Fighting for our youth. As chair of the House Workforce Development Finance & Policy Committee, I will work with our Eastside partners to get resources back into the community to invest in young students. I'm proud to partner again with The Conway Rec. Center headed by the Sanneh Foundation, 30,000 Feet, and several communities. Learn more about my work this session here.
From ensuring our community is safe to addressing catalytic converter thefts, I am committed to working with law enforcement, community leaders, my legislative colleagues in the county, city and feds to tackle these grave issues. Learn more about the my this session here.
As one of the most prosperous nation, we must do better to ensure our healthcare is accessible, affordable, and adequate. I will continue to champion reproductive rights, comprehensive healthcare, mental health, disability services, lower prescription drugs, substance abuse and more. Follow my weekly updates here.
I want to share with you that we reached common ground with Senate Republicans on many important issues this biennium, after passing a new state budget and averting a government shutdown last year.
This year, we focused on supporting workers, ensuring equal access and opportunity, and investing in our communities. With a historic $9.3 billion surplus, we passed meaningful legislation that will help working Minnesotans, including $500 million for direct payments to frontline workers and a $93 million investment in mental health.
This year, unfortunately we adjourned without completing some of our most important work. We’re asking Senate Republicans to come back to the table for negotiations so that we can pass a supplemental budget that invests the surplus in frequently underfunded sectors.
Last year, lawmakers promised our dedicated frontline workers – who kept our state moving forward, despite putting their own health on the line – a ‘thank you’ in the form of a bonus payment. Now, these heroes are finally getting the extra pay they deserve for their sacrifices. I’m glad we were able to come to a deal with the Senate to deliver what we’ve owed to our frontline workers, and I’m honored to have been a co-author on this bill.
I’m happy to report that we were able to get state funding and attention for an environmental issue in our district- Pig’s Eye dump. I called all our East officials for an official legislative meeting earlier this year – city, county, and federal officials. We all agreed that with the community and stakeholders, it is time to take action. For too long, the east metro has been a dumping ground. We’ve had less investment and attention. This is no more. We were able to pass an $800K appropriation to work with multiple partners to begin the long and complicated process of cleaning up the site. A clean, cared for environment leads to happy and healthy communities
Last year, Despite the difficult negotiations, the budget agreement finally reached on E-12 education represented a robust response to the impact of the pandemic. Our investment in E-12 Education, which was the largest in 15 years, funded:
• 2.45% and 2% increases in the general education formula in 2022 and 2023
• Maintaining the 4,000 expiring Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten slots for another two years
• Historic investments in a variety of programs from the Increase Teachers of Color and American Indian Teachers Act
• Temporary funding to reduce the Special Education and English Learner cross-subsidies or budget shortfalls
Our St. Paul school district received the following funding increase from the 2021 E-12 Education bill:
· $305 per-pupil (2.2%) in FY22 for a total of just over $10.5 million
· $476 per pupil (3.3%) in FY23 for a total of just under $16.5 million
The agreement directs significant funding to address Minnesota’s shortage of teachers of color and close the opportunity gap. While students of color and Native American students make up 35% of Minnesota’s K-12 student population, only 5.6% of teachers are teachers of color or Native American. Governor Walz used $26 million in discretionary federal funding for efforts to support many of these provisions, including Multi- Tiered Systems of Support, Full-Service Community Schools, expanded rigorous coursework, trauma-informed/anti-bias instructional practices training, non-exclusionary discipline training (on top of the small amount of funding included in the agreement), life skills/transition programs, teacher mentorship programs, and tribal relations training for school leaders.
The higher education portion of the budget we passed in 2021 included measures to help students recover from the pandemic and thrive in the future workforce. In the bill, we passed investments to the State Grant Program, impacting approximately 75,000 students across the state and increasing accessibility to nearly 3,000 grant applicants.
We also listened to the concerns of many students who testified publicly about the need for more mental health and wellness support on campus. In response, the bill has investments in mental health resources, addresses food insecurity on our college campuses, supports z-degrees to help reduce the cost of textbooks and course materials for students, and contains emergency grant assistance to meet food, housing, and transportation needs.
For the 2022 legislative session, it’s more evident than ever that Republicans are defunding our public education system. In a year where teachers and students are striking, expressing their needs for more pay, better mental health services, and more support, Republicans have chosen to give next to nothing to our public schools. Our teachers and childcare workers have gone underpaid for too long. To all the teachers and staff at our local schools, thank you for the amazing work you do.
