Saturday, May 30, 2020
I hope this finds you and yours staying well and safe.
I write today with a heavy heart and I am still struggling to find the right words to say. Words of hope, healing, and peace.
I will start with these: The killing of George Floyd simply should not have happened. He should be alive today. All Minnesotans deserve justice, no exceptions. The People of Color and Indigenous (POCI) Caucus members and I made a public statement that you can review here.
Yesterday, ex-Minneapolis Police officer Chauvin was taken into custody and charged with both murder and manslaughter. Charges against the other three officers are still being explored by prosecutors. This is one small, critical step toward justice. However, this isn’t an isolated case — this is structural racism. We have an unaccountable police system that is abusive and discriminatory and that has resulted in the senseless killings of people of color. The ongoing investigation and any future prosecution and possible conviction doesn’t end this. We need permanent, deep, systemic change. It will take all of us.
Executive and Local ActionOn Thursday, Governor Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard, along with State Patrol to help replace the Minneapolis Police Department in attempting to maintain order. Our east side community endured significant damage at various retailers at Sun Ray, White Bear Avenue, and many small businesses. Rep. Mahoney and I submitted a letter to Mayor Carter, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan, Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) Commissioner Grove, and Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Harrington yesterday urging allocation of immediate assistance and financial aid to assist with clean up and rebuilding.
Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Commerce stands ready to assist business owners, property owners, and renters in our community that experienced property damage or loss. The Department of Commerce’s Consumer Services Center (CSC) can help consumers with questions, concerns, or complaints involving insurance claims. The CSC can help consumers understand their rights, work with their insurer to settle a claim, and help Minnesotans make informed insurance decisions. The CSC can be reached by phone at (651) 539-1600 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are unable to work because of the damage to your place of employment, you can apply for unemployment insurance here.
A temporary curfew was scheduled from 8pm to 6am yesterday (Friday) and today (Saturday). During the curfew, no one may travel on Minneapolis and Saint Paul streets or public places, except for first responders, members of the media, people going back and forth to work, individuals seeking emergency care or fleeing danger, and people experiencing homelessness.
Keep in TouchPlease let me know how I can be of assistance to you, your family, or your business during these difficult times.
It’s an honor to serve and represent our eastside neighborhoods at the state capitol.
Friday, May 29, 2020We members of the Minnesota Asian Pacific (MAP) Caucus, stand in solidarity with our Minnesota Legislative People of Color and Indigenous Peoples (POCI) Caucus in our condemnation and outrage of the killing of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer on Monday, May 25. We empathize with and see the pain our African American brothers and sisters are experiencing. This killing is not just an incident in this moment in time, but the triggering of generational trauma going back hundreds of years.
We also acknowledge that in the current state of COVID-19, we are seeing increased violence and bias towards people of Asian descent. This is the consequence of inflaming prejudice and amplifying terms that stigmatize ethnic groups. Hatred and hostility will not prevent COVID-19 and other infectious diseases from spreading. This can only be accomplished through unity and cooperation.
The MAP Caucus believes firmly that the systems which permit those who vow to protect us to decide our fate are the same systems that create the structures which turn marginalized communities against each other during times of uncertainty and fear. America has a long history of racializing communities of color to create divide and distrust in order to maintain White hegemony. It has long perpetuated false narratives in order to use one community to subjugate another, a divisive tool to prevent us from fighting for a common cause.
We, the MAP Caucus, affirm our commitment to challenge these systems. We are unwavering in our solidarity with Black people and the movement for Black lives. This acknowledgement does not negate the very real fact that the Asian community also experiences racial violence. As we grieve the killing of George Floyd, we must come together and demand positive action for all Minnesotans. Racism and xenophobia seek to divide us, impairing our ability to work collectively. We must stand together to defeat systemic racism and institutional violence.
The MAP Caucus members include Assistant Majority Leader Fue Lee (DFL - Minneapolis), MAP Caucus Chair Samantha Vang (DFL - Brooklyn Park), Rep. Kaohly Her (DFL- St. Paul), Rep. Tou Xiong (DFL - Maplewood), Rep. Jay Xiong (DFL- St. Paul), and Sen. Foung Hawj (DFL - St. Paul).
Tuesday, May 26, 2020We, the members of the MN Legislative People of Color and Indigenous Peoples Caucus (POCI Caucus) express our condemnation and outrage at the killing of Mr. George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police officer this Monday. While we do not know all the details of his death, what we do know is horrifically disturbing and seems an all-too familiar feature of the lives of people of color and Indigenous people – especially of black men – in interactions with law enforcement. That reality is utterly unacceptable and we call on it to end.
