On Tuesday, Governor Walz released his two-year budget proposal for Minnesota. I am excited about the historic investments he committed to education, health care, safe and inclusive communities and transportation. His goals are very similar to what we are working here at the State Legislature, and I am optimistic that we will be able to make sure every child has a good teacher; make affordable health care a reality; expand access to affordable child care and housing; and improve the thousands of miles of roads and bridges that need repair.
This week, I joined my DFL and GOP colleagues with Majority Leader Ryan Winkler for a press conference to let all Minnesotans have the opportunity to attain a driver’s license. I met with some neighbors and the reality is this legislation will help improve the lives of many, from public safety to our economic vitality. As a son of refugee immigrants, as a leader from an underserved population, I am proud to fight for this legislation and share that it has broad statewide support from republicans, democrats, labor unions, law enforcement, and chambers of commerce.
Born and raised in public housing surrounded by poverty, drugs, and gang violence, I am proud to chief author HF 954 to keep kids out of trouble and prepare them for a strong future. This bill funds Big Brothers and Big Sisters – the oldest and largest mentoring program in MN. It helps kids facing adversity with strong, enduring relationships that help them beat the odds. The $1 million appropriation will provide workforce readiness, employment exploration, and skills development for youth ages 12 to 21.
I also wanted to share with you all that I proudly joined my colleagues in passing HF 13 – the Equal Rights Amendment out of the House Judiciary and Civil Law Division this week. This legislation is a proposed amendment to the United State Constitution designed to guarantee equal rights for all citizens regardless of gender. While Minnesota has already ratified the federal ERA, this bill would demonstrative our renewed commitment to ensuring equal protection for all genders under our state Constitution.
It is an honor to serve you at the Capitol. 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.
I want to thank all the Eastsiders who came to our town hall meeting this week, and everyone who has been engaged and active in the legislative session. We can’t lead without your input, and I appreciate each and every one of you that has taken the time to share your concerns, ideas and questions. At this week’s town hall we discussed housing, the opioid crisis, health care, cannabis legalization, drivers’ licenses for all, and how the legislature can continue to work to improve peoples’ lives. Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and Assistant Majority Leader Hodan Hassan joined me to talk about our Minnesota Values and making sure the legislature reflects those values.
Over 10 thousand commuters cross the Kellogg Bridge every day. Like all our infrastructure, people rely on it to get to work and to be part of the community, and it connects Eastsiders with downtown St. Paul. But all bridges need repairs. I’m excited to announce that I’ve introduced a bill to provide appropriate and much-needed funding to fix the bridge.
This week I met with representatives from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Chair of the Environment Committee, Rep. Rick Hansen, to discuss solutions to and the impact of the Pig’s Eye landfill – the committee will hold a legislative hearing this session on-site.
Sick and Safe Time
Yesterday in the Labor Committee we passed an earned sick and safe time bill, and I will keep you updated on the bill’s progress. I’m proud to work with chief author Rep. John Lesch to pass this legislation to allow Minnesotans the chance to take time off to care for loved ones when unexpected events get in the way of work schedules. People should be able to care for their families without sacrificing a paycheck, or fearing they won’t be able to afford the heating and medical bills.
Wednesday was “End Prohibition Cannabis Day on the Hill,” and I met with Rep. Mike Freiberg, Rep. Lien and activists who came from around the state to discuss efforts to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. I am a proud co-author of a bill (yes, bill number 420) that would legalize cannabis for people who are 21+ so we can begin to regulate, tax, and expunge the records of people who have been convicted of using marijuana.
I hope you’re having a great weekend. If you need anything, reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-296-4201.
Happy Saturday. There is a lot of important work happening at the Capitol this week.
Fighting for working people
In the wealthiest nation in the world, a person working full-time should not struggle to afford the basic things they need in life. We have a lot of work to do to ensure working people have opportunities to create a better life for themselves. This week we took steps in the legislature to make sure employers are not cheating workers of their earned wages – I proudly voted to advance the wage theft bill out of the Labor Committee.
We also passed a bill out of committee that provides funding for the workforce development nonprofit Helmets to Hardhats, which helps match veterans with apprenticeships, training, and good-paying jobs in the construction industry. As our state faces a record level of job vacancies, this program helps both small businesses and those who serve our nation by matching employers with the skilled workers they need to succeed.
The federal shutdown impacted thousands of employees in Minnesota. We are working to make sure we alleviate any financial stress Minnesotans face as a result of Washington’s inaction. I am proud to have voted for legislation to provide furloughed Minnesotans with interest-free loans to pass in the Labor Committee this week, and I am hopeful it will be signed into law.
Meeting with Constituents
This week I had the honor of meeting with Hmong farmers from the Eastside to hear about how we can support them in accessing capital, training, and affordable and long-term land near urban areas.
I also met with neighbors to talk about a measure to provide driver’s licenses to anyone who could pass the test and sufficiently prove their identity, without needing to show immigration status. This is a matter of social and economic justice. People should be able to fully participate in our economy and live productive lives without having their everyday driving habits criminalized. Several groups, including the Chamber of Commerce, have outlined their support for this bill. You can be assured of my strong advocacy for this proposal and I hope that this will be the year that we see it enacted into law.
