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.
February budget forecast is released
The big news this week was the release of the February budget forecast which sets the terms of debate for the two-year budget. The forecast projects how much money the state is likely to have for the upcoming biennium. Minnesota Management and Budget estimates a $1 billion budgetary balance which is $492 million less than the November 2018 forecast. It’s important to be cautious when the state’s budget balance decreases and diligent in working to balance any new investments with additional revenue.
In other notable action, after numerous delays and vigorous debate on the Senate floor, only $1.5 million of the $6.6 million in Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds passed the Minnesota Senate. Minnesota was the only state in the nation that did not pass full federal funding to strengthen election security. Full funding for HAVA passed in the House on February 21, on a bipartisan vote of 105-23.
Other press conferences held this week included an anti-poverty press conference and a press conference to ban private prisons in the state. A number of groups held their “Day on the Hill” including: STEM Advocacy, Rally for Health freedom, Volunteer Administration Day, Muslim Day, African Heritage Day, Corrections Officer Day, ClearWay, YMCA, Private Colleges, Pediatric Home Service, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, Dignity in our Democracy, Dyslexia Day, FFA Day, and Take Action Day.
I had the pleasure of speaking Epilepsy Advocacy Day on Wednesday about the importance of advocacy and Mitchell’s law (S.F. 746), which I have the honor of carrying this session.
Youth Skills Training Press Conference
I have signed onto bipartisan legislation (SF 1265/HF 1504) that would expand the Youth Skills Training Program here in Minnesota. The Youth Skills Training program was originally signed into law by Governor Mark Dayton as a pilot program in 2017. The Youth Skills Training Program connects classroom learning with on-the-job experience for high school students over the age of 16. Students complete internships with local employers to prepare them for careers and further post-secondary education. The Youth Skills Training Program creates many jobs and opportunities for students in various communities where it is being implemented. See the video of my full speech below.
Bill would help provide mental health services at college campuses
A bill heard in the Higher Education Committee this week would provide funding for MinnState officials to contract with independent mental health organizations for providing mental health services on up to five state college campuses. The bill also requires the mental health providers to give information and guidance to students seeking health insurance.
The bill would provide $250,000 to support the five programs. It was laid over for possible inclusion in the omnibus higher education budget bill. (SF 1017)
S.F. 1929: Appropriating money for state employee salaries in the event of nonappropriation or shutdown
S.F. 1927: appropriating money for the AmeriCorps Promise Fellows program.