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Week 3 Update

It was a fairly light week here at the Capitol, as most of our time in Committee is currently being spent hearing overviews of different agencies and items that will help us craft legislation. I anticipate we will begin ramping up next week as we begin to look at candidates for Regents as well as the first pieces of legislation to pass out of their respective committees.

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Senate celebrated this week what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s 89th birthday. It was a day to applaud and remember Dr. King’s many accomplishments and take a moment to keep his “dream” alive. But for all of his incredible accomplishments, the state still has a long way to go in achieving racial equity and social justice.

The country is at a turning point. Rhetoric is heightened and the rights of many Americans, especially minority communities and traditionally disenfranchised communities, are at greater risk. Through distorting the protections of religious freedom to provide cover for discrimination, ongoing issues with the criminal justice system and voting rights, and the fear mongering against Muslim-Americans, these issues and others epitomize the words of Dr. King: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
With these words, the state remembered a great man on January 21, who was the impetus for change in the country and whose legacy continues to be relevant for social change.

Press Conference about new legislation

My colleagues and I introduced two bills at a press conference this week; the bills focus on new gun laws aimed to curtail gun violence. The first bill, Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) or “red flag” laws, would allow law enforcement and family members to seek a court order temporarily restricting a person’s access to guns when they show red flags and pose a danger to themselves and/or others. The second bill would extend criminal background checks to most private sales, gun show markets, and online transactions.

I authored both of these bills last year and am proud to join my colleagues in offering them again. While this issue is controversial and there are those who disagree with me, I am always willing to talk with those of differing opinion to learn more about their point of view. At the end of the day, we all want less violence in our communities. Let’s continue the conversation on how we get there.

In Committee

Agriculture Economy Reviewed

In the Agriculture, Rural Development and Housing Policy Committee this week, members heard there are variances across the state, but 2018 was a challenging year for farmers overall. It was the fifth year in a row with very low profitability. Median net farm income was reported at $28,620 for 2017. Additionally, 2019 cash flow projections are troublesome for many farmers. Compounding this problem is the limited amount of credit available. Testifiers reported that this has all led to a tremendous increase in the number of Farmer-Lender Mediations. Agriculture is critical industry important to Minnesota and the United States. It is clear the legislature will do what it can this session to assist farmers as they continue to confront difficult economic conditions.

Helmets to Hardhats

A proposal that would allocate resources to aid the trades in recruiting military members and veterans to work in Minnesota’s construction industry was heard this week in the Jobs and Economic Growth Finance and Policy Committee. In the previous biennium, the legislature appropriated $400,000 for this program. The Senate author and the bill’s supporters are seeking $800,000 from the Workforce Development Fund to continue to, “…recruit, retain, assist, and support National Guard, reserve, and active duty military members’ and veterans’ participation into apprenticeship programs registered with the Department of Labor and Industry and connect them with career training and employment in the building and construction industry”, as written in the bill. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill.

Week 2 Update

IMPORTANT UPDATE: It has come to my attention the Senate’s webform system is currently experiencing technical difficulties. If you have attempted to contact my office by using our online email webform and have not received a response, please email me or my legislative assistant directly. Our IT department is working to resolve the issues, but we unfortunately do not have an accurate timeline for when we can expect it to be fixed.

Legislation Effecting LGBTQI Minnesotans

This session, I am working with Senator Dibble and House colleagues to introduce a bill to establish an advisory council for LGBTQI Minnesotans. All Minnesotans deserve to be adequately represented within their government, and the goal of this bill is to create a council that will work for the implementation of economic, social, legal, and political equity for Minnesota’s LGBTQI community. They will ultimately work with the legislature and the governor to advise us on issues confronting LGBTQI Minnesotans.

In addition to this bill, I also signed on to chief author a bill to ban conversion therapy in the state of Minnesota. Several identical bills are being offered by my Senate colleagues as this is an incredibly important issue. As many know, conversion therapy is a practice seeking to change an individual’s sexual orientation to heterosexual. The practice is not rooted in science and is not only ineffective in ‘converting’ LGBTQ individuals, it is downright harmful to their mental health and wellbeing – particularly with our LGBTQ youth. After meeting with constituents and listening to their concerns, I am proud to offer both bills this session on their behalf. 

Constituent visits

On Tuesday, I met with a group of constituents for Education Minnesota’s Members of Color Lobby Day 2019. I always enjoy meeting with fellow educators, it gives us an opportunity to share stories and talk about the problems we face. As a professor, know I will always prioritize increasing Minnesota’s investment in public education. If you have any particular issues relating to education, please set up a meeting for us to chat about it – I want to be your advocate here at the Capitol.