The POCI Caucus expresses our sympathy and care for Mr. Floyd’s family and friends in losing a loved one. No family or community should undergo the pain you are experiencing, we share in your loss.
Here is what we have been informed of; Mr. Floyd died after police officers physically detained him following a report of a non-violent forgery crime. All indications are that he was unarmed and posed no physical threat to anyone. In an ensuing struggle, he was pulled to the ground while one officer knelt on Mr. Floyd’s neck for up to seven minutes. Mr. Floyd could be heard saying repeatedly that he could not breathe, and begged not to be killed. Bystanders called for the officer to relent, telling him that he was preventing Mr. Floyd from breathing. A citizen captured these moments on a cell phone video as the officer continued to kneel on Mr. Floyd’s neck and as blood trickled from his face and urine flowed from his body. He lost consciousness and EMT’s arrived shortly afterwards to transport him to HCMC where he was pronounced dead.
We call on the State of Minnesota to immediately investigate the death of Mr. Floyd and report its proceedings and findings to the public with full transparency.
We also call on the MPD to immediately remove the officers involved from active duty and report their account of the killing to the public.
We call on the Hennepin County Attorney to immediately open a murder investigation of the officers involved .
We stand with all citizens to call for those involved in the death of Mr. Floyd to be held accountable and encourage their peaceful demands for justice in this matter.
As state legislators, we have little means to intervene in a local city’s jurisdiction. However, in the two latest state legislative sessions, the POCI Caucus has proposed laws to bring accountability and transparency in the use of force by law enforcement. As a result, the House Public Safety Committee passed multiple pieces of legislation that sought to ;1) Establish a statewide police accountability system that would set and enforce higher standards of conduct; 2) Ensure Chief Law Enforcement Officers can fire subordinates who violate the public’s trust; 3) Fund local violence prevention organizations to decrease reliance on police for problem solving; 4) Provide for Police Counseling to lower the likelihood of poor decisions being made; 5) Extend the statute of limitations on wrongful deaths by police; and 6) Provide for greater training for law enforcement.
As POCI legislators, we fear police brutality has become a de facto accepted policy outcome for Minnesota. Predictably every year, Minnesota residents, specifically those of color and indigenous descent, are subjected to police violence. Every year, there are multiple officer-elated assaults and even deaths under investigation. Every year, the vast majority of those officers do not face adequate administrative, civil, or criminal penalties provided for under our inadequate laws. Every year, all people of color and American Indians at the State Legislature either authors or co-authors legislation to address these flawed laws and curb police brutality.
We will continue our efforts to create state laws that bring accountability, greater humanity, and community-centered public safety – all with race equity – towards ending the unacceptable killings of people of color and American Indian people at the hands of our law enforcement entities.
The People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn (42B), Aisha Gomez (62B), Hodan Hassan (62A), Kaohly Her (64A), Mary Kunesh-Podein (41B), Fue Lee (59A), Alice Mann (56B), Carlos Mariani (65B), Rena Moran (65A), Mohamud Noor (60B), Ruth Richardson (52B), Samantha Vang (40B), Jay Xiong (67B), Tou Xiong (53B), and Sens. Melisa Franzen (49), Foung Hawj (67), Jeff Hayden (62), Bobby Joe Champion (59), and Patricia Torres Ray (63).
Saturday, May 23, 2020
As the vice chair of the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division, and with the upcoming holiday on Monday, I’d like to pause to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation. The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs is sponsoring a Virtual Memorial Day Program over the weekend. TPT has created a 30-minute Memorial Day program entitled “Always Remember: A Minnesota Tribute to Veterans We’ve Lost,” that will be broadcast across the state on TPT’s Minnesota Channel on Monday at 7:30 p.m. and live streamed on TPT’s website. I hope you have a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend, and please take some time to remember our fallen soldiers.
Session has AdjournedThe legislature wrapped up its business at midnight on Sunday with passing a flurry of consensus legislation related to education and healthcare policy.
As I reflect on the 2020 session, overall, I am proud of the bipartisan nature in which we could deliver emergency relief to Minnesotans amid a global pandemic. Republicans and Democrats came together quickly to enact new measures to help us all adapt to this new, but temporary normal by passing emergency funding for public health, resources for health care workers, aid for child care, housing and food security measures, small business assistance and more. We also enacted into law significant non-COVID-19 legislation such as the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act, the Prescription Drug Price Transparency Act, Tobacco 21 legislation to prevent youth smoking, and a bipartisan bill to protect the safety and security of elections.
