A step forward, but more work to do for Minnesota

Posted 7/21/21

by Senator Karla Bigham Special Session adjourned on July 7 with a bipartisan agreement to complete Minnesota’s budget. We passed an approximately $52 billion budget which will fund state agencies …

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A step forward, but more work to do for Minnesota


by Senator Karla Bigham

Special Session adjourned on July 7 with a bipartisan agreement to complete Minnesota’s budget. We passed an approximately $52 billion budget which will fund state agencies and programs over the next two years. This budget will help Minnesotans rebuild and recover from the economic and public health crisis brought on by COVID-19. Several important projects for our area were funded and policy changes were passed that will help Minnesotans across the state.

I was the chief author of several bills that made it through the finish line. Those bills included: $50,000 to South St. Paul will help the city remove and relocate the two gatehouses in the Bridgepoint Business Park.

A 9-1-1 telecommunicators working group that will investigate parity for 9-11 dispatcher pension benefits with other law enforcement officials. I worked on this bill alongside advocates in the Washington County Sheriff’s office.

Manufacturers will no longer be able to sell or distribute food packaging that includes intentionally added PFAS chemicals.

The final Veterans bill also included an increase in the Personal Needs Allowance (PNA) for veteran home residents. This will help residents at the Hastings Veterans Home as the cost of living rises. The Transportation bill provides $10 million from the state that will help get the project rolling for a second daily Amtrak train between the Twin Cities and Chicago, which is a great opportunity for the whole district! The bill also distributes $1 million to complete preliminary engineering for corridor mobility and safety improvements on Highway 55 from Highway 52 to General Sieben Drive in Hastings. This funding will begin the process for future construction on this road segment.

As a member of the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, I appreciate the compromises made for the final Judiciary bill. The bill included two of my provisions I had fought for all legislative session. The first will make doxing a member of law enforcement’s address a misdemeanor. Doxing is disseminating personal information without permission to the public, typically by posting on social media. The second will require a full-time onsite fire department at refineries. This will protect workers at the refinery in St. Paul Park and area communities.

The Judiciary and Public Safety bill also includes necessary policy changes and reforms. The bill incorporated the Criminal Sexual Conduct working group recommendations, which includes closing the voluntarily intoxicated loophole. No-knock warrant reform, sign and release warrant procedures, civil forfeiture reform were also included. We also created an Office of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and a task force for Missing and Murdered African American Women. Lastly, the Judiciary bill met the funding needs for the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Corrections, the Department of Human Rights, and the Judicial Branch.

The Legislature worked together and eliminated the Social Security old age and Social Security disability deduction from unemployment benefits. We also funded the Main Street Economic Revitalization Program and the Main Street COVID-19 Relief Grant Program – two programs that will get our Main Streets the jump-start they need to recover from the effects of the pandemic. The Catalytic Converter Theft Prevention Pilot Program was created and new laws like recording bar codes on converters passed. The goal is to tackle this issue from prevention to consumer assistance.

Making a strong investment in our students and schools was a major priority for this year’s budget. We know there is much work to do to address any learning loss from the effects of the pandemic and remote learning, which is why we are providing $554 million of new funding for 2022-2023 and $668 million in 2024-2025. On top of these investments, we were able to maintain 4,000 voluntary slots for pre-K throughout the state, ensuring more of our youngest learners have the opportunity to enroll in these programs.

The final Tax Omnibus Budget bill included bipartisan agreement on tax conformity, which means that the forgivable PPP loans and up to $10,200 in UI benefits will not be considered taxable income. These are direct tax cuts to people who experienced the hardships of unemployment and to businesses that kept their employees on the payroll. Finally, the Tax Omnibus Budget established a working group to make recommendations to the Legislature on the disbursement of $250 million to frontline workers that had to take unpaid time off from work due to COVID-19 exposure.

I’m looking forward to more visits around the district when the Senate is not in session. The time between sessions gives me the opportunity to meet community leaders and constituents. Listening and learning directly from you helps me to better serve Senate District 54 when in session at the Capitol.