Fully Funding Public Education
I proudly serve on the Education Policy Committees in the House. As a mother with two children in public schools, ensuring equal access to quality public education is one of my top priorities. (My son is even named for a Supreme Court Justice who wrote that equal access to education was critical in ensuring that children grow to exercise their rights as citizens to achieve the American Dream.)
Because of these values, I support a strong system of fully funded public schools, with moderate class sizes, fair pay for teachers, and comprehensive health counseling and career services for all students. I also support taking aggressive measures to address Minnesota’s opportunity gap, which is one of the highest in the country. I believe in ensuring that high quality education is accessible and affordable to everyone, regardless of zip code.
This year, for the first time in decades and under DFL leadership, our education budget met the pressing needs created by the pandemic and a decade of divided legislature that led to chronic underinvestment.
The pandemic brought into light how many students rely on our public schools as a source of nutrition, mental health resources, and a nurturing and stable environment. Last session, we acted to ensure those services were available and plentiful to support our kids and enacted measures like Universal School Meals and my bill for menstrual equity in K-12 and higher education. We also took bold action to address literacy and representation in the classroom.
As a member of a key committee addressing E-12 education in Minnesota, I also advocate for the generous compensation that our educational professionals deserve. Their creative energy and empathy for the students learning from home has been impressive to behold and we need to ensure that when our kids return to school, that we provide the support that they need to make our schools the best in the nation.
Enacting Universal Health Care
All families need access to affordable health care. At times in my life, I have been unable to afford the life-saving asthma medication that I need, and it is unacceptable that anyone should have to choose between paying their rent, buying food for their children, and getting the medical care they need.
I support comprehensive and affordable health care for all Minnesotans. In the legislature, I fight for policies that ensure universal health care coverage, control prescription drug costs, prevent surprise medical bills, establish programs to give children a healthy start in life, and support health services for refugees, people experiencing homelessness, and those with mental illnesses.
COVID-19 has starkly exposed the vast inequalities in our health care system from patient care to staffing. In this, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, it is unacceptable that patience die because of lack of or insufficient insurance, but tragically, that is the reality of our current healthcare system. Here in the aftermath of the pandemic, it is vital to ensure everyone, including our most vulnerable, are assured of access to the health care they need.
Ensuring Economic Security for All
Everyone has a right to a life of dignity and security. As we continue to experience high inflation, Minnesotans are concerned about being able to support their families and protect their financial futures. As a small business owner, I understand the relationship between business decisions and the economic pressures families are facing. I believe all Minnesotans deserve a living wage, and as a working mom, I know we need to better support access to affordable child care, paid family leave, and paid sick time. These are all measures I fought for during this year’s session, and I’m proud to say that we delivered on every single one.
Protecting Our Environment
Climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time. My experience as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee gave me firsthand insight into the massive toll that climate change is already having – and this incredibly smokey Minnesota summer due to Canadian wildfires is another unescapable sign that climate change has arrived on Minnesota’s doorstep.
As a member of the House DFL Climate Action Caucus, I support bold actions to decrease emissions of greenhouse gasses, improve energy efficiency and sustainability, and create new clean-energy jobs — so I authored several pieces of bold legislation to do just that. I authored a 50-year clean water action plan for the whole state, as well as the Boundary Waters Permanent Protection Bill. I am proud to have secured funding for phase one of the clean water action plan.
Minnesota’s amazing natural resources—our land, air, and water—need protection from threats including industrial pollution, agricultural run-off, and risky copper-nickel mining. I support strong environmental regulations that promote renewable energy and ensure Minnesota’s environment will be safe for our children and grandchildren.
Criminal Legal and Public Safety Reforms
As an attorney, I know firsthand the difference between a system of “criminal justice” and one of simply “criminal law.”
I serve as Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee in the House, as well as on the Judiciary Committee, where we hear numerous bills relating to how Minnesota treats defendants in the criminal legal system and how this plays into public safety overall. This year, I was also appointed to the Council of State Governments’ Midwestern Legislative Conference (MLC) Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee, which contains legislators from 11 midwest states and explores a range of issues related to public safety, including sentencing reform, reducing recidivism, specialty courts, alternatives to incarceration, police and community relations, victims’ rights, and more.
In the legislature, I championed legislation to create an Office of Restorative Practices within the Department of Public Safety to expand youth restorative justice in Minnesota. This is a historic step away from a punitive, unjust, ineffective, costly system of youth justice towards one that reduces recidivism and racial disparities. You can read more about my restorative justice work in this great Star Tribune article and via this excellent interview on Minnesota Public Radio with my collaborators on this legislation.
As part of my advocacy for deep investments in youth justice, I also chief authored legislation to significantly increase the annual funding for Youth Intervention Programs (YIP) that administer grants statewide to support youth growing up with toxic stress, trauma, or abuse. In addition, I secured funding for grants to intervene where youth are involved in both the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Collectively, these investments and innovations in youth justice represent historic, transformative steps forward for our state.
Defending Our Civil Rights
As a member of the Judiciary Committee and Vice Chair of the Public Safety Committee, I frequently hear legislation with significant implications for our civil liberties, especially for marginalized and vulnerable communities. As demonstrated by my long-term involvement with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), including six years on the board of directors for the ACLU of Minnesota, I am committed to defending and improving civil rights for Minnesotans across the state.
