Comments on the removal of the Refinery Safety Amendment in the Finance Committee after receiving 50 "yea" votes on the Senate floor.


A weekly message from your Senator

Dear Constituents and Friends,

We are amid a Special Session at the Capitol to settle budget negotiations. With the looming government shutdown, I continue to work with my colleagues to reach agreements. The Senate Finance Committee has had the most action out of all committees during Special Session. Each bill must pass through the committee to assess funding and review spending before heading to the floor. We have met almost every day since the beginning of the Special Session on June 16th, where we tackle budget bills. I will go into detail about some of the budget bills below and the status of the bills. To stop the government from shutting down, we need to pass our budget bills by July 1st. Each day that we wait to finish budget bills, the state of Minnesota spends more money preparing for the potential shutdown. Government employees have received their layoff notices, and nobody wants to see that. I have heard stories about people not being able to refinance their home or purchase a home because they have a layoff notice. The Minnesota Senate has efficiently passed bills through our chamber while the House minority continues to stall the process in the House. It is unacceptable, Minnesotans expect us to get our work done efficiently, and we are still here waiting.



My provisions in the budget bills:

Parenting with Disabilities Pilot

I am proud to announce that the language for my parenting with disabilities pilot was included in the final Health and Human Services budget bill. I am thankful for Nikki and Daryl, parents with disabilities who have been great advocates for the needs of parents who live with disabilities.

Pilot program:

  • The commissioner of human services shall study the feasibility of developing and providing supportive parenting services and providing adaptive parenting equipment to parents with disabilities and disabling conditions.
  • This pilot project will receive $1,000,000 in fiscal year 2024 to implement the parenting with disability pilot project.
The Minnesota Council on Disability presented me with an award for being a champion for Minnesotans with Disabilities. I have enjoyed my time working on the Human Services Reform Committee and working to improve the life of Disabled Minnesotans.


Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights

I am also pleased to see the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights included in the Commerce and Consumer Protection budget. I chief authored this bill in past years and this year it was included in the final Commerce bill. As the minority lead for the committee, it is always positive to see impactful legislation that I worked on make it to the governor’s desk.

Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights:

  • Requires timely responses to borrowers’ written communication
  • Requires servicers to apply overpayments as instructed by the borrower
  • Requires servicers to apply partial payments in a way that minimizes late fees and the negative impact on the borrower’s credit history
  • Requires servicers to evaluate borrowers for income-driven repayment program eligibility before placing them in forbearance or default
  • Prohibits servicers from engaging in unfair or deceptive practices; from attempting to mislead a borrower; from knowingly misapplying payments; from providing inaccurate information to a consumer reporting agency
  • Allows the Commerce Commissioner to examine student loan servicers as necessary and take action against a licensee, including barring a person from servicing loans
  • Applied student loan contracts executed on or after Aug. 1, 2021

Here is a clip of me explaining the importance of the Student Loan Borrowers Bill of Rights

Bills that have been presented to the Governor:

  • Legacy
  • Agriculture
  • Higher Education
  • Commerce and Energy
  • Transportation

Legacy Budget Bill

An agreement reached among the Legacy Finance Committee leadership brought the bill one step closer to becoming law this week. If passed, the legislation would appropriate funds from the four ‘legacy’ funds that were established by Constitutional Amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008. The four funds:

  • the Outdoor Heritage Fund,
  • the Clean Water Fund,
  • the Parks and Trails Fund,
  • and the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund

These were established to provide ongoing support to projects across the state that protect and enhance water quality, provide access to the arts, preserve Minnesota’s rich history and cultural heritage, and maintain our parks and trails.

Agriculture Budget Bill

We will continue to fight for Minnesota’s farmers, here are some of the provision included in the agriculture bill:

  • Increase the budget target for agriculture,
  • Allows us to invest in mental health resources for farmers
  • Biofuels funding
  • Emerging farmers funding
  • Urban agriculture funding
  • working to secure $70 million for border-to-border broadband investments.

The bill moved forward this week and Senate DFLers will continue to fight for Minnesota’s farmers as we head into negotiations and work to pass a budget during special session.

Higher Education Budget Bill

The working group agreement target of $100 million provides funding to the University of Minnesota and MinnState systems, the state grant program, Hunger Free Campus appropriation, money to recruit more students of color into teaching, and a new program to provide higher education opportunities for children who have been in foster care. 

Other highlights include:

  • Increased state grant funds will help more students.
  • Th Assigned Family Responsibility (AFR) and Living and Miscellaneous Expenses (LME) percentages changes will also provide additional state grants dollars to more students and result in higher grant awards for low-income students and their families.
    • These changes will have the following impact:
      • 2,782 new student grant recipients
      • Average grant increase: $87
      • 46% of new students will be from families with incomes below $40,000
      • Average grant for these students: $67
    • MinnState cannot increase tuition by more than 3.5% in the next two academic years. MinnState administration has agreed to this provision.
    • College Possible program will receive increased funding to expand its reach in Minnesota.
    • Z-degree textbook program gets a boost to help students afford college educational materials.
    • A new grant program will provide funds for foster care students to afford college tuition.
    • Hunger Free Campus designation and grant programs will help students who face emergencies stay on track and in college.
    • Two grant programs and a new scholarship program will help bring more students of color into teacher prep programs and Minnesota classrooms.