Unfortunately, Republicans blocked significant priorities important to Minnesotans and our eastside neighborhoods, including our Jobs and Local Projects Plan – which contained $55 million in critical funding to restore the crumbling Kellogg 3rd Street Bridge, a measure to ensure hourly school employees receive compensation, housing assistance that’s sorely needed for renters and homeowners, more relief for small and minority-owned businesses, and a wage increase for personal care attendants. All Minnesotans deserve economic security, and House DFLers and I remain committed to ensuring everyone can succeed and thrive, during this pandemic and beyond. I am hopeful we can resolve this unfinished work in the coming weeks and months, should we meet for a June special session.
News from the St. Paul Port AuthorityThe St. Paul Port Authority has been selected as an approved lender for Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) guaranteed loan program and have committed $1 million in funds to provide small business loans to St. Paul businesses impacted by COVID 19. A quick snapshot of the loan parameters are as follows:
News from the GovernorOn Monday, more COVID-19 restrictions were loosened as the new Stay Safe Minnesota executive order took effect, allowing many retail stores and main street businesses to open with a safety plan and limited capacity. Businesses must follow CDC and OSHA guidance. More information about these requirements is available here.
Bars and restaurants can open with limited capacity for patio and outdoor seating on June 1. Salons and other personal care businesses are also being allowed to reopen, but with new procedures. You can read more about the guidelines here.
COVID-19 remains a public health threat, and we all have a part to play in stopping the spread of the virus. Despite the governor’s new orders, we should all continue to take safety precautions like social distancing, wearing a mask, washing our hands, and staying home when sick. Additionally, people who may be vulnerable – like those with compromised immune systems – should continue to stay home. Read more about the Stay Safe MN plan here.
A Note of Farewell to our Eastside District Neighbor, Tim MahoneyAs you may know, Representative Tim Mahoney, with whom I share our district, is retiring from the Minnesota House of Representatives. Tim has been a fierce and tireless advocate for working class Minnesotans and always fights to address our eastside needs. He will be sorely missed in the Legislature. You can watch his retirement speech here.
Keep in TouchPlease continue to reach out with ideas, questions, and input anytime. I appreciate hearing from you.
Wishing you a safe and relaxing holiday weekend.
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 email@example.com.
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.
Our work in the Minnesota House continues, as we quickly approach our adjournment date of May 18. Today, the House will meet in session at 1:30 and is expected to pass strong public health initiatives, in addition to a significant investment to help our struggling low-income working families get ahead during the pandemic.
Below is an overview of what we’ve accomplished this week, including news of the Governor’s latest executive actions.
Yesterday, I voted for the COVID-19 Economic Security Act, a package of legislation that would help Minnesotans keep a roof over their heads, preserve their small businesses, access broadband, and care for vulnerable people during the pandemic.
The bill includes aid for Minnesotans who are struggling to make rent and mortgage payments through no fault of their own. It provides emergency loans to help small businesses across the state operating, including many of the mom and pop minority-owned businesses in our community, and funding to expand broadband access for distance learning and telemedicine. It also includes a temporary wage increase for personal care assistants. You can read more about the COVID-19 Economic Security Act here.
Guaranteeing Pay for Hourly School WorkersMany hourly school workers are facing financial uncertainty because of the transition to distance learning. On Monday, we passed legislation to ensure paraprofessionals, nutrition services staff, bus drivers, and other hourly school employees get paid through the end of the school year. These workers are still providing valuable services and support to our students, and they deserve to be compensated for their work. More information about this bill is available here.
Ensuring Safe and Secure ElectionsWe also passed a bipartisan bill to protect the health and safety of election officials and voters during this year’s elections. The bill allows our state to use federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds to prepare for increased absentee voting, open new polling locations, purchase sanitation and disinfectant supplies, and provide public outreach. HAVA funds will also be used to protect our election system from hackers and foreign interference. You can find more information about the bill here.
Elective Surgeries to Resume Next WeekGovernor Walz announced this week continued efforts to “turn the dials” a bit by allowing elective surgeries to resume during the peacetime emergency. Developing capacity within our health care system is one of the biggest goals of the stay at home guidelines, and this step indicates we’re making needed progress. Medical facilities will need a plan to keep doctors, nurses, staff, patients and visitors safe. I’m glad the governor took this step which will allow more Minnesotans to get the care they need during the pandemic. You can read the governor’s executive order here.
Long-Term Care Strategy for our EldersOur nursing homes and other congregate care settings have been among those impacted the worst by the COVID-19 pandemic. Everyone living and working in these facilities deserves to be safe and healthy, and they deserve to know we support them in our efforts to keep the virus at bay.
