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Week 6 Update

Dear Friends,

As always, thank you for tuning in to events here at the capitol. It’s been a busy first few weeks and I’ve been glad to see so many constituents come visit me in St. Paul.

Below are just some of the highlights and topics being discussed. I appreciate you all sharing  your thoughts and concerns with me and look forward to another long week.

 

Increase Teachers of Color Act

Legislators from the Senate and House held a press conference this week to introduce legislation aiming to increase the percentage of teachers of color and American Indian teachers (TOCAIT) in Minnesota classrooms.

The comprehensive legislation expands existing pathways to teaching, strengthens efforts to retain effective teachers, and provides incentives to attract more students of color into the teaching profession with scholarships and student teaching grants to complete their preparation programs. Over 1,700 teacher candidates and more than 1,300 TOCAIT would be supported by the legislation that the bill authors say is designed to finally start “moving the needle.”

The 2019 Minnesota Teacher Supply and Demand Report indicates that the percentage of teachers of color has remained stagnant at 4%, while the percentage of students of color continues to grow rapidly in Minnesota and is now 34%.

Advocates say this is the most comprehensive racial equity proposal in education to close gaps that the state has seen. Lawmakers and the governor need to urgently address the unmet needs of one-third of the state’s students and do what is needed to increase the percentage of TOCAIT so students have equitable access to diverse teachers. (SF 1012)

Leaders introduce earlier legislative deadlines

Governor Walz met with legislative leaders this week in a bipartisan press conference to announce the implementation of additional legislative deadlines for the 2019 session. These deadlines introduce benchmarks that major financial legislation would need to meet before the end of session, aiming to give legislators more time to negotiate and review spending bills, increase transparency, and reduce the tensions of the budget setting process.

The new deadlines, which require finance bills to be passed off their respective floors by May 1st, are intended to help ease the tension which has stemmed from late or inflated budget bills in the past. The earlier deadlines aim to give both legislators and the governor more time to review spending bills and increases the transparency of budget discussions for the public.

Upcoming Legislative Town Hall Meetings

I will be hosting two town hall meetings on Saturday, February 23, one for each house district. Details are below. Please join us in district to voice your opinions and to hear updates from your local officials.

Residents of 42A:

Join Senator Jason Isaacson

at Shoreview City Hall

4600 Victoria St N, Shoreview, MN 55126

Saturday, February 23, 2019

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

District 42A includes all of Arden Hills, Mounds View, northern Shoreview (north of County Road F and Snail Lake Roads) and Spring Lake Park (precinct 1-R only)

Residents of 42B:

Join Senator Jason Isaacson and Representative Jamie Becker-Finn

at Shoreview City Hall

4600 Victoria St N, Shoreview, MN 55126

Saturday, February 23, 2019

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM (doors at 9:30)

District 42B includes all of Gem Lake, Little Canada, Vadnais Heights, southern Shoreview, and Roseville (north of County Road C W and East of Snelling/HWY 51)

Parkland Shooting Anniversary

One year ago, on Valentine’s Day, a 19-year-old former student walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and opened fire, changing the lives of hundreds of people forever. 17 students and teachers were killed that day, and 14 others were wounded in one of the deadliest shootings in United States history. The shooting spawned a renewed call for gun regulation across the nation, along with creating a new generation of activists.

In the year since, the Never Again MSD movement was born. Survivors such as Emma Gonzalez, David Hogg, and Cameron Kasky were key figures in organizing events like the March for Our Lives, which had over 1 million participants across the country demanding safer schools and an end to gun violence. In St Paul alone, more than 18,000 people participated in a march that culminated on the lawn of the Capitol.

Gun violence prevention advocacy group Protect Minnesota spent a day on the hill this week to raise awareness around gun violence. They hosted a press conference to highlight the new Minnesota Department of Health statistics on gun deaths in Minnesota, where legislators called upon the Senate to be open to receiving the background check and red flag legislation that is expected to reach the House floor during this session. Protect Minnesota members spent the remainder of the afternoon in the Capitol Rotunda, first hosting a memorial in honor of the Parkland victims, featuring student speakers from local high schools, and later a reading of the names of Minnesotans who lost their lives to gun violence in 2018.

Week 5 Update

Dear Friends,

As always, thank you for tuning in to events here at the capitol. It’s been a busy first few weeks and I’ve been glad to see so many constituents come visit me in St. Paul.

Below are just some of the highlights and topics being discussed. I appreciate you all sharing  your thoughts and concerns with me and look forward to another long week.

Upcoming Legislative Town Hall Meetings
Senator Isaacson will be hosting two town hall meetings on Saturday, February 23, one for each house district. Details are below. Please join us in district to voice your opinions and to hear updates from your local officials.

Residents of 42A:

Join Senator Jason Isaacson

at Shoreview City Hall


4600 Victoria St N, Shoreview, MN 55126

Saturday, February 23, 2019

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

District 42A includes all of Arden Hills, Mounds View, northern Shoreview (north of County Road F and Snail Lake Roads) and Spring Lake Park (precinct 1-R only)

Residents of 42B:

Join Senator Jason Isaacson and Representative Jamie Becker-Finn

at Shoreview City Hall

4600 Victoria St N, Shoreview, MN 55126

Saturday, February 23, 2019

10:00 AM – 11:30 AM (doors at 9:30)

District 42B includes all of Gem Lake, Little Canada, Vadnais Heights, southern Shoreview, and Roseville (north of County Road C W and East of Snelling/HWY 51)

Committee work in full swing at the Senate, committee deadlines released

It’s been a busy week at the Capitol with committees in full swing hearing bills including hands-free legislation, electronic monitoring in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, higher education capital investment needs, and requiring a personal finance course to graduate from high school.