Earlier this year, I received an invitation to join Arc’s Minnesota Self-Advocacy Advisory Committee as they met to discuss the issues people with disabilities face. I was honored to join their meeting Tuesday evening to engage with folks and learn more. If there is one thing I always encourage individuals to do when we are talking about my work at the Senate it is to speak up for yourself and advocate for the things that matter to you. If you or someone you know is living with a disability and would be interested in joining this committee, visit ArcMinnesota.org to learn more. Their next committee meeting is on February 13, 2019. Thank you for having me! 

Health and Human Services – 7% Cut to Disability Services

Last session, an effort was made to reverse the 7% cut to disability services Minnesota is experiencing due to a lack of funding from the federal government. Unfortunately, the bill we passed was included in the 990-page supplemental budget bill that was ultimately vetoed by Governor Dayton. Work is already underway to pass this legislation again this biennium in order to restore funding to help providers pay their staff better wages and ensure people living with disabilities get quality care. We heard two bills on this topic during my Human Services Reform Committee meeting on Thursday, and both bills will have to be laid over until the legislature receives the state’s updated budget forecast in February.

As always, please feel free to call or email if you have any questions, comments, or ideas for legislative proposals. 

– Jason Isaacson

 

Week 1 Update

Friends and neighbors,

The 2019 legislative session began Tuesday. It’s great to be back at our State Capitol working on your behalf. Please stop by to visit my office any time.

As I walked into the Capitol on Tuesday, the atmosphere of the building felt different – I have not felt this much optimism for a legislative session since my first session back in 2013. We have the only legislature with divided partisan control in the country right now, and I truly believe this will encourage all legislators to work together in a more bipartisan fashion. I am excited to see what we can accomplish on behalf of all Minnesotans.

While our committees do not start meeting until next week, I wanted to take a moment to tell you about some of the things that are at the top of my to-do list this session:

Gun Violence Prevention Legislation

I joined members of Protect Minnesota, Moms Demand Action, and some of my Senate DFL colleagues on Tuesday as we kicked off the 2019 legislative session with a rally urging my fellow legislators to immediately prioritize gun violence prevention legislation. Currently, around 90 percent of Minnesotans support criminal background checks and gun violence prevention, so I am committed to continue my work on this issue. Now is the time to act, not when another tragedy has befallen us. You can watch a clip of me speaking HERE.

MinnesotaCare Buy-In

One top priority for both the Senate and House DFL caucuses this session is the establishment of the MinnesotaCare Buy-In. The MinnesotaCare Buy-In is a cost-effective solution to bringing down the cost of health care because the program would be funded by the premiums of those who buy coverage and would require no ongoing costs for Minnesota taxpayers. This is a smart investment that would give Minnesotans more options for high-quality, affordable health care at clinics and hospitals across the state. I have always said: paying for it now through preventative care is cheaper than paying for it later in the emergency room, so I hope some of my colleagues across the aisle join us to pass this monumental legislation.

Redistricting

Last biennium I authored legislation to modify how the state of Minnesota handles our redistricting process in order to make the process less partisan and more transparent. I plan on offering an updated version of this legislation this session, so stay tuned for more concrete updates on what this proposal will look like. It is important for the redistricting process to be nonpartisan in order to obtain an unbiased result, so we need to work together in order for this legislation to advance.

Paid Family Leave and Childcare

Right now, Minnesota is facing a childcare crisis as the cost of childcare continues to rise. This session, I look forward to working with my Republican colleague, Senator Bill Weber, to find affordable solutions for providers in the metro and Greater Minnesota. In addition, working families would benefit from a strong Paid Family Leave system – a fair, commonsense solution to help Minnesota workers take care of themselves and their families. By working together in partnership with businesses, families, and care providers, I believe we can craft a solution to benefit all working Minnesotans.

 

In addition to these proposals, I offered legislation to create a system for automatic voter registration this week in order to strengthen Minnesota’s electorate, and I will continue to be a strong advocate for increased funding for E-12 and higher education. Together, we can create a Minnesota that champions education, takes care of our workers and our families, and continues to build for a brighter tomorrow.

As I mentioned, I have a high level of optimism for this legislation session. I know we can find bold solutions to the challenges we encounter. As always, never hesitate to reach out with your ideas, questions, comments, or concerns. Schedule an appointment to come talk about what you would like to see accomplished or to just come say hi – my door is always open.

Sincerely,

Jason