Yesterday, Governor Tim Walz and Minnesota Department of Health Jan Malcolm released a new five-point plan to provide more robust support to our state’s long-term care facilities. The plan’s five points are: expanded testing for residents and workers; providing testing support and troubleshooting; getting needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to facilities; ensuring adequate staffing levels, and leveraging partnerships with local public health officials.
People of Color and Indigenous Caucus (POCI) Virtual Town Hall MeetingPOCI community members are invited to participate in a town hall this Sunday evening via Facebook. Questions or comments, please share on the page or e-mail your House POCI legislator. The Minnesota House DFL People of Color & Indigenous (POCI) Caucus includes Reps. Jamie Becker-Finn (42B), Aisha Gomez (62B), Hodan Hassan (62A), Kaohly Her (64A), Mary Kunesh-Podein (41B), Fue Lee (59A), Alice Mann (56B), Carlos Mariani (65B), Rena Moran (65A), Mohamud Noor (60B), Ruth Richardson (52B), Samantha Vang (40B), Jay Xiong (67B), and Tou Xiong (53B).
Youth Organizers from Southeast St. Paul CommunityI had a great conversation with youth organizers on Tuesday! I want to thank our Eastside young men and women from our Southeast Community Organization (District 1) for sharing with me their stories -- struggles with distant learning and the great work they are doing in East St. Paul. They give me so much hope and inspiration!
Keep in TouchPlease contact me anytime with questions, ideas, or input. Your feedback is valued and appreciated, as it helps shape my work for our eastside community at the Capitol.
I’m always happy to see how I can be of assistance.
Saturday, May 02, 2020
A warm thank you to everyone who attended and participated in our virtual town hall meeting on Wednesday. It’s clear Eastsiders are engaged, they care about each other, and they’re extremely dedicated in banding together to strengthen our neighborhoods. If you missed the event, you can watch a recap here. Please continue to reach out to us with additional questions or input.
May is AAPI MonthMay is nationally recognized as AAPI Month – a celebration of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. President Jimmy Carter signed legislation (Public Law 95-419) on October 5, 1978 to make annually the week of May encompassing May 7 and May 10 as Asian American history week, to commemorate the first arrival of Japanese Americans (May 7, 1843) and the completion of the Transcontinental Railroads respectively (May 10, 1869).
We stand on the shoulders of great ancestors, and that is why we have the privilege to exercise our rights and power today. For this month of May, we owe our thanks to Jeanie Jew, a former Capitol Hill staffer, who in the 1970s, upon observing the lack of recognition of Asian Americans in the Bicentennial celebration of 1976, approached US Rep. Frank Horton of New York to do something about this. Jew's great-grandfather, M.Y. Lee had come to America to help build the railroad. Like countless others, he labored to build bridges, span chasms, carve out caves, dig ditches, break rocks, flatten and move earth, dynamite away the hills and valleys of America to connect us by train coast to coast. Representative Horton and Senator Daniel Inouye worked hard to recognize the first week of May for Asian Americans in the legislative session of 1977.
As a state legislator, I thank Representative Horton and Senator Inouye for recognizing us. I honor and respect the pioneering leadership that Asian Americans before me such as Senator Inouye have modeled so that a generation later, a new Hmong son of refugee parents like myself can run for office in Minnesota.
COVID-19 Update from Gov. Walz:From building out critical hospital capacity to launching a landmark testing strategy, Minnesota has made meaningful progress in preparing for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Minnesotans have made this possible by staying home and holding down the rate of infection.
But now is not the time for sudden movements. There’s more work to be done. We need to keep this virus at a simmer, not a boil. We must prioritize the safety of Minnesotans while taking cautious, strategic steps toward getting people safely back to work.
Our Stay Home Order has been extended until May 18. While retail businesses can begin offering curbside pickup on Monday, we’re asking Minnesotans to continue to stay home, practice social distancing, and wear cloth masks as we turn the dial toward reopening society.
COVID-19 Update from the Legislature:This week the House and Senate DFL outlined our COVID-19 economic security agenda, focusing on the following priorities:
Caring for our CommunityI had the opportunity to volunteer with the Sanneh Foundation at the former Conway Rec Center on the Eastside today to distribute food to nearly 300 families. If anyone is in need, please reach out to me. I’d also like to give a shout out our Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Met Councilman Chai Lee for joining us. It was great to partner with the foundation and local leaders to give back to the Eastside community, especially during these times of great needs. I’m proud of Tony Sanneh and community partners for their commitment to our neighbors.
Keep in TouchPlease contact me with questions, ideas, or input at firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate hearing from you, so please never hesitate to let me know how I can be of assistance.
Wishing you a safe and happy weekend.