Commerce and Energy Budget Bill


The bill also provides the Department of Commerce authority to

  • Enforce current laws surrounding children’s toys containing toxic chemicals. Currently, the Department receives many complaints about this matter but has no real authority to enforce corrective action.
  • There also will be a new Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Pilot Program in Minnesota, providing funding to targeted areas to mark cars’ catalytic converters with unique identification numbers to deter thieves.


The general fund appropriations included that provide funding for projects such as

  • Closed captioning services for legislative coverage
  • Settling a state obligation that will allow solar to be placed on the closed Anoka-Ramsey Landfill,
  • Establishing an Energy Transition Office to support communities and workers impacted by closed energy facilities, and establishing the Natural Gas Innovation Act
  • Spending from the Renewable Development Account for projects that promote the startup, expansion,
  • Attraction of renewable energy projects and companies. Because these projects are supposed to be located within Xcel Energy service territory,
Included among these projects:

  • Funding for solar projects at schools and state colleges and universities. Forty percent of the funding for schools located within Xcel Energy service territory is prioritized for those schools that provide free and reduced-price lunch for 50% or more of their students
  • A pilot project in North Minneapolis that would establish a clean energy career training center to provide training pathways into the clean energy job sector for students and young adults in underserved communities
  • A revolving loan account for conservation improvements to state-owned buildings
  • Two studies: one to examine the environmental impacts of certain construction materials and the economic feasibility of prioritizing their use in state buildings, and one that generates weather model projections for the entire state for agricultural purposes
  • Research funding for the University of St. Thomas for expanding microgrid testing and hands-on educational opportunities to university students and students of partnering community colleges
  • Funding for the University of Minnesota for research and development of energy storage systems that utilize ammonia from renewable energy sources and other sources of clean energy 
  • Including an extension of the Cold Weather Rule period by several weeks, to cover October 1 through April 30,
  • Framework known as the Minnesota efficient technology accelerator that would enable certain nonprofits to work with businesses and utilities to accelerate the adoption of emerging efficient technologies.



Transportation Budget Bill

  • Bus Rapid Transit Funding: The agreement provides significant funds ($57.5 million) for arterial bus rapid transit (BRT). Neither the House nor the Senate proposals had any additional investments in BRT.
  • All DPS drivers testing sites to remain open: The agreement requires all driver exam stations that closed in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic to remain open through the next biennium. 
  • Transportation earmarks also provided in the letter, including the US Highway 10 study in St. Cloud, 99th Ave and TH 65 in Blaine, and I-694 Washington County bridge.
  •  Proposed House investments in electric vehicle public infrastructure ($2.8 million) to provide charging stations is omitted from the bill, likely in exchange for no fee increases on EV and hybrid drivers as proposed in the senate bill. The senate transportation bill had proposed a $229 EV surcharge and a new $114 hybrid vehicle surcharge.


Education Budget Bill

  • 1.2 billion into classrooms
  • It’s 2.45%+2% on the formula – this 2.45 is the largest increase in 15 years  -- (increase the per-pupil funding formula that supports school districts)
  • $15 million for the increase Teachers of Color act
  • Educational Excellence (One-time funded is noted)
  • Children’s Museums: $300,000 (FY22-23; one-time) including the Works Museum in Bloomington
  • Digital Well-Being Grant: $1 million (FY22-23; one-time); funding for the LiveMore Screen Less organization to create a resource hub on to promote digital well-being, coordinate with other organizations and create train-the trainer and peer- to peer training programs; 

    • Girls in Action:  $1.5 million (FY22-23; one-time);
    • Math Corps: $1 million (FY22-23; one-time)
    • MN Civics Education Coalition: 150,000 (FY22-23; one-time)
    • MN Youth Council: $375,000 (FY22-23; one-time)
    • Sanneh Foundation: $3 million (FY22-23; one-time)
    • Right Size College Entrance Exam Reimbursement: $1 million (FY22-23; ongoing)
    • Statewide Testing Reduction $2.4 million (FY22-23; one-time)
    •   Suicide Prevention Teacher Training grants: $265,000 (FY22-23; one-time)
    • Seizure training and action plan. Requires a school district or charter school where a student with a seizure disorder and prescribed seizure medication is enrolled to have a seizure action plan. Training requirements. Requires a school district or charter school to provide all licensed school nurses or other designated individuals, and other staff with self-study materials on seizure disorders

State Government Budget Bill

State government

  • Does not include the voter ID and provisional ballot system
  • No proposals to expand voter access and felon voting
  • Market Bucks included: $650,000 for the biennium is appropriated to the Minnesota Humanities Center for the Market Bucks program.
  • Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes: The bill defines drop boxes for absentee ballots and requires drop boxes to be securely fastened to a building, under continuous surveillance, and collected at least once per day during the absentee voting period.
  • Compromise language regarding veterans restorative justice has been included in the final agreement as well as over $30 million next biennium for programming expansion at the Department of Veterans Affairs.


