A recap of the year so far from Senator Karla Bigham

Posted 7/7/21

Hello Neighbors We are in the process of finishing the final two budget bills to complete the state’s biennial budget. A compromised budget, that reflects a divided legislature, will ensure that …

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A recap of the year so far from Senator Karla Bigham


Hello Neighbors We are in the process of finishing the final two budget bills to complete the state’s biennial budget. A compromised budget, that reflects a divided legislature, will ensure that there is no government shutdown!

The Legislature has voted to end the COVID-19 peacetime emergency on July 1. In conjunction, Governor Walz and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to ensure that the state will still receive emergency food assistance.

Minnesota will continue to receive $45 million in monthly emergency food assistance benefits for more than 575,000 Minnesotans, even after the peacetime emergency ends. Governor Walz will also continue the vaccination efforts in partnership with the federal government and local governments.

Because of robust vaccination efforts and the hard work of many Minnesotans, we can cautiously say we are on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature passed a Housing bill that outlined an off-ramp for the eviction moratorium. We also passed legislation that will continue health and human services programs that had to be adjusted due to the public health emergency.

I will share more information later this week on the final two budget bills passed by the Legislature – Taxes and E-12 Education. I’ll also share more in-depth information about the Jobs and Economic Growth Omnibus Budget Bill. To stay updated, follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Judiciary & Public Safety

The Minnesota Senate passed the compromise Public Safety and Judiciary Budget Bill early Wednesday morning. The bipartisan bill included funding for the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Rights, and the judicial branch, as well as criminal justice and police accountability reforms. The Judiciary bill also included two pieces of legislation I chief authored. My bill SF 1197 will make doxing a member of law enforcement a misdemeanor. Doxing is disseminating personal information to the public, typically by posting on social media. The legislation makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly and without consent share the home address of a peace officer, and a gross misdemeanor if the subsequent doxing results in bodily harm to a peace officer, their family, or a member of their household.

My second provision, SF 833, will require a full-time onsite fire department at refineries. Now each petroleum refinery will have the responsibility of providing fire protection to the refinery. Firefighters must be sufficiently trained, equipped, and staffed to respond to fires at the refinery and to conduct inspections to prevent fires. This is a great step forward to protect the workers at the refinery in St. Paul Park and area communities.

The Hometown Heroes Assistance Program is also included in the final Judiciary and Public Safety bill! This program provides a statewide “Critical Care” policy for all Minnesota firefighters which covers diagnoses of cancer or cardiac issues. The program also creates a MnFIRE Assistance Program (MnAP) for all Minnesota firefighters targeting emotional trauma issues unique to the fire service. It also supports ongoing training and awareness to help address the mental and physical health issues that firefighters might endure.

Here are some additional provisions that are included:

• Criminal sexual conduct working group recommendations, which includes closing the voluntarily intoxicated loophole

• No-knock warrant reform

• Sign and release warrant procedure

• Civil forfeiture reform

• Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Office, Task Force on Missing and Murdered African American Women

• Jail safety reforms

• DWI, Ignition Interlock changes

• Juvenile justice reforms

• Increased penalties for assaulting a police officer, prosecutor, judge, or correctional officer

• Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigation of sexual conduct allegations between members of the National Guard We still have more to do to improve safety in our communities. Our work continues to ensure justice for all!

Health & Human Services The final Health and Human Services (HHS) Omnibus Budget Bill not only directed state funds to the many programs and employees that help keep Minnesotans healthy, but it also allocates a complex mix of federal funds due to the American Rescue Plan. These federal funds are mostly concentrated in child care, mental health, and substance abuse services.

I’m proud that my bill SF 1198 was included in the final HHS bill. The bill extends mandated reporting requirements to staff at youth recreation programs. It also expands the work of the Task Force on Child Protection to evaluate current mandatory reporting requirements, educational neglect, and law enforcement’s involvement on maltreatment reports.

The final HHS bill is one of the most comprehensive bills assembled in the Legislature. This bill provides new grants and services for individuals with disabilities, distributes federal money to administer a one-time $435 payment to over 32,000 working families and an annual adjustment to the Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP). A homelessness package was included along with a 10% rate increase for Personal Care Assistants (PCA).

The HHS bill extends Medical Assistance coverage from 60 days postpartum to 12 months so new mothers can receive the mental and physical healthcare they need. $22 million will also be distributed for substance abuse prevention to address the increase of opioid use in Minnesota. Lastly, significant investments in the child care sector will help working families achieve educational and professional success.

State Government, Elections & Veterans The final State Government, Elections, and Veterans Omnibus Budget Bill not only included the end of the peacetime emergency powers, but also outlined an orderly transition for the state’s response.

The State Government bill includes a provision of mine that will increase the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for veteran home residents. This will help residents at the Hastings Veterans Home as the cost of living continues to rise. The bill also incorporates the Veterans Restorative Justice Act (VRJA). This establishes a streamlined statewide diversion program for offending veterans whose offenses are linked to their service-related injuries. Therapeutic retreats and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) treatment grants are also funded through this bill.

This bill also provides funding for the Market Bucks program that will help Minnesotans with food insecurity have access to fresh produce at farmer’s markets across the state. Unfortunately, election policy reform was minimal despite more work that needs to be done to expand voter access.

Housing Policy and Finance Passing the Housing Policy and Finance Omnibus Bill was one of the last pieces of the COVID-19 emergency that needed to be settled. To keep Minnesotans in their homes during a public health and economic crisis, an eviction moratorium was established. Now that those crises are no longer in the emergency phase (though still present), we can address them systematically.

The eviction moratorium phaseout eliminates the Executive Orders related to the eviction moratorium and in its place, it establishes a phaseout of the moratorium. There are now clear guidelines on termination or non-renewal of a lease. The off-ramp also has limitations on filing evictions. For more information visit mnhousing. gov.

The Housing bill also finances lower income rental and home ownership opportunities and provides grants for improvements in manufactured home parks. This bill was a true bipartisan effort and will help renters, homeowners, and landlords.