Reminder: next Wednesday, February 13 from 6:30 - 8:00 pm I am co-hosting a town hall with Rep. Tim Mahoney and Sen. Foung Hawj. It will be at the Hope Community Academy, at 720 Payne Ave, St. Paul, MN.
I am also an author of Representative Long’s bill to move Minnesota to 100 percent clean energy by 2025, and was grateful to be able to meet with constituents this week about what that bill would mean for our environment and our community. The people most impacted by climate change are the ones who did the least to cause it. Each year, at least 2,000 people from the Twin Cities die early due to pollution. We can also create up to 50,000 new clean energy jobs with this bill. I'm proud to support this legislation for clean air, water and land.
On Tuesday I had the opportunity to attend the Minnesota Commanders’ Task Force event to support our veterans. We discussed actions the legislature can take to support our veterans. I am proud to be authoring several bills to address issues our veterans face.
Next Monday, February 11 from 6:30 – 8:30 pm, I will join the St. Paul District 1 Community Council at a community meeting about safety on McKnight Road. The meeting will be at the Battle Creek Recreation Center, 75 Winthrop St. S, St. Paul, and all are invited to attend! You can find more information on the Facebook event page here.
We’re working hard to advance measures to make our state work better for everyone. I firmly believe that all Minnesotans deserve access to great education, healthcare, housing and jobs.
Legislation to increase funding for English Language Learners was heard this week in a committee – the bill would significantly increase ELL funding for school districts across Minnesota. Students are not able to access the best education possible if they are experiencing language barriers, and data shows that students who have not fully mastered English have only a 40 percent chance of receiving a high school diploma. This program works, and it changes lives. You can read more about it here.
This week a bill was introduced to increase the number of Teachers of Color and Indigenous Teachers (TOCAIT). 34 percent of Minnesota’s students are children of color and American Indian, but only 4 percent of teachers in classrooms are TOCAIT. If passed, the legislation would expand existing pathways to teaching, strengthen efforts to retain effective teachers, and provide incentives to attract more students of color into the teaching profession with scholarships and student teaching grants to complete their preparation programs. We also introduced a bill to create a business development loan program for women of color,which I co-authored.
I voted this week in the Judiciary Committee to clarify the definition of sexual harassment. Current law says that sexual harassment needs to be severe or pervasive, which omits far too many serious cases of sexual harassment. The bill is now going to the House floor for a vote.
I am also the chief author of a bipartisan bill to provide career development funding for minority-based emergency medical service academies. I’m proud to author this bill to increase opportunities for people of color in a field that is already facing a labor shortage. It is a win-win for the fire departments, for people seeking a job in emergency medical services, and for our community.
If you have questions about any of the work we are doing, or want to offer your perspective, please do not hesitate to do so. You can reach me by email at email@example.com and by phone at 651-296- 4201.
State Representative – District 67B
I hope you have had a great week and are looking forward to the warmer temperatures this weekend. Here is a quick update on what I have been working on this week.
On Monday we held a press conference to discuss efforts to legalize the recreational use of cannabis. The bill would provide regulatory framework and would fund research studies of cannabis. It is time for Minnesota to follow the states that have been successful in legalizing, regulating and taxing marijuana and expunging the records of people who are being unnecessarily punished for using this substance.
Teachers who Represent Our Communities
While the percentage of students of color continues to increase, Minnesota has a consistent shortage of teachers of color and Indigenous teachers. Only 4.2 percent of all teachers in Minnesota are teachers of color. We know that this contributes to achievement and opportunity gaps. Our teachers should reflect the diversity of our state. This is why I support a bill to provide scholarships to qualified teachers of color with financial needs, to help achieve that goal.
I co-authored legislation this week to expand funding for English Language Learners (ELL) from $704 to $1,400 per student. Hmong being my native language, I know that language barriers can prevent students from participating in and advocating for their own education. As a proud graduate of St. Paul Public Schools and former educator, it is important for us to ensure all Minnesotans receive an excellent education because no child should be denied of a world class education.
I am also a co-author of a bill introduced this week to increase funding for African Economic Development Solutions (AEDS) which spurs economic development in African Immigrant communities. It provides technical assistance to small businesses, supporting entrepreneurs with training and workshops, issuing loans and fostering community development.
I also co-authored a bill to provide free public transit on Election Day, and another bill to increase voter assistance at the polls because I believe voting is a fundamental right. Our democracy depends on people being able to cast their ballot in favor of candidates who will represent their values and priorities. We should do everything in our power as legislators to make voting easier, not harder.
Gender-Based Violence Prevention
It is Gender-Based Violence Prevention week here at the Capitol. I am proud to be a co-author on legislation as we heard powerful testimony from family members of missing or murdered indigenous women on a bill to create a task force to end this heartbreaking epidemic. Similar bills have been introduced in past sessions, but have failed to pass under Republican control. If this bill were to pass, in addition to creating the taskforce, it would establish an annual report on the violence against indigenous women and girls.
Finally, the East Side has seen recent shootings take the lives of our neighbors and our loved ones. We should not sit idly by for even one unnecessary death, which is why I support common-sense gun violence prevention measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous and harmful people. H.F. 8 and H.F. 9 are good steps in the direction of keeping our community safe.
As always, if you want to talk about anything you can reach me at 651-296-4201 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also stop by my office in room 423 of the State Office Building.