Hello Neighbors

I have the honor of being appointed to the Transportation Conference Committee. Next week, each conference committee will review the House and the Senate bills and work to find an agreement that will finalize the state's budget for the next two years. All hearings are open to the public. To view the combined schedule and to find out where to view the online streaming, click here. 


On the Senate Floor 

This week the Senate debated and voted on several omnibus bills. I value the work of my colleagues and aim to vote for legislation that is equitable and that encompasses the values of Minnesotans.  

State Government & Elections: This bill includes unnecessary budget cuts to state agencies. Budget cuts to the Public Employee Retirement Association (PERA) also violates a decades-long agreement to ensure retirees’ pensions remain solvent. This bill failed to support the work and the people that provide essential services to our state. When it comes to elections, Minnesotans are proud that we had the highest voter turnout in the 2020 election. This bill aims to limit accessible voting instead. Minnesota should engage more voters and provide sufficient resources to our local election officials. Trust and investment in our democracy is essential. I did not vote in support of this bill because it moves our state backwards.  

Deficiency Funding: The Department of Public Safety (DPS) did not have the funds to cover all payroll for the State Patrol and the Department of Natural Resources. The state’s coordinated response and financial preparation for the trial of Derek Chauvin began earlier than anticipated due to the tragic events in Brooklyn Center. This bill provides a total of $7.8 million through DPS. $1.5 million to the Interstate Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) and $6.3 million for state trooper expenses. I voted yes for this bill to ensure the services and employment of law enforcement continued across Minnesota. 

The original estimates in this bill assumed a two-week period of additional staff, but with the rapid scaling down following the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial, not all of these funds may be needed. A report on all expenses paid from these appropriations must be sent to the Legislature by September 15, 2021. 

Tax Bill: Minnesota's workers and families were not prioritized in the Senate Tax omnibus bill. Of the total investments in the bill, $600 million are directed at businesses while just $54 million benefit individual Minnesotans. Earlier this session I proudly voted for federal tax conformity for businesses that received Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Yet the Senate Tax bill does not fully conform to the federal tax subtraction for Minnesotans who needed unemployment benefits.The bill includes $100 million in property tax cuts for business and cabin property and nothing for homeowners or renters. The Senate Majority also failed again to incorporate other federal tax conformity which adds to taxpayer confusion and potentially higher tax obligations. I voted nay on this bill because it left out working families and Minnesotans recovering from job loss and income insecurity. I am optimistic the final tax budget bill that is agreed upon in conference committee will be more beneficial to Minnesota families. 

Human Services Reform: The Senate passed the Human Services Reform omnibus budget bill this week on a bipartisan vote. The bill increased Personal Care Assistance (PCA) rates and other home care rates. New grants are focused on self-advocacy and inclusion for people with disabilities. Several provisions are added to support child care providers. This bill also includes my Family First Prevention Services Act. It's a wide ranging piece of legislation that deals with the family foster care system. The hope for creating a robust prevention services system is it will keep children safely at home, cutting down on the many costly impacts that removing a child from their home and placing them into foster care has on the children, their families, and our society as a whole. 

I remain concerned how this bill uses federal funds despite no clear guidance yet on how federal funding can be used. I voted in support of this bill due to the inclusions of funding for programs related to mental health and substance use disorder. 

Health & Human Services: The Senate Health and Human Services omnibus bill doesn’t do enough to support Minnesotans' health and well-being. The Senate Majority gave this bill zero dollars to spend. With a budget surplus, there is no excuse not to invest in health care access. This bill doesn’t give any additional resources to the emergency services program during a time where we don't have sufficient shelter capacity. We are in the midst of a homeless crisis across the state and we should expand access to shelters. This bill lacks any effort to address the cost of prescription drugs, health care, food support, or child care. Taking needed funds from one essential program, like placing a cap on disability waiver payments, to move it to other programs is irresponsible budget management. I did not vote in support of this bill because limiting ongoing investments and reducing health and human services spending only creates more barriers and more waitlists for our loved ones and neighbors to receive care. 

State and County Vaccine Sites

Minnesotans can visit the Vaccine Connector to directly schedule appointments at Community Vaccination locations around the state. If all appointments are full, Minnesotans can also sign up to be informed when they are able to book a Community Vaccination Program appointment and be notified about other vaccination opportunities near them.

In Dakota County, sign up for a vaccination appointment by clicking here. More information about Dakota County’s response to COVID-19 is available here.

Washington County Public Health & Environment is hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics for eligible individuals who live or work in Washington County. Click here to view appointment availability. 


Resources & What's Happening in the District 

New Rental Assistance Program: A new rental assistance program, RentHelpMN, has opened for applications, making it possible for low- and moderate-income renters to get caught up on overdue rent and utilities dating back to March 13, 2020.

Hastings Rivertown Days: The Rivertown Days committee is excited to move forward with preparations for the 2021 Hastings Rivertown Days event! They are working through several scenarios to produce a safe and successful event. Please mark your calendar for July 16 – 18th, 2021! Additional information will be released soon! To stay up to date, visit www.hastingsmn.org or follow the Hastings Chamber on Facebook. 

It’s an honor to represent you at the Capitol. Thank you!

State Senator Karla Bigham

Senate District 54