The House DFL passed plans for Education, Higher Ed, and Early Childhood Education that prioritize wrap-around services, mental health supports, livable wages, and access for all. We are working towards voluntary statewide pre-K to lessen the money and time crunch on parents and to make sure that every child is set up to succeed. We passed a bill that would guarantee options for free 2-year college. We supported our students of color by passing provisions for ethnic studies and support for teachers of color. Our students and teachers are asking for support, and House DFLers are answering that call.
Last year, the Public Safety & Criminal Justice Reform Committee, on which I serve, continued to emphasize the need for community-centered public safety and police accountability, as well as other critical criminal justice reforms needed to address the disproportionate harm our current system has on BIPOC Minnesotans. In the midst of the very public trial of Derek Chauvin, the killing of Daunte Wright and Winston Smith, the House Public Safety budget recognized the need to build upon the work of the MN Police Accountability Bill that was signed into law July 2020. The bill included several policy and funding proposals that struck a healthy balance between what the community, advocates, and our law enforcement partners called for. The bill invested heavily in prison reform, criminal sexual conduct reform, juvenile justice reform and second chance reform, all of which ensure that we are transforming a criminal justice system that works for all Minnesotans. The bill also invested heavily in our first responders and emergency readiness response to ensure that the state is prepared when unplanned, natural disasters or events take place in any community across the state.
This year, we worked hard to bring forward a data-driven bill, the Public Safety Innovation Act. This bill recognizes crime is real and that states with the most punitive approaches, like those being brought forward by the Senate GOP, have not shown those approaches to be successful. We can't expect new results with the same old policies. If we're going to confront crime, we need a more effective and efficient public safety system. We need a more resourced public safety system, and we need a more innovative public safety system. We’ve moved to guarantee a body camera on every officer, to invest in our local communities with public safety grants, and to prevent violence before it happens. As a member of the Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Committee, I fully support this approach, and I hope that we can revisit it in a special session.
It’s time to get politics out of public safety and do everything we can to keep Minnesotans safe in their homes, at work, and in their communities. This also includes moving on popular gun violence prevention methods- banning A.R.s, closing loopholes with universal background checks, and instituting red flag laws. We should not have to live in fear of another mass shooting.
Catalytic converter theft is on the rise in our state. The provision that the House DFL passed last month, included in the Commerce omnibus bill, would prohibit the possession of a detached catalytic converter and give law enforcement the ability to address situations where individuals are found with multiple detached catalytic converters. This approach would have made it more tough and held thieves accountable furthermore regulate businesses profiting from the theft. Unfortunately, this was a provision that Senate Republicans wouldn’t agree to. The Senate GOP wanted less regulations for businesses -- meaning scrap metal dealers can buy any stolen catalytic converter and criminals will continue to cash in on catalytic converters. This is thuggery from the Senate GOP. Soft on crime from Senate GOP.
As a member of the House Capital Investment Committee, I am proud to have chief-authored several bills that would bring millions of investments into our district. Unfortunately, the MN Senate Republicans who control that chamber refused to come to an agreement with the MN House DFL and GOP. In the bonding bill, I requested funds for:
As we head into a possible special session this summer, I will continue advocating for these projects
We all deserve clean air, clean water, and plenty of places and opportunities to spend time outdoors in our great state. In 2021, the Environmental and Natural Resources budget protects humans and wildlife from pollution, harmful chemicals, and other serious threats. It addresses several environmental issues, including chronic wasting disease (CWD) and invasive species like emerald ash borer (EAB), and creates more opportunities for children and teenagers to get outdoors and participate in recreational activities.
I also served as a key negotiator during our working group meetings with the Senate for the Legacy portion of our budget, which invests in protecting and enhancing Minnesota's outdoor heritage, clean water, arts and cultural heritage, and parks and trails. Investing in these priorities will benefit current and future generations. Since 2010, the Legacy Amendment has generated more than $4 billion for initiatives that benefit people and communities, making our state an even better place to live and work.
This year, we reached bipartisan agreement on a groundbreaking bill package that invests in the state’s mental health system. It will increase hospital bed capacity, attract new mental health care professionals, and expand the use of mobile crisis services. The new law also includes $30 million to create an improved system to better serve those involved in the criminal justice system who are found not competent to stand trial.
