From Rep. Esther Agbaje <[email protected]>
Subject Legislative Update: What happened, what didn't, and what's next
Date July 5, 2022 10:08 PM
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Esther Header

Dear Neighbors,

I hope everyone is enjoying the summer weather and finding time to rest and reconnect with the community.

On the legislative front, It?s been announced there will be no special session. I?m extremely frustrated. It's our job to invest in our communities and improve our state. The Senate GOP walking away from that job, and from their budget deal with House leadership, is a slap in the face to Minnesotans. I didn?t realize that the values of working families- affordable housing, accessible healthcare, transportation, fully funded public education- were able to be ignored to this degree.

Despite the Senate GOP walking away from the job, I am so grateful for all of the volunteers, advocates, experts, and staff that work tirelessly, crafting and organizing around important legislation. It?s important that we have a legislature willing to do the work.

*What We Accomplished*

Though there is much left to do, I?d still like to highlight a few wins from this year. We were able pass legislation that:

* Gave bonuses of around $750 to hundreds of thousands of frontline workers who did not have the option to work from home during the pandemic.?
* Distributed unprecedented funding to address the opioid crisis.
* Reduced the cost of health insurance for Minnesotans who use the individual market.
* Passed a sweeping package of mental health investments and improvements for Minnesotans? mental health to increase hospital bed capacity, attract new mental health care professionals, and expand the use of mobile crisis units.
* Made the largest investment in high-speed broadband internet in state history, helping to connect students to classrooms, businesses to customers, and senior citizens to tele-health services.?
* Funded public health infrastructure to keep people healthy and safe as the COVID-19 pandemic evolves.
* Protected and supported veterans and Gold Star families.
* Replenished funding for Minnesota?s Unemployment Insurance Program while keeping businesses? unemployment insurance tax rates flat.
* Extended the COVID-19 worker?s comp presumption for first responders, including fire fighters, police officers, paramedics, and more.
* Modernized state liquor laws to support Minnesota?s breweries and distilleries.?
* Funded nation-leading ALS research.
* Provided financial relief to farmers impacted by the 2021 drought and delivered resources to control and contain the avian influenza outbreak.
* Divested the state?s pension fund from Russian and Belarusian assets.
* Moved further towards cannabis legalization by allowing 5mg THC edibles.

*What Republicans Blocked*

We have more work to do to build a Minnesota where everyone can thrive. I will continue to advocate for:?

* Affordable and accessible healthcare, including mental health and disability services.
* Affordable and accessible housing and fair renter protection.
* 100 percent clean energy.
* Supporting our students and teachers with the investment they need.
* Fully funding the Special Education and English Learner programs.
* Public safety for everyone by enacting meaningful safety and police accountability measures, including a ban on no-knock warrants.
* Paid family and medical leave and earned sick and safe time. Further worker protections so companies like Amazon can?t harm their workers.?
* Unemployment Insurance expansion for school workers.
* Corporations paying their fair share in taxes so we can invest in kids, families, and communities.
* Legalizing and safely regulating cannabis in an equitable manner.


*Urgency to Address Gun Violence*

The Fourth of July brought forward numerous mass shootings this year, including one close to home, Boom Island [ [link removed] ]. What?s supposed to be a celebratory experience for families in our communities left families broken and traumatized. I?ve heard from so many of you on this issue - that we need to move swiftly on gun regulation to save more lives. We, as a nation, deserve better [ [link removed] ].?

More people were shot and killed in America over the weekend than are killed by guns in Japan and the UK combined during an average year. It?s not video games, lack of prayer, or anything else that caused it. It?s guns. It?s always guns.

It?s time that dissenters on the other side of the aisle develop the political courage to ban assault rifles, close loopholes that allow people access without background checks, and encourage safety in our communities with red flag laws. I?m constantly inspired by the incredible leaders within Moms Demand Action [ [link removed] ], and I will continue to fight with them for a better, safer world for our kids.?


Bonuses Apply Now

*July 22**nd** Deadline to Apply for Frontline Worker Bonus*

Workers who were on the frontline of the pandemic have a few more weeks to apply [ [link removed] ] for a bonus. Money set aside for this program will be split equally among all approved applicants. Minnesotans are very appreciative of those who put themselves in harm?s way and encourage workers to apply if eligible and to spread the word to friends and family. Note: Those who both live and work in Minnesota are eligible.


*The Fight to Protect Reproductive Rights*

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling which struck down constitutional protection of abortion rights under "Roe v. Wade".

Forced birth is not pro-life. For the first time ever, our next generation will have less rights than we did. People deserve to keep their healthcare decisions between them and their provider. Minnesota now has responsibility, as the only state in the region that guarantees reproductive rights, to care for people whose state has failed them. We need to fight back against extremism and protect reproductive rights, for the future of our society. It?s been devastating, but I feel lucky to have a seat at the table to protect the rights we have here in Minnesota.

