Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update
We met last Monday and Thursday on the House Floor to hear a few bills. Thursday’s bills dealt with energy policy and were a little more controversial. I voted no on all three with hope that they will come back from the Senate or conference committee in much better shape. For this week, we are scheduled to have floor session early on Monday and Wednesday.
Cooling Tower Registry Bill Introduced
Last Thursday, I introduced a bill (HF1042) that would require businesses that have cooling towers to register with the Minnesota Department of Health. The bill is one that I have been working on since September after Hopkins experienced a Legionnaires outbreak in which twenty-four people became ill and one died. The outbreak was traced by the Minnesota Department of Health, with support from the Centers for Disease Control, to a cooling tower located in Hopkins. While quick action by the Department of Health found that the likely dispersal site was a cooling tower, it took weeks to find the exact source. Investigators struggled to find the cooling towers and ended up relying on city staff’s memory, tips called in and the satellite feature on Google maps.
It is my hope that if there is another outbreak that leads investigators to a cooling tower, it will not take as long to find the exact one. When it comes to public health, time is of the essence to ensure fewer Minnesotans are effected and to perhaps to save a life.
On Thursday, I walked through the press room at the Capitol and spoke to a few reporters who covered the outbreak in September. Now, I just have to convince the GOP majority that the bill merits a hearing. With the push back I have received by the industry that manufactures cooling towers, I am concerned the bill will not have an opportunity to be presented to committee members, nor to have the public share their input.
Preemption in Committee
Last week, the House Government Operations & Elections Committee heard a Republican “preemption” bill (HF 600) that would stop local communities from setting their own policies for workers. It passed on a party-line vote with all the GOP voting in favor and the DFL voting in opposition. This bill would prevent communities from implementing pro-worker policies such as sick leave, family leave, or a higher minimum wage. This legislation will even roll back sick time for hundreds of thousands of people working in the Twin Cities. This is exactly the type of divisive, anti-worker legislation we’ve seen around the country. Minnesotans know they deserve a fair shake and this isn’t it.
In 2014, when we had House and Senate DFL majorities, we were able to raise the statewide minimum wage. One of the arguments, at the time, from the MN Chamber of Commerce was that an increase in minimum wage should be up to local control of cities and businesses. Since then, the DFL has tried to put policies in place statewide, such as earned sick leave and family but have heard the same argument. This is why it’s unusual that the Minnesota Chamber is now arguing that we need a statewide bill to prevent local units of government from creating individual ordinances.
Governor Dayton’s Cybersecurity
On an almost daily basis, we’re hearing reports of security breaches into companies, governments, and into the lives of individuals, resulting in private information being revealed. Security experts have said state government is subjected to millions of cyberattacks every day in attempts to illegally access secure information. Governor Dayton recently unveiled his cyber security priorities by investing $125 million to reform and update our information technology infrastructure.
The governor’s proposal will build strong cybersecurity defenses by updating systems to safeguard Minnesotans’ private data. The proposal also makes investments required to convert or upgrade digital infrastructure to ensure state government operates efficiently and is up to speed with the needs of today and tomorrow.
I’m supporting Governor Dayton’s proposals to bring the State of Minnesota into the digital age. We should use all methods available to protect our citizens and institutions against illegal access by those who want to disrupt our state government. To read more about the governor’s proposal, go here.
Last Monday and Wednesday the Transportation & Regional Governance Committee met. Monday’s agenda had three relatively non-controversial bills. Wednesday we listened to discussion of transportation systems from U of M and CATO Institute speakers. While the U of M professor talked about how to find efficiencies in our road and transit system, the gentlemen from the CATO institute focused on what he saw as inefficiencies in transit systems. I was disappointed in the lack of balance in the information in addition to the misinformation that was presented.
Property Taxes & Local Government Committee met Wednesday morning to take up four bills. They focused on changes to property tax classification, exemptions and reductions. Most of the bills in this committee are laid over for possible inclusion in the division report which is eventually combined with the Tax Omnibus bill.
Government Operations & Elections met Tuesday and Wednesday to hear a total of five bills, four of which were controversial. One dealt with businesses that receive State contracts not being allowed to boycott Israel. Two dealt with concepts around redistricting; one that left it in the legislature’s hands and one that created a separate committee appointed by the Supreme Court. And last Wednesday, we heard HF 600, the preemption bill that I spoke of above.
Constituent and Organization Visits
I met with CPA constituents at the Capitol, as well as constituents from the Second Chance Coalition. The Second Chance Coalition focuses on issues surrounding re-entry into public life post incarceration. I also met with a good friend, and constituent, who was at the Capitol to discuss the issue of surrogacy. There was a press conference that day regarding proposed legislation that sets some standards around surrogacy contracts in Minnesota.
Constituent Kirsten Eickenberg of Hopkins advocating for SF 707
On Friday I visited Kid Zone, an early childhood center in St. Louis Park. I read the children a book, was given an informative tour and had lunch with a group of four-year-olds. It was a lot of fun! On Saturday I met with a group of constituents at my third “Community Conversation” of the year. Thank you so much for the conversation and insights.
Community Conversation Dates
Below are also the future dates for my individual “Community Conversations”. There will be coffee provided at the Saturday morning meetings.
Hopkins Library Meeting Room, 22 11th Avenue North, Hopkins MN 55343
Tuesday, February 21: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 4: 10:30 a.m.-NOON
St. Louis Park Library Meeting Room, 3240 Library Lane, St. Louis Park MN 55426
Saturday, March 14: 6:30 p.m.-8:00 p.m.
As always, please feel free to contact me with questions and issues. E-mail at email@example.com 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!