Environment Budget Bill

Some of the position items that were picked up in negotiations include:

  • Funding for equipment for PCA air quality program
  • PFAS banned in food packaging
  • Operating increases for the agencies
  • Increased tree planting for carbon sequestration, and language that ties carbon sequestration efforts to climate change mitigation
  • Clean ENRTF appropriations, including funding for pollinator projects
  • BWSR’s statewide water quality and storage program funding
  • PCA policy changes - Methods to Protect or Restore Land, Water, and Habitat $4.337 million Land Acquisition, Habitat, and Recreation $29.901 million Wastewater Renewable Energy Demonstration Grants $1.095 million Contract Agreement Reimbursement $135,000 TOTAL $61.387 million 8 Controversial provisions that were left in:
  • Manure spreading restrictions repeal
  • Appeal of determination of OHWLs
  • Green Tier Program analysis and report

Some items not included in the bill:

  • Permanent air permit community liaison for community engagement, funding for informational hearings and meetings
  • Environmental justice cumulative impact analysis requirements implementation, and funding to adopt rules establishing procedures for issuing permits in EJ areas
  • Policy to define areas of environmental justice concern
  • Climate resiliency grants through the PCA 
  • No non-ENRTF spending on Lawns to Legumes program 
  • Stronger enforcement authorities over polluting facilities 
  • Landfill Responsibility Act


I voted for the Environment budget bill because we need to keep our state parks open. If we did not fund the environment committee’s budget bill, our Minnesota state parks and campgrounds would close. I am a fan of our state parks and visit them with my family. Funding for our parks is critical, especially during the summer when everyone wants to get outside.

Starkey Cares


May was better hearing month awareness month. I visited Starkey Hearing with other legislators around the state to discuss Starkey’s new initiative called Starkey Cares. Starkey plans to serve those in the local Minneapolis community with better hearing, including front-line health care workers and those from underserved communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new initiative focuses on their commitments to local communities in need, veterans and active-duty military members, and the world. During the event, Starkey fit local healthcare workers with new hearing aids to thank them for their service throughout the pandemic.

Between the Lines with Al Travis

ImageView my comments on the legislative session and the special session along with some quick questions with Al Travis.

RALI Minnesota Rx Abuse Awareness Event


The Rx Abuse Leadership Initiative (RALI), the Minnesota Retailers Association, the Minnesota Pharmacists Association, and Code 3 invited me to participate in a conversation about navigating the opioid epidemic while at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019 I visited the RALI educational trailer at Farmfest. The trailer is a mock-up of a teenager’s bedroom with warning signs of drug misuse. This year Code 3 and RALI produced a virtual trailer to continue their advocacy. I always learn something new during events, and while this was my second time seeing the RALI trailer, I learned even more about the opioid epidemic and warning signs. Click here to watch the video.

Harvard Business School’s Young American Leaders Program


This week, I participated in the Harvard Business School’s Young America Leaders Program (YALP). I am one of ten Minnesotans participating in the Twin Cities cohort this year. YALP brings together 10 participants from 14 cities each year across the country. We had speaker presentations, went through case studies, and collaborated on solutions to target issues in our communities. I am thankful for the time I got to spend time with my YALP cohort and other leaders through this program.


Essential Workers Press Conference


I joined my colleagues Rep. Fraiser and Sen. Murphy along with essential workers for a press conference to demand action to support our essential workers. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic essential workers have put the public first. We heard janitors and nurses explain how they ended up using their vacation days to wait for a COVID-19 test, stay home during a COViD-19 exposure, or even stay at home when they got COVID-19. Essential workers should not be penalized for doing the right thing and they deserve to be praised and thanked for their hard work during these difficult times.


I got to talk to a constituent Bill Schwandt. Bill is the Bloomington Federation of Paraprofessionals President. During the press conference Bill shared his experiences in the schools during the pandemic.

An agreement on essential worker bonuses was announced this week. This is what we know so far:
Pandemic bonuses:
  • Set up $250 million fund to pay the bonuses to workers who put their own lives on the line to help others through the COVID-19 threat
  • Panel of nine – three each appointed by the governor, Senate and House – will make initial recommendations  - complete the assignment by Labor Day, and some kind of legislative ratification would follow


Black Lives Matter Press Conference


As a member of the POCI Caucus I joined community members and legislators demanding hearings on police accountability and reform outside of the Minnesota Senate. The Senate Judiciary Committee has not heard any police reform and accountability legislation which should be a priority right now. As we wait for budget bills we are still waiting for the Judiciary budget bill, which members have not come to an agreement on yet.


NALEO Conference

This week I participated in the National American Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) virtual conference. NALEO does a lot of work with the Latino community and census work. When I was first elected to the Minnesota Senate back in 2012, the first training I participated in was from NALEO. The conference this year focused a lot on COVID-19 implications in the Latino community. I am also happy to announce that I am a nominee for election for the NALEO Class of 2024 Board. There are seven nominees for the board from across the country that will be confirmed next week. For more information on NALEO and the work that they do, visit this link.