As part of the Reproductive Freedom Caucus, I support the Minnesota After Roe Agenda, which seeks to: 1.) Repeal outdated abortion restrictions in Minnesota; 2.) Protect abortion providers and patients; and 3.) Ensure equitable and affordable access for all. More details here [ [link removed] ].



*Governor Walz Takes Executive Action to Protect Reproductive Health Care in Minnesota?*

It?s good to have a pro-choice governor. Governor Tim Walz took executive action after the Supreme Court decision to protect reproductive health care services in Minnesota. Executive Order 22-16 will help protect people seeking or providing abortions in Minnesota from laws in other states.??

*?My office has been and will continue to be a firewall against legislation that would reverse reproductive freedom,? *said Governor Walz.* ?This order shows our administration?s commitment to protecting patients and health care providers. Our administration is doing everything we can to protect individuals? right to make their own health care decisions.?*

To the maximum extent permitted under the United States and Minnesota Constitutions and Minnesota law, the Governor will decline to honor requests to extradite individuals who are accused of committing acts related to reproductive health care that are not criminal offenses in Minnesota.

Executive Order 22-16 also orders state agencies to work to protect Minnesotans providing, seeking, or obtaining lawful reproductive health care services to the fullest extent of their lawful authority. Except when required to do so by law, state agencies must not assist other states in attempts to seek civil, criminal, or professional sanctions against anyone who provides, seeks, or obtains health care services that are legal in Minnesota.??

Executive Order 22-16 is effective immediately.


*Minnesota Extends Medicaid Coverage to 12 Months after Giving Birth*

Many new health problems can arise after giving birth, and our healthcare system is not set up to support new parents. In a time where we?re not yet able to pass Paid Family & Medical Leave, great news came with this decision from the Governor.

Minnesotans who qualify for Medicaid because of pregnancy can now maintain the coverage a year after delivery ? a significant extension from the previous postpartum coverage that ended at 60 days. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced the change on Thursday for Minnesota, Maine, New Mexico and the District of Columbia. As many as 7,000 more Minnesotans will have Medicaid coverage each year as a result, the federal government estimates.

*"Every child in Minnesota deserves a healthy start, and that begins with the health of the mother," *Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan said Thursday during a news conference with Vice President Kamala Harris.

For more information, read the Star Tribune article here. [ [link removed] ]



I was happy to celebrate Juneteenth with our community last month. Juneteenth is a day to reflect on the legacy of slavery and anti-Black racism in our country, as well as a day of action and change-making. A century after emancipation, our Black communities still face tremendous barriers. We?re still working to dismantle racist systems and continue to pursue policies that support equitable education, healthcare, housing, and environmental justice. Addressing harmful disparities is important for the success of everyone in our community.

This is another area where the Senate wouldn?t agree on good legislation. My colleague and Chair of the Education Policy Committee, Rep. Ruth Richardson, authored a bill to make Juneteenth a paid state holiday. Senator Kiffmeyer blocked this legislation in conference committee; here?s a clip. [ [link removed] ] Other states have agreed on legislation like this in a bipartisan manner, shown by the map below.


*Looking for Applicants: DHS Cultural Leadership Council*

The Department of Human Services? Cultural and Ethnic Communities Leadership Council was created several sessions ago to allow BIPOC individuals to be in direct communication with the Commissioner of DHS. This is an important group who are able to raise their voices and address systemic disparities within our state institutions.?

The following council positions are currently accepting applications:

* Members representing diverse cultural and ethnic communities
* Members representing the American Indian community
* A member who is a Department of Human Services employee

Applying for council membership is a three-step process. To assure consideration, interested applicants should first complete an electronic application through the Minnesota Secretary of State?s Boards and Commissions website [ [link removed] ] by end of day *"July 15, 2022"*. After you submit the electronic application, the Community Relations team will email a supplemental questionnaire which must be completed and returned by *"July 18, 2022"* to guarantee consideration for council membership. A panel will review applications, and select finalists for a brief interview. Recommendations will then be sent to the Commissioner of Human Services for appointment. The first CECLC meeting for newly appointed members will be October 21, 2022

For more information visit the CECLC webpage [ [link removed] ].??

For any questions on the CECLC or the application process, please contact Nicole Juan, [email protected]


*COVID-19 Update*

Every home in the U.S. is now eligible to order a third round of free at-home COVID-19 tests. Click here [ [link removed] ] to place your order.? You can also call 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489).? Also, a reminder Americans over 50 and those 12 years and older who are immunocompromised can receive a second COVID-19 booster shot. More COVID-19 updates are available through the Minnesota Department of Health website [ [link removed] ], or the U of M Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP [ [link removed] ]).


*Keep In Touch*

What are your thoughts on the news that we won?t be able to have a special session? I would love to hear from you. You can always reach me at [email protected]. Also please take a moment to follow me on Facebook [ [link removed] ] and Twitter [ [link removed] ] for more frequent news. Thank you for your attention to this e-update, stay cool out there.



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