Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update
Last week we had floor sessions on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Monday and Wednesday were quick sessions with a non-controversial bill and motions to move bills from one committee to the next. Thursday evening we heard HF600, known as the preemption bill.
We debated the preemption bill from 3:30 -11:00 p.m. with a short recess so that the House Health & Human Services Committee could take up a controversial bill on licensing clinics that provide abortion services. Earlier in the day, the committee chair publicly announced that they would finish their work after session. But, GOP leadership decided not to announce the new time until 15 minutes before the committee was to reconvene. This is not a transparent way to do legislative business.
With the first deadline for the House policy committees coming up on March 10th, the pace of session has become more frantic. Committees are adding extra days and evenings and we are meeting for brief floor sessions frequently to move bills. Next week, we are expected to meet on the floor Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday.
Last Tuesday, Minnesota Management and Budget announced a forecasted budget surplus of $1.65 billion, which is $250 million higher than previous estimates. The February Economic Forecast revealed that Minnesota continues to have low unemployment and a stable budget. While the forecast showed a positive long term picture, uncertainty at the federal level could change that.
The budget surplus is an opportunity to reinvest in every Minnesotan in all corners of the state – through strong public schools, affordable college and job training, access to good jobs and benefits like paid leave and earned sick time, and addressing affordable health care access. With this opportunity also comes the responsibility to budget wisely to benefit the whole state.
For too long we have neglected our roads, bridges, and transit system. It has been three years since the legislature passed a robust bonding bill to invest in our infrastructure. It is time to push politics aside and put the needs of Minnesotans first. To stay competitive, it’s vital we reinvest in our priorities. I’m ready to continue working with Governor Dayton and my legislative colleagues to build a shared vision of economic prosperity for all Minnesotans. You can see more details of the budget forecast here.
Removing Local Control
On Thursday, the Minnesota House passed a bill that would preempt local governments from setting workplace policies (HF600). The bill is the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s top priority.
If enacted, it would prevent local communities from setting pro-worker policies such as earned sick leave, paid family leave, fair scheduling and a higher minimum wage among others. The bill would also roll back earned sick time for 150,000 Minnesotans, and prevent future wage and benefit increases in communities across the state.
Committee hearings on HF 600 drew strong criticism from a broad variety of Minnesotans including nurses, faith leaders, labor leaders, city officials, neighborhood groups and workers. Governor Dayton has said he will veto the legislation. During our six hour debate on the floor, there was a large group of protesters outside the doors of the House Chamber urging us to vote no. The bill passed 76-53. I voted no in committee and on the House floor. The bill is awaiting further action in the Senate.
My view from the top of the House Chamber steps of those gathered to rally against the bill.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, Rep. Erin Maye Quade and Rep. Peggy Flanagan joined me outside the chamber to acknowledge the crowd. –Pioneer Press photo credit
Student Essay Contest
Friday, Governor Dayton and Lt. Governor Smith announced a state-wide student essay contest as part of the Minnesota State Capitol Grand Opening events August 11-13. Students from across the state from grades 3-12 are invited to participate, in one of three separate age groups. The essay contest will ask students to consider either what their Capitol building means to them and to their fellow Minnesotans, or the gravity of the history that has already been made and is yet to be made in the Capitol building. One student from each age group will be selected to read their essay as part of the ribbon cutting ceremony the weekend of the Grand Opening (August 11-13, 2017), and will also be awarded $1000 for a college savings plan. You can find more details here.
With the first policy deadline on March 10th committees are beginning to meet late into the night every day of the week.
Last week, the Property Taxes & Local Government Division met both Monday and Wednesday morning. We heard a variety of bills dealing with property tax credits and classifications, homestead credits and tax exemptions among other bills. In the following weeks, we will be putting together a Property Tax Division report that will be rolled into the final Tax Bill.