This year, I was appointed to the Legislative Commission on Data Practices and Personal Data Privacy, which was created to study issues relating to government data practices and individuals’ personal data privacy rights and to review legislation impacting data practices, data security, and personal data privacy. I have been proud to chief author several successful pieces of legislation to protect data privacy, including the 2021 Student Data Privacy Act and the 2023 bill to create an annual reporting requirement for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension’s Fusion Center, which collects and shares extensive data on private citizens.
I am a proud advocate for the fight for racial justice, the right to protest, LGBTQ+ equality, freedom of speech, and privacy rights. Many of these rights have come under attack in recent years, and Minnesotans deserve a Representative who is willing to provide unwavering support and who takes action to protect these liberties.
Ending Gun Violence
Every year, more than 400 Minnesotans are killed with guns. In America, children are more likely to die by firearms than car accidents. As our families are threatened by gun violence and our children are frightened by active shooter drills, the big-money gun lobby prevents the passage of common-sense legislation favored by the majority of Americans. I support requiring background checks on all gun sales, passing a red flag law limiting gun access for people proven to be a danger to themselves or others, disarming domestic abusers, and taking other common-sense actions to end gun violence. Data shows taking these measures drastically improves outcomes, and Minnesotans deserve better than what our current gun culture looks like.
In recent years, decisions by lower courts and the evolving makeup of the U.S. Supreme Court have created uncertainty and anxiety around where the legal line between the rights of gun owners and public safety is drawn. As someone who fervently supports legislation that would decrease and hopefully one day altogether end gun violence, I have been in discussions with colleagues across the aisle to explore legislation that we can agree upon that would find this balance. While this remains a challenging area for policymakers, we must at minimum engage in conversations to understand where there is room for meaningful progress on this critically important societal issue.
This past session, I was proud to partner with the Violence Prevention Project Research Center to secure funding for its efforts dedicated to reducing violence in society and using data and analysis to improve policy and practice. The Center’s research on mass shootings and gun violence will give the legislature the tools for evidence-based policy development on gun violence prevention and intervention.
Supporting Reproductive Freedom
During the 2023 session, the DFL Trifecta successfully codified abortion rights into state law, ensuring every Minnesotan has the right to make their own reproductive healthcare decisions and protecting travelers from hostile states from any legal action that might be brought against them for seeking care in Minnesota.
As a member of the House DFL Reproductive Freedom Caucus, I believe government should not have a role in making decisions about a woman’s body, and I support access to affordable birth control and safe, legal abortion. The Reproductive Freedom Caucus was formed in the face of an imminent threat to freedom of choice and a desire to elevate this issue as one of critical importance to women’s rights – in particular low-income women.
Minnesota may soon be the only state in our region that allows abortion services. Abortion is health care, and I will do everything I can to support and improve access to reproductive health care for women in our state.
All Minnesotans deserve safe, secure, and affordable housing. We need to invest in innovative solutions to take on housing insecurity as we build a brighter future for Minnesotans.
In addition to passing major investments in homelessness prevention and a robust tenants rights package, during the 2023 legislative session, I worked alongside advocates to pass two bills to enhance the rights of residents of manufactured housing communities. These communities represent the most common form of affordable housing in our state and these reforms will impact the lives of the many residents in my Senate District and across Minnesota. The first bill creates new protections around how park owners pass along the cost of utilities to residents. The second bill, called the “Opportunity to Purchase” bill, will provide important notice to residents of the possibility of sale of their community via a private sale. This notice will enable residents to organize and offer to collectively purchase their community, providing more stability and facilitating deeper investments in infrastructure.
I recognize the critical history of unions in establishing and protecting workers’ rights, and I am a strong supporter of workers’ right to organize and to bargain collectively. Our economy is strong, diverse, and innovative, and we can make that economy work for all Minnesotans, not just the top 1%.
During the 2023 legislative session, I worked In partnership with the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters to build upon the work the legislature began in 2019 to address the all-too-prevalent practice of wage theft in the construction industry. This issue disproportionately impacts immigrant workers and shifts the burden of preventing wage theft from workers, who have the least amount of power to assert their rights, to general contractors who control the project site.
Working with the Advocates for Human Rights and the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, I chief authored successful legislation to enact an important update to our labor trafficking laws to address some glaring holes in our existing statutes that enable perpetrators to evade the law and enhance penalties in particular severe instances of trafficking. This legislation was designed to better protect uniquely vulnerable undocumented workers from exploitation.
I also fought for the Nurse and Patient Safety Act this session, and when passed, will provide important new protections and a voice for nurses in hospitals around the chronic issue of unsafe staffing. While we did not achieve the full version of this bill, in the last hours of the legislative session, we did pass the most comprehensive hospital workplace safety legislation in the nation. We have more work to do next year, and I will continue to fight for our nurses and the protections they so desperately need to continue to serve our communities.
I am proud to have earned a 100% rating by the AFL-CIO on my 2021 voting record supporting workers in Minnesota. As a member of the Minnesota State Legislature, I support a mandatory $15 minimum wage for all workers, Paid Family and Medical Leave, Sick and Safe Time, and other measures to ensure that all workers are supported and valued in Minnesota.