Mental health crises are on the rise, and now more than ever, it’s critical to invest in the care Minnesotans need access to. We have more to do in this area of health care, but this new law will help expand access for our children and most vulnerable neighbors, and that’s a good start
Our dedicated first responders work hard every day, risking their own health and safety to keep us safe. I supported successful bipartisan legislation to create the Hometown Heroes Assistance Program, which provides firefighters with free access to emotional trauma resources, up to $20,000 from critical illness insurance policies, and ongoing health and wellness training, including evidence-based suicide prevention strategies. We made bipartisan investments I supported toward ending and preventing veteran homelessness, providing service bonuses to veterans and Gold Star families, and funding veterans homes and cemeteries. We also invested in enlistment incentives for service members in the Minnesota National Guard. I will continue to prioritize efforts to support our dedicated veterans, active military, and first responders for their service to and commitment to our country.
Everyone deserves affordable and accessible housing. We worked to deliver renter protection, support for affordable housing construction, first-generation homeownership assistance, and more. We know that our community needs more stable housing, so we are working to lower prices and ensure that everyone has a safe and reliable home. Minnesota prevented an eviction crisis during the worst days of a global pandemic. Now, legislators have an opportunity to build on that achievement by reducing the cost of housing for renters and homeowners. We hope to come to an agreement on significant investment in Housing during a special session.
Last year, as Vice Chair of the House Workforce and Business Development Committee, we passed a budget investing $425 million to help Minnesota workers and businesses get back on their feet after a difficult year and a half. Much of this increase ($150 million) is dedicated to the Main Street Revitalization program, which consists of 1) grants and loans for communities with the greatest economic development needs, and 2) grants to small businesses across the state harmed by COVID-19. This part of the budget provides a big increase in funding to support childcare providers, and full funding for important community resources like Vocational Rehab Services (supporting workers with disabilities), and the Emerging Entrepreneur Loan Fund (supporting entrepreneurs of color). Important worker protections like Paid Family & Medical Leave and Earned Sick & Safe Time will likely have to wait until the DFL wins back the Senate to make it across the finish line.
Furthermore, I led legislation to establish the Task Force on Eliminating Subminimum Wages that will develop a plan and make recommendations to end subminimum wages for people with disabilities. Human dignity exists in all kinds of work, and we need to have policies which show that and live those values. No work, no job, no single person should ever be dehumanized and devalued, regardless of the work they do. That’s equity.
In 2022, I fought to deliver resources to working Minnesotans, fund training and workforce development, invest in struggling small businesses and economic corridors throughout the state, and keep workers safe on the job. Our committee’s bill contains $207 million of investment in workforce and business development. Our state’s economic recovery is built on the backs of working families, but too many of these Minnesotans are being left behind as the wealthy and well-connected get richer. Our 2022 proposal invests in our workers, provide pathways to good jobs, support small businesses, and ensure our workplaces are safe. We’re still working with Senate leadership to reach agreement on these issues.
The last several years, the pandemic presented unthinkable challenges for small businesses. To help them bounce back, in 2021, I fought for robust investments of $70 million in grants, with funding prioritized for Minnesota’s smallest businesses, especially those owned by BIPOC, women, and veterans. This year, I led the Small Business Partnership Grant Program legislation, to help non-profit economic development organizations offer business technical assistance to entrepreneurs and small business owners on the Eastside and across the entire state. This program supports small business owners and entrepreneurs that are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, women, veterans and people with disabilities.
This biennium, I authored legislation to fund our community organizations 30K Feet, The Sanneh Foundation (Conway rec. center), C.L.U.E.S, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, African Economic Development Solutions, Horn of Africa/ Milestone Community Development and the YWCA to address workforce readiness, employment and education skill gaps for our working families and underserved youth.
Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance Program is a lifeline for our workers. With funding depleted during the pandemic, lawmakers replenished the program to pre-pandemic levels while keeping businesses’ unemployment insurance tax rates flat. As a result, Minnesotans can continue to depend on this safety net when they need to. We’re also working to extend UI eligibility to school workers, which will hopefully be included in a special session deal.
In 2021, we achieved significant health care wins for Minnesotans in Health and Human Services budget:
- Medical Assistance coverage for enhanced asthma care services and related products for children with poorly controlled asthma
- Telehealth expansion
- $8 million each biennium for tobacco and vaping prevention
- Expansion of MA postpartum coverage from 60 days to 12 months for new moms and babies.
- Increased access to medical cannabis by allowing patients to use dried raw cannabis (e.g., flower).
Every year, big insurance companies charge more and provide less. The soaring costs of prescription drugs, out of pocket expenses, and deductibles are hurting Minnesotans and squeezing family budgets. That’s why I fought to create a public option, cap co-pays on prescription drugs like asthma inhalers, EpiPens, and insulin, and build a better health care workforce that can meet the needs of all Minnesotans. My colleagues and I secured investments to improve public health and reduce racial disparities in health care. We also fought to increase funding for personal care attendants (PCAs) who deserve a livable wage.
