Minnesota House Representative, District 64B
Hello neighbors! The 2024 legislative session will begin on February 12. My second column in the Community Reporter is a good chance to check in in advance, especially in light of last year’s historic session.
First, a reminder for those whom I haven’t yet met: I represent much of the neighborhood served by the Community Reporter, including most of the area south of St. Clair, in the Minnesota House. At the Legislature, I’ve focused on issues related to kids and families and on community safety, including gun violence. I also chair of the St. Paul delegation in the House. Outside of the Legislature, I serve as a Ramsey County prosecutor specializing in gender violence, especially domestic assault and sexual exploitation.
As I shared in my first column in October, last year’s legislative session was one of the most productive in state history, with transformational investments and policy changes that will help everyone in Minnesota to thrive.
This year’s session will build on that work, in some particular ways.
As in all odd-numbered years, the 2023 session set a two-year budget for the state; we are in the middle of that budget now. Even-numbered years, like 2024, involve adjustments to that budget based on emerging needs, as well as unexpected changes in spending and revenues.
In December, we received news that state revenues will likely significantly exceed spending this year, resulting in a large budget surplus. At the same time, a significant “structural imbalance” – with spending exceeding revenues – is expected in future years. This forecast will be revised in February. In the meantime, we’ll need to continue to carefully keep the long-term consequences in mind as we consider budget changes this session.
Speaking of long-term consequences, again a major focus for me is the well-being and development of our state’s children. Minnesota’s kids will be our employees (and employers!), our caregivers and our neighbors. Getting them off to a #GreatStartMN is in the interest of us all. In this area this session, I’m working to advance an exciting proposal to help families afford child care and early learning. I’m exploring reforms to Minnesota’s child protection system, in my role as House chair of a task force on this issue. And I continue to support action on homelessness; housing instability has such a detrimental impact on child development, and everyone deserves a safe, stable place to live.
Another major component of the 2024 session will be investments in infrastructure, often through state borrowing (“bonding”). I’ve authored several capital investment projects relevant to our area. One is the creation of a Mississippi River learning center and national park headquarters at Watergate Marina in Crosby Farm Park. This would be an opportunity for recreation, education and environmental stewardship, allowing all of us direct access to the river and strengthening our connection with this incredible resource.
A second project that I’ve authored is the Riverview Corridor transit corridor, which would run along West Seventh; increased transit opportunities are critical for our region. And finally, I’ve authored a proposal for an Ethiopian Community Center. We have many Ethiopian-Americans in our area; as has been true for so many others – including my own Italian and Eastern European ancestors – it’s vital that this community have a place to gather, celebrate weddings and graduations, mourn losses and be together.
There is much more to discuss, and a lot going on. Please keep in touch; full contact info (and email signup) is at house.mn.gov/64B. #EverybodyIn. Thank you for the honor of serving you.