Week Seventeen: May 3, 2019

  • All major budget bills have passed – ramping up for conference committees

    The Senate passed the 2019 Jobs, Energy, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Taxes, Transportation, and E12 bills this week. With their passage, all major budget bills have passed off both the House and Senate floors and are heading for conference committees. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman, and Governor Tim Walz agreed to provide conference committees with fiscal targets on May 6. Once the budget targets are established, negotiations between the very different budget bills will begin.

    Budget bills reflect the state’s values. While the Senate DFL tried to improve the budget bills to help families, farmers, businesses, and schools, it is disappointing that too often the Republican majority’s budgets prioritized corporations, the wealthy, and insurance companies over the people of Minnesota. Senate DFLers are particularly concerned the Senate budget grossly underfunds schools, transportation, health care, and Minnesota’s judicial system. There is also disappointment in the Republicans’ irresponsible use of shifts and gimmicks to achieve their budget numbers. This smoke-and-mirrors way to budget will result in future unsustainable budget deficits.

    High quality education gives all Minnesota students the opportunity to succeed. Every student, regardless of their race or zip code, deserves a good teacher and access to the materials they need to compete in today’s economy. The Senate Republican budget doesn’t even keep up with inflation and will effectively cut funding for Minnesota schools.

    Every Minnesotan deserves access to health care. Too many Minnesotans don’t have access to health care and prescription drugs they can afford. Senate Republicans are cutting child care assistance programs and reducing funds for the state’s most vulnerable – that’s just not right. The bill cuts $100 million from the child care assistance program, jeopardizes health care access for thousands, threatens the stability of the health care sector, and hurts the entire state budget. If this bill became law, thousands of families could be forced to leave the workforce, about 1,800 people would lose access to their PCA services, and more than 6,000 eligible people with disabilities could be denied waiver services.

    Working families deserve a chance to succeed. All Minnesotans should have the education and job training they need, paid leave programs to allow for life’s ups and downs, and fair workplace practices. The Senate Republican budget just doesn’t do enough to protect workers and help them succeed.

    As the Legislature goes through the conference committee process these last few weeks, Senate DFLers are hopeful the final budgets will be much, much better. There is still hope that the final bills will go a long way to strengthen communities across the state through honest investments to improve education opportunities, support Minnesota families, and increase economic prosperity across the state.

    Minnesotans care deeply about our state and want to see one another succeed. That requires affordable health care, both for all Minnesota families; world-class schools for Minnesota’s children; jobs that provide good wages and benefits to support all families; and safety at home, in school, at work, and in public spaces. The Senate DFL will work to bring these bills up to more reasonable funding levels to achieve just that.

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    Moms Demand Action & ProtectMN rally

    Minnesota Moms Demand Action, the ProtectMN Advocacy Fund, and several other advocates enthusiastically joined together in the Capitol rotunda this week to call for red flag laws and expanded criminal background checks in the state of Minnesota. Those who attended the rally shared personal stories of gun violence and vouched for the need of this new legislation in the 2019 Omnibus Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance Bill.

    Proposed legislation that those at the rally supported includes universal background checks which would update the background check process to include all gun purchases. It would also allow law enforcement officers to seek Extreme Risk Protection Orders through red flag laws, which temporarily removes firearms from a person who may present a danger to themselves or others.

    Senators Susan Kent and Matt Little held a Twitter town hall with Representative Halverson this week on the importance of paid family and medical leave. Read a collection of the town hall here.

  • Senate passes insufficient education funding bill

    The Senate passed its $211 million E-12 budget after six hours of debate this week. The bill provides a slim half-percent increase on the per student funding allowance, the main funding driver for Minnesota schools.

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    Controversial health and human services omnibus budget bill passes the Senate floor

    The omnibus health and human services budget bill passed off the Senate floor this week, despite the serious concerns of Senate DFLers. The budget makes several unnecessary and devastating cuts to programs that will hurt children, families, and people with disabilities, and it shifts hundreds of millions of dollars out of the general fund and away from other urgent budget priorities in order to allow the provider tax to sunset at the end of this year- a significant priority for Senate Republicans.

    Parent petition for reestablishment passes off Senate floor

    Legislation to allow a parent whose parental rights have been terminated to petition the court to reestablish a legal parent and child relationship passed off the Senate floor this week. The law is only available for non-egregious harm cases, and the parent must demonstrate that it is in the best interest of the child for a person’s parental rights to be reestablished. The bill puts power back in the hands of parents – not just county attorneys.

    The race to give Argosy University students some relief

    Emergency legislation was heard this week that would provide relief for students effected by the sudden closure of Argosy University in Eagan in March 2019. Argosy, a for-profit chain, has been closing dozens of campuses across the nation due to financial complications, leaving hundreds of students, faculty, and state education officials to struggle to pick up the pieces.

    Senate jobs, energy, and commerce bill passes

    The Senate passed the omnibus jobs, energy, and commerce bill on a 43 – 24 vote this week. The jobs section of the proposal includes some investments in equity programs, provides additional resources for vocational rehabilitative services, and increases the penalties for labor trafficking.

    Marital rape exemption repealed

    Minnesota currently has on its books a defense for criminal sexual conduct, including rape, if the victim was married to or in an ongoing voluntary sexual relationship.

    DFLers attempt to deliver more tax relief; Republicans refuse

    Tax bills typically present many good items and important bipartisan changes that are widely agreed to, and that is the case once again this year. The Senate Republican tax bill contained a number of bipartisan proposals, but it also hinged on several very expensive, narrowly focused tax giveaways that Senate DFLers were not comfortable supporting.

    Senate omnibus transportation budget bill passes

    The Senate passed a meager funding package for Minnesota’s transportation system this week, which is the fifth largest in the country. The bill provides no additional revenue for our roads, bridges, or transit even though significant additional investments will be necessary in the coming decades.