who are involved with the criminal justice system. This is just one measure I’m working on to make sure our veterans have the support they deserve.
I hope you’re having a great weekend and enjoying the wonderful weather! Please reach out if you have any questions or comments.
Saturday, March 16, 2019Neighbors,
Thanks for taking a minute off from celebrating St. Patrick’s Day to check out a quick update from the Capitol from your state legislator.
I testified in the Legacy Committee on Wednesday about my legislation to provide funding to the Hmong Museum in St. Paul. The money would go towards Hmong heritage programs to provide classes, exhibits, presentations, and outreach about Hmong history and cultural heritage. As a member of the MN Asian Pacific Caucus and the son of Hmong veterans and refugees, I have been building support and awareness around our underrepresented and misunderstood community.
The Hmong Museum is the first and only Hmong museum in the nation. Its mission is to recognize and document the arts, history, personal and family histories, and current issues facing Hmong people in Minnesota.
This week I introduced and spoke on behalf of the “People’s Bill,” which is comprehensive cannabis legalization bill. Speakers, activists and health care professionals spoke on behalf of legalization to benefit public safety, public health, economic development, and social and criminal justice initiatives. Polling shows that Minnesotans are ready for full legalization. It’s the right thing to do.
We have seen a failed century of drug prohibition on a substance that is not shown to be more dangerous than any other product you buy off the counter at a grocery store, drug store or liquor store. We have seen a failed century of drug wars and policies that have not been equally enforced across this country, more heavy-handed in poorer, darker communities.
For a hundred years, we have watched as law enforcement and policymakers enforced certain laws regarding certain drugs in certain communities, while turning a blind eye to certain other drugs and lax enforcement of other communities. The time for this racialized oppressive system of enforcement to end is now. It is this year in the Minnesota House, in our great State of Minnesota.
I want to thank the AmeriCorps Promise Fellows for joining me on Thursday as I shared with my colleagues in the Economic Development Committee how this program impacts underserved communities. I’ve authored H.F. 650 to keep at-risk students in school and on a pathway to graduation so that they’re prepared to join the workforce.
AmeriCorps alumni have become the teachers, counselors, and educators that our communities desperately need. Thank you for joining me, and for helping me advocate for this critical program.
Equity in Workforce Development
I want to thank my colleague Hodan Hassan for leading on H.F. 985, a bill which would appropriate money to the east African community economic development pilot grant program. The grant would go to Youthprise, which would give grants through a competitive process to community organizations to provide economic development services designed to enhance long-term economic self-sufficiency in communities with concentrated east African populations, such as the Twin Cities, Faribault, Rochester, St. Cloud, Moorhead, and Willmar. I’m a proud co-author of the bill.
Don’t forget to sign up for a 1:1 with me! I’d love to hear from you and catch up on what I’ve been doing at the legislature. Please RSVP via: https://goo.gl/forms/rHHEQ0bP60VbrUgX2
As always, you can reach me at email@example.com or 651-296-4201, and feel free to stop by my office if you’re ever near the Capitol. Have a great rest of your weekend.
Minnesota women deserve equal rights in all aspects of life. All Minnesotans should have the opportunity to succeed, regardless of gender. That’s why on Thursday, the legislature approved the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) ballot question to let Minnesotans decide whether or not to give everyone full equality under our Constitution. The Republican-controlled Senate is now responsible for determining whether voters will have that opportunity in 2020.
I want to thank my friend Kathleen Murphy and constituent Patty MacDonald, for fighting for this issue. I also want to thank Rep. Mary Kunesh-Podein for championing equality and carrying this bill. I was proud to join my colleagues in voting yes on H.F. 13.
Visiting Minnesotans Where they Are
Last Friday in I had the chance to go to St. Cloud for a field hearing to talk about economic challenges and the workforce shortage in St. Cloud. Economic challenges go far beyond paychecks. It’s about job training, access to affordable housing, and transportation. As we heard in committee, it’s also about child care shortages, supporting our schools and our teachers, and early childhood education. I want to thank all the members of the Somali community who came to speak out about child care shortages, an issue prevalent in communities all across Minnesota.
I had a visit from an amazing group of leaders from Harding High School this week. They came as part of a Youth Energy Summit to advocate for the Green New Deal. Keep up the good fight!
I hope you have a great weekend! Stay safe during our (hopefully) last big snow storm. Please reach out with any questions or concerns.
You should be proud – you survived the snowiest February on record, only to be met with more cold and snow on the other side! Don’t worry, we have hot takes for you in this week’s legislative update.
I had a hearing last week on my bill to provide (much-needed) funds for the Kellogg Bridge repair, and I had the honor of Mayor Melvin Carter’s testimony on behalf of this important legislation. The bill also has the full support of the Capital Investment Committee, including Chair Mary Murphy.
You’ve probably heard me say it before – the ten thousand commuters who cross the Kellogg bridge every day rely in this infrastructure to get to their jobs, to soccer practice, to their families, and to the doctor. It connects Eastsiders with downtown St. Paul and the rest of the St. Paul community. Our state received a “C” grade on last year’s Infrastructure Report Card, and this bridge is the perfect example of investments our state needs to make in our roads, bridges, and sidewalks to keep our communities safe.
I want to say thank you to Anaa Jibicho, our 2019 Boys and Girls Club Youth of the Year, for sharing his incredible story on how big an impact the BGC had on his life. The Boys and Girls Club (BGC) serves nearly 50,000 youth across the state. It is my honor to carry a bill increasing early access to education, job-seeking skills, and career pathways in STEM learning in partnership with the BGC, so that no child is denied access to a great education and opportunities to seek a better life.
Last week “Logan’s Law” was heard in the Judiciary Committee. I’m so glad Rep. Cantrell is carrying this bill in Minnesota, which was inspired by Eastsider’s own Logan Graf. Currently, state law makes it hard for female couples to become legal parents. If the bill is passed, when a woman conceives through assisted reproduction, her spouse would be treated in law as the biological parent and exempt from financial and emotional hardships.
Gun Violence Prevention
This week the House Public Safety and Criminal Justice Committee met to hear two bills to address the epidemic of gun violence in our communities. HF 8 would require criminal background checks to be performed prior to all gun sales. HF 9 would provide for “red flag laws” allowing Minnesotans to temporarily remove an individual’s access to firearms if a court determines they may be a threat to themselves or others. Both bills passed the committee.
Minnesota’s background check system currently has loopholes allowing dangerous individuals to obtain guns through online dealers or through private sales. Evidence shows expanded background checks will save lives, and states which have taken this approach have experienced lower homicide rates, lower firearm suicide rates, and less firearm trafficking.
Minnesotans have been loud and clear about wanting their representatives to address gun violence. These measures will help keep our communities safe and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
1 on 1 Conversations
This month I will be holding events to hear from Eastsiders. The first event will be over a glass of Thai ice tea on Saturday, March 16th, from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. Please RSVP for more information via: https://goo.gl/forms/e7ODzVluZiMLkeUZ2
The second 1 on 1 session will be at the last Saturday, March 30th, from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM. Please RSVP for more information via: https://goo.gl/forms/rHHEQ0bP60VbrUgX2
I look forward to seeing many of you. Please contact me with comments, questions, and ideas at any time. If you ever have plans to visit the capitol, please let me know! My office is in the State Office Building, and you are always welcome here.
Vice Chair, Veteran & Military Affairs Division