Saturday, May 16, 2020Dear Neighbors,
We’ve reached the final stretch of the legislative session. With only the weekend remaining until our constitutionally required adjournment on May 18, we’ll be working over the weekend until midnight on Sunday.
Here’s an overview of some of our work we’ve accomplished this week:
Ratifying State ContractsThis week, the House voted to ratify state employee contracts. Approximately 50,000 state employees are covered under these contracts which are currently in effect. These state employees include nurses on the front lines of COVID-19, corrections officers, cleaning and sanitation workers, public health workers doing the essential job of testing, monitoring, tracing, and mitigating COVID-19 in Minnesota; and staff that create and administer the conduits of federal and state resources to affected Minnesotans, including small businesses, hospitals, schools, and families.
Furthermore, the costs for the labor agreements were included in last year’s state budget. Failing to ratify these contracts will mean pay cuts for essential workers, putting their wages below employees in similar jobs in the private sector.
CROWN ActYesterday, the Minnesota House of Representatives with my support approved the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) Act, which would add a provision to the Minnesota Human Rights Act to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of hair appearance and texture.
While the state’s Human Rights Act already prohibits discrimination based on race, discrimination of someone wearing their hair in a culturally-appropriate manner – like braids, dreadlocks, or twists – is not. The CROWN Act would extend this protection to many areas of law covered by the Minnesota Human Rights Act, including public services and accommodations, education, housing and employment. You may remember the MPR story from February that highlighted several personal testimonies of Minnesota women of color who have experienced this type of discrimination at school and the workplace. This was a long overdue measure, and I was glad to vote for it.
Jobs and Local Projects Bill AnnouncedToday, the House will be taking up our Jobs and Local Projects, or “bonding” bill, which contains $2.524 billion in renovations, repairs, and replacement of public assets like higher education institutions, clean water infrastructure, correctional facilities, roads and bridges, parks and trails, municipal buildings and more. I’m pleased to report the bill has $55 million dedicated to the Third Street Kellogg Bridge replacement project.
Bonding bills require a three-fifths majority — 81 votes — to pass, which means we’ll need votes from Republican colleagues to get the Jobs and Local Projects bill across the finish line. I hope they’ll come to the table so we can deliver these needed repairs and improvements to communities all across the state, including many of theirs.
Governor’s Stay at Home order lifted; Encourages Continued PrecautionsThe current stay at home order will expire on Monday, May 18th,?and will be replaced with an order allowing for more businesses to reopen in addition to other changes. Governor Walz made the announcement on Wednesday and extended the current peacetime emergency?through June 12th. These emergency powers have enabled the governor to take necessary action to secure the safety of Minnesotans?and deliver emergency relief to residents of our state who have been harmed economically by this pandemic.
To help businesses reopen in this process, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH), Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), and the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) have developed a template plan and guidance that businesses can use as a starting point. Businesses aren’t required to use this template, but a business’ plan does need to follow CDC and MDH guidelines and OSHA standards. Businesses also aren’t required to submit their plans to the state for approval, but they should be prepared to provide a copy of their plan if requested. Copies of the plan must be distributed to workers.
Governor Walz is taking cautious steps toward opening our state, but we all have a responsibility to each other to maintain social distancing and follow health guidelines. Please continue following MDH guidelines, avoiding groups of 10 or more people, washing your hands thoroughly, and limiting unnecessary travel.
Stay in TouchPlease continue to reach out with questions, ideas, or concerns. I appreciate the opportunity to provide help if you have questions. The best way to reach me is by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure you get weekly legislative updates and learn more about my actions in the House by going to www.house.mn/67b and click on 'subscribe'.
Thanks for the honor of serving our Eastside families at the Legislature.