There were also a number of press conferences held this week, kicking off with the 100% clean energy press conference, a discussion on wage theft, the announcement of a new United Black Legislative Caucus, and a press conference on tax filing. MN Second Chance also held a press conference and the Joint Religious Legislative Council (JRLC) held their Day on the Hill.

The House and Senate released committee deadlines for the 2019 legislative session. Bills must move out of the house of origin by March 15, and the second deadline of March 29 is for committees to act favorably on bills or companions of bills that met the first deadline in the other chamber. Committees must approve appropriation and finance bills by April 12. The deadlines do not apply to the House committees on Capital Investment, Ways and Means, Taxes, or Rules and Legislative Administration, nor to the Senate committees on Capital Investment, Finance, Taxes, or Rules and Administration.

In Committee:
U of M, MinnState present bonding requests

The University of Minnesota and Minnesota State presented their capital investment (bonding) requests for the 2019 session to the Senate Higher Education Committee this week.

The University presented a bonding request and its plan for Higher Education Asset Preservation (HEAPR) funds. HEAPR funds are used for mechanical and utility maintenance and replacement, roof repair, asbestos abatement and other infrastructure needs.
The U of M is requesting $232.3 million total in HEAPR funds. $200 million of those funds would be used systemwide at the Crookston, Morris, Duluth, and Twin Cities campuses and at research and outreach centers and field stations. $32.3 million would be used for building construction and renovation, including $28 million for the Child Development Building replacement and $4.3 million for the renovation of A.B. Anderson Hall at UMD. MinnState is requesting $159 million in HEAPR funds for systemwide infrastructure updates, including boiler and roof replacements, window and exterior repairs, and advance design plans for future projects.

No decisions have yet been made on the size of a Capital Investment bill this session.

Bill expands PSEO for home-school, private school students
A bill heard this week would allow home-schooled or non-public school 10th grade students taking career and technical classes to take advantage of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. The state would be required to pay for the expansion, which could cost around $10,000 annually.

PSEO was implemented in Minnesota in the 1990s, and, along with concurrent enrollment programs, is vastly popular with students and parents. Approximately 10,000 students participated in PSEO during the 2017-18 school year. Of that amount, 27% were home-schooled/non-public school students.

However, the program has its downside. In the 2017-18 school year, PSEO diverted $32.7 million away from school districts to cover the costs of PSEO at higher education institutions across the state. This bill would add to that and allow more public dollars to be used to support private school and home-schooled students.

Of the $32 million in PSEO costs spent in 2017-18, about $8.6 million is paid on behalf of non-public and home-schooled students. The University of Northwestern had the highest amount paid to it at $4.76 million or about 14% of the total PSEO funds paid out in 2017-18. (S.F. 94)

Legislation Underway:

  • Disclosure of emergency contacts on driver’s license applications in order to positively impact the lives of Minnesotan’s living with epilepsy and other health problems. (S.F. 746)
  • Establishing a community and technical college grant in order to lessen the financial burden on students attending community or technical colleges. (S.F. 956)

 

Week 4 Update

It was a fairly light week here at the Capitol, as cold weather impacted the State this week. I anticipate we will begin ramping up next week as we begin to look at candidates for Regents as well as pieces of legislation work their way through committees.

Minnesota Senate Continues to Work in Spite of Cold Weather

Week four of the 2019 Legislative Session kicked off with a joint Senate and House press conference on the legalization of recreational cannabis. The issue of cannabis legalization is one that is moving fast around the country. Their goal is to secure a legislative hearing and to begin the discussion on this issue.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue started accepting tax returns on Monday, Jan. 28. The deadline for filing taxes is April 15.
The family of Steve Rummler, whose HOPE Network has been advocating to raise awareness and to pass legislation to address the opioid addiction crisis, held a press conference this week. They were joined by advocates and a bipartisan group of legislators carrying bills to address this crisis.

With the record cold weather, many committees canceled their hearings in the middle of the week. Despite the cold, committees still heard a continuation of overviews, reviewed ways the state can reduce TEFRA costs for families, and looked at proposals to strengthen sexual assault laws.

A number of groups held events and rallies at the capitol this week, including a Don’t Punish the Pain rally, Opioid Awareness Day rally, and MinnState colleges and universities Innovation Day. ABATE held their Annual Biker Day, and Minnesota Milk hosted an ice cream social.

Press Release on Potential TCE Exposure

Earlier this week, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) announced they are investigating possible community exposures to high levels of trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent used by a manufacturer in White Bear Township.I am working with state agencies and communities in determining how this exposure occurred, and the public health threat it poses to community members in White Bear Lake, White Bear Township, and Gem Lake. My top priority is in finding out what the state can do to address any potential health effects that people may have been exposed to. We are taking this incident seriously and will be ensuring that any action to safeguard people’s health is taken immediately. You can read the full press release here.

Legislation Addressing Delays with MNLARS

After a constituent wrote to me back in December regarding delays and headaches with the MNLARS system, I joined my colleagues, Senators Cwodzinski and Little, in offering a bill that would allow impacted individuals to renew their temporary papers by phone, mail, or email. The goal of this legislation is to provide relief to individuals facing difficulties renewing state identification in person. You can read the bill here.

In Committee

Agriculture Update on Noxious Weeds and Invasive Pests

The Senate Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Policy Committee heard an update on Palmer amaranth, emerald ash borers, and gypsy moths to eradicate and limit the spread of these pests. These invasive pests can have devastating impacts in Minnesota.

Watch the committee hearing from January 29 here.

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