The Transportation & Regional Governance Committee met Monday, Wednesday and Friday last week. We have heard a variety of transportation policy bills that are both controversial and non-controversial. However, the main focus of the committee has been on restructuring the Met Council and delaying/prohibiting the expansion and future construction of any light rail projects in Minnesota.
On Friday, we heard a larger bill that is being called the “Met Council Reform Omnibus Bill”. It increases the number of Met Council Members from 17-27 with the members being current elected officials from cities and counties serving “double-duty”. There were concerns voiced over conflict of interest in serving both at a local and then regional level. The bill also prohibits any expansion of light rail, including Southwest Light Rail and Bottineau, without specific legislative approval. And it, prohibits cities, counties and rail road authorities from even studying or planning a light rail line.
On Friday, we also heard a bill that would prohibit talking on a cell phone while driving unless a driver uses a hands free device (HF1180). A number of families who have lost loved ones due to reckless drivers using cell phones provided emotional testimony to the committee. The bill was passed unanimously and its next stop is the House Public Safety and Security Policy Committee.
The Government Operations and Elections Committee met Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday last week. While we did not meet into the evening last week, we are expected to this week. There were a large variety of bills heard that ranged from creating a variety taskforces to a allowing “I Voted” stickers to be mailed out with absentee ballots. We also laid over a bill for possible inclusion in the Elections Omnibus Bill to move the state primary to June. One of the more controversial bills was heard on Tuesday. It was a bill to remove the ability for cities to ban or tax plastic, paper or re-useable bags. It is also retroactive and prohibits the Minneapolis’s plastic bag ban from taking effect. It is just one more bill in a long line of bills remove local control from city councils and county boards.
Constituent and Organization Visits
This week, I met with constituents that were up at the Capitol with the Building Trades, Arts Advocacy Day, University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Dental Association. On Thursday morning, I joined hundreds of folks in St. Louis Park for the annual Children’s First Breakfast. It is a homegrown organization that helps to build assets in youth in the city. This year was their 25th Anniversary and you can learn more about the organization here.
I joined Mayor Jake Spano and St. Louis Park City Councilmember Steve Hallfin at their table
Later that afternoon, I attended a press conference with dozens of advocates and legislators to speak out against the preemption bill.
On Saturday, I met with a group of constituents at the Hopkins Public Library for one of my many Community Conversations. We had a great conversation on a variety of topics from the environment to education as well as Southwest Light Rail. I have one Community Conversation left before the End of the Session Town Hall. Please see details below.
St. Louis Park Schools Seeking Public Input
St. Louis Park Superintendent Rob Metz has announced that he will resign from his position and retire from public education at the end of this school year. The School Board is now searching for a new superintendent and has enlisted the assistance of School Exec Connect (SEC).
To begin the process, the School Board and SEC are seeking student, parent, staff and community input on the desired characteristics for the next superintendent of St. Louis Park Public Schools. March 14 and 15, the consultants will host individual meetings, focus groups and general community meetings to gather input. You are invited to attend any of these focus groups or fill out a survey online.
Community Leader Focus Groups:
Tuesday, March 14 at 10 a.m., High School Room C350
Wednesday, March 15 at 4 p.m., High School Room C350
Please park by and enter through the District Office.
Open Community Meetings:
Tuesday, March 14 from 7-8:30 p.m., High School Room C350
Wednesday, March 15 from 5-6:30 p.m., Aquila Elementary School Gymnasium
Complete and Online Survey:
Go to www.slpschools.org and click on the Superintendent Search news item for the survey link.
One More Community Conversation Remaining
I would like to thank all of those who have attended one of the ‘community conversations’ sessions that I have hosted from January through March. I have one more left before we swing into the last month and a half of session.
St. Louis Park Library Meeting Room, 3240 Library Lane, St. Louis Park MN 55426
Tuesday, March 14: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
This meeting may need to be canceled due to the fluid nature of the legislative session. Please stay tuned.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org is the best way to get in touch. If it is urgent, or you would like to schedule a meeting, please contact my office by phone at 651-296-9889.
Have a great week!