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Legislative Update - 20 February 2015
I have had the pleasure of meeting with many advocacy groups and constituents recently at the Capitol. It is a busy place this time of year and legislators are anxiously awaiting next week's February Economic Forecast. The forecast will provide insight into Minnesota's budget situation - currently projected to be a $1 billion surplus. We must pass a balanced budget this session for the next two years.
Mental Health Hubs
Two bills were introduced this week to make mental health services in Minnesota more accessible. We have heard compelling testimony in committee from individuals affected by our state's lack of mental health resources which can force patients to travel to neighboring states to find an open mental health bed. These proposals would establish and provide funding for regional mental health hubs to improve access to crisis beds, outpatient services and other mental health resources. Improving access to mental health is important to not only those with mental illnesses, but to their families, doctors, first-responders that handle crisis situations and taxpayers who pick up the tab for our current lack of care.
Working Parents Act
This week, legislators unveiled the Working Parents Act, aimed at providing greater opportunity and economic security to working Minnesotans. The Working Parents Act includes five legislative proposals:
Earned Sick and Safe Time: Over 1 million working Minnesotans lack access to paid sick time. The Working Parents Act would guarantee Minnesota workers have access to earned sick and safe time to care for themselves, a sick child, or a loved one, or to seek services due to domestic violence, stalking, or sexual assault.
Paid Family Leave: Only 13% of Minnesotans have access to paid family leave, meaning workers are often forced to choose between their families and their jobs. The Working Parents Act would create an insurance program to provide all Minnesota employees with a percentage of their wages for up to 6 weeks so they can afford to take time off to bond with a new child, care for an elder or seriously-ill family member, or deal with pregnancy-related health concerns.
Putting a Stop to Wage Theft: Wage theft occurs when workers who are denied overtime pay, refused pay for hours worked, or paid less than the minimum wage. The Working Parents Act would crack down on wage theft by increasing penalties for wage theft, extending the statute of limitations on all wage theft to 6 years, and protecting workers from employer retaliation.
Scheduling Fairness and Flexibility: Many Minnesota workers lack a predictable work schedule which can affect economic security and stability for families. The Working Parents Act would ensure more predictability in scheduling for workers, limit last-minute or on-call shifts, and protect workers from employer retaliation.
Tip Fairness for Servers: Several Minnesota restaurants in recent years have deducted the cost of credit and debit card transaction fees from servers' tips. The Working Parents Act would prohibit businesses from deducting credit card processing fees from tips that are earned by servers and make sure that tips given by a customer go into the pockets of hardworking Minnesotans.
Together, these measures that will make a real difference in the lives of Minnesota families. I'm hopeful that we can make progress on these issues this year.
Town Hall Meeting
Please join Senator Jim Carlson and invited guest Justice Anderson at a town hall meeting this Saturday. The meeting will take place Saturday, February 21 from 10:15am -11:45am at the Wescott Library (1340 Wescott Rd Eagan, MN 55123). Justice Anderson will be providing us with an update on the Capitol Restoration Project. I hope to see you there!
In the coming days and weeks, I will be examining many legislative proposals. Please contact me anytime during the legislative session with your input. I can be reached by phone at (651) 296-3533 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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