I co-led legislation with my colleague, Rep. Dr. Kelly Morrison, to address disparities in the vaccine rollout program which led to the creation of an equity department in the Minnesota Department of Health. If anything, the global pandemic has laid bare the consequences of decades of institutional racism and divestment in Indigenous and communities of color which have far more lasting and lethal outcomes cutting across class and geography.
Our state now has improved rolling out vaccines, making it easy to get tested, and putting out science-backed public health guidance, making it possible to reopen our schools, businesses, and communities. Lawmakers have set aside resources to protect Minnesotans in the event cases spike this fall and winter. To keep Minnesotans healthy, we should continue to listen to public health experts and learn from the past two years.
There is more work to be done next session. The Republican-led Senate blocked several important bills that were priorities for many of you. We have more work to do to build a Minnesota where everyone can thrive. I’ll continue fighting to:
· Expand affordable and accessible healthcare, including mental health and disability services.
· Put our state on a path to reach 100 percent clean energy.
· Strengthen public safety for everyone by enacting meaningful safety and police accountability measures.
· Pass paid family and medical leave and earned sick and safe time.
· Ensure corporations and the 1% pay their fair share so we can invest in kids, families, and communities.
· Legalize and safely regulate cannabis.
· Pass Driver’s Licenses for All.
· Protect Reproductive Rights
Thank you for your support and I hope you know how much I appreciate you standing with me to continue to fight for what is right.
Four years ago, the wonderful people of the east side sent me the Minnesota House, and today, I am humbled that the people have decided that I should once again run for the House seat. As a lifelong progressive and someone who has always fought for the underdog, I can have no greater honor than to run for this seat as a Democrat! In the last four years, we have fought hard to ensure the east side has continued investments in better infrastructure, transit and at the same time put a priority on maintaining its precious green spaces and improving its quality of life. From ensuring our students have a first class education to advocating for jobs and opportunities that ensure all east siders have the greatest access to resources, I am proud of what we have done for the east side. I will continue to lead as a partner and be your voice in the legislature. Whether it is advocating to undo decades of failed drug war policies regarding cannabis or delivering additional funding for St. Paul Public Schools, fighting for Paid Family & Medical Leave, Gun Violence Prevention legislation, child care assistance, fighting for bonding and Legacy funds to support our Eastside’s own Wakan Tipi, Funny Asian Women Kollective (FAWK), Eastside Freedom Library, Hillcrest redevelopment, Metro State University, Progressive Center for Education and Economic Development (PROCEED), and legislation for housing and veterans, I will never stop fighting for you.
Rep. Jay Xiong secured investments to improve public health and reduce racial disparities in health care. He also fought to increase funding for personal care attendants (PCAs) who deserve a livable wage. He co-lead legislation tackling disparities in vaccine rollout that led to the creation of an equity department.
Rep. Jay Xiong led legislation to fund 30K Feet, C.L.U.E.S, Boys & Girls Club, Big Brothers & Big Sisters, African Economic Development Solutions, Horn of Africa/ Milestone Community Development, Sanneh Foundation and the YWCA to address workforce readiness, employment and education skill gaps for our Eastside.
Eastsiders should not be exposed to pollution or harmful chemicals that may increase our risk of developing health problems and damaging to our ecosystem. To protect public health and the environment, Rep. Jay Xiong has led conversations and introduced legislation to address the Pig’s Eye landfill. As lawmakers, we are not just stewards of the built environment, but we also have a sacred duty to safeguard the natural environment, among our most precious resources. And we need to begin with our local communities.
Rep. Jay Xiong and the House DFL made substantial reforms to sexual assault laws to bring justice to survivors. They enacted measures to reform policing and increase accountability. Further, they also provided funding for law enforcement to improve training. And they invested in community violence prevention. He is also proud to have co-authored legislation to establish an Office of Missing & Murdered Indigenous Relatives and Missing & Murdered African American Women Task Force. This year, they are taking a drastic and holistic approach to ensuring safety in our neighborhoods from programs to keep youth out of trouble to enacting policies to support and hold law enforcement accountable.
The pandemic presented unthinkable challenges for small businesses. To help them bounce back, as vice chair of the House Workforce & Business Development Committee, Rep. Jay Xiong fought for robust investments of $70 million in grants, with funding prioritized for Minnesota’s smallest businesses, especially those owned by BIPOC, women, and veterans.