Have you ever wondered what legislators do at the Capitol? It’s a question I get frequently when I’m talking about my work with Minnesotans. I’m going to attempt to answer it here.
While every day looks a little bit different, I’m going to walk you through what I did on Wednesday, February 16, 2022. I hope this gives you a sense of what I’m working on and what a day at the legislature might look like.
I started my day with students from our community! Since February is Career and Technical Education Month, leaders from a variety of student organizations met with state representatives last week. I had a great time talking to the students about the groups and activities they’re involved in. It’s clear that access to career and technical education provides young Minnesotans with valuable skills and opportunities. .
I serve on four legislative committees – the Capital Investment Committee, the Health Finance and Policy Committee, the Housing Finance and Policy Committee, and the Preventing Homelessness Division – that hold a few public hearings every week. The Preventing Homelessness Division meets on Wednesdays at 10:30 a.m., so I joined that hearing after meeting with students.
During the public hearing, I had the opportunity to present a bill that I wrote. I talked about HF 3294, legislation that provides critical funding for the Emergency Services Grant Program. These funds would help provide emergency shelter and other services to Minnesotans experiencing homelessness.
To illustrate the importance of these services, I shared my story of staying in a shelter with my infant son when I was in my 20s. The staff there provided us with emotional support and a safe and secure place to stay for 30 days while we recovered from trauma. They also helped people who needed assistance with food, housing vouchers, and legal support. All of this and so much more was delivered in a place that was homey and well-maintained. I would not be where I am today without the support I received in those critical 30 days, and I want to make sure other Minnesotans have access to the same resources.
After eating a quick lunch, I presented another bill to the Workforce and Business Development Finance and Policy Committee. HF 2017, which I described in my last email, would help workers with disabilities thrive in the state of Minnesota. Trevor Turner, the Public Policy Director for the Minnesota Council on Disability, helped explain the bill, and Brittanie Wilson, a Communications Officer for the Minnesota Council on Disability, shared her story with the committee. Rep. Rod Hamilton, one of my Republican colleagues, also shared his perspective and expressed support for the bill. I’m grateful for the experiences and expertise that these testifiers and many others have shared. People who tell their own stories do more than I ever could to illustrate the need for this legislation and additional support for Minnesotans living with disabilities.
I introduced three more bills during my third and final public hearing of the day! HF 2517 provides $44,000 to fund the important work of the Minnesota Palliative Care Advisory Council, a group of professionals who work to improve the quality and delivery of patient-centered care. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, palliative care is a form of health care that focuses on treating the person as well as the disease. It’s intended to relieve the pain, symptoms, and stress that people experience when they have a serious illness and to provide an extra layer of support to the patient and their family.
If you’re not familiar with palliative care or thought it referred to something else, you’re not alone! Our state’s laws don’t accurately define palliative care, and that’s led to some misunderstandings and difficulty accessing care. HF 3148, the second bill I presented during the hearing, would correct the definition so more Minnesotans with serious illnesses can receive palliative care.
HF 3147, the third bill I presented to the Health Finance and Policy Committee on Wednesday, would expand access to dental care. Medicaid provides comprehensive dental benefits for children and pregnant Minnesotans, but coverage for other adults is limited. As a result, a large percentage of adult Medicaid members don’t receive routine dental care. This can lead to health impacts for individuals and greater costs for the broader health care system. Since adults who receive Medicaid are more likely to be from BIPOC communities, this has implications for racial justice as well.
Access to dental care shouldn’t be limited by the insurance card that you carry. My bill would help more Minnesotans get the care they need by expanding dental coverage for non-pregnant adults.
I wrapped up my work day at a Legislative Round Table with educators from ISD 197. We had a great conversation about our hopes for the district and ways we can work together to help Minnesota students succeed. The past few school years have been challenging for teachers and school staff, but they’ve worked hard to support students during the pandemic. They deserve to receive the same amount of consideration and support that they provide to our students.