Fully Funding Public Education
I proudly serve on both the Education Finance and Education Policy Committees in the House. As a mother with two children in public schools, ensuring equal access to quality public education is my top priority. My son Brennan is named for Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. who believed 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 achievement gap, which is one of the highest in the country. In addition, I believe in ensuring that high quality post-secondary education is accessible and affordable to everyone.
Fully funding our public schools has never been so important. The pandemic brought into stark relief how many students rely on our public schools as a source of nutrition, mental health resources, and a nurturing and stable environment. At the legislature, I prioritize fully funding our schools to address the unfunded mandates around special education and English language learning, and to enhance access to counseling and career services for students. As a member of the two key committees 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, regardless of zip code.
Enacting Universal Health Care
All families need access to affordable health care. At certain times in my life, I have been unable to afford the life-saving asthma medication that I need, and I believe that no one 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. No one should die because of their lack of insurance. But tragically, that is already happening--a 17-year-old boy in Los Angeles County died after he was denied treatment at an urgent care clinic because he lacked insurance. During the pandemic and afterward, we must ensure that 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 emerge from the pandemic, Minnesotans are concerned about being able to support their families and protect their financial futures. As a small business owner, I understand the economic pressures that families are facing. I believe that all Minnesotans deserve a living wage, and as a working mom, I support access to affordable child care, paid family leave, and paid sick time. 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 1%.
As the recovering economy is transformed by the pandemic, many people are wondering how they will meet the needs of their families. We need to prioritize legislation that will protect Minnesotans in the future--requiring paid leave and sick time so that workers do not have to work when they are ill, boosting our unemployment programs to help workers through a crisis, and ensuring a living wage, particularly for those who have had to work on the front lines of the pandemic for little pay.
Protecting Our Environment
As a member of the House DFL Climate Action Caucus, I recognize that climate change is one of the most important 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. I support bold actions to decrease emissions of greenhouse gases, improve energy efficiency and sustainability, and create new clean-energy jobs. In addition, 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 that Minnesota’s environment will be safe for our children and grandchildren.
Criminal Legal and Public Safety Reforms
I serve on the Judiciary and Public Safety Committees in the House, where we hear numerous bills relating to how Minnesota treats defendants in the criminal legal system and how this plays into public safety overall. As an attorney, I have successfully authored legislation to address this intersection between criminal justice and public safety through the groundbreaking Veterans Restorative Justice Act and the U Visa Certification bill, which provides immigrant victims of serious crimes a pathway to legalization. I also co-authored measures to integrate more community leadership and mental health interventions within law enforcement, so public safety is truly for all members of our community.
I am also leading an effort to draft bold legislation around youth restorative justice alongside community members and stakeholders spanning from prosecutors to juvenile justice reform advocates. I have found the area of juvenile justice reform to fit within the sphere where there is both bipartisan support and we can truly make a difference in the lives of young people and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. On top of this, we can create a system of laws that enhances public safety.
Defending Our Civil Rights
As a member of both the Judiciary and Public Safety Committees, I frequently hear legislation that has significant implications for our civil liberties. 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 civil rights. I support 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 need a representative who is willing to provide unwavering support for these liberties.
Ending Gun Violence
Every year, more than 400 Minnesotans are killed with guns. 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.
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.
Supporting Reproductive Freedom
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. As the federal protections created by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade face possible extinction, I will continue to be a strong voice for women’s reproductive rights here in Minnesota.
Over the past decade, Minnesota has experienced a growing shortage in affordable housing. According to a recent study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), nearly half of all renters in the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area pay more than 30% of their monthly income on housing. For low-income families earning less than 30% of the area median income (AMI), the statistics are even more stark, with 63% of households paying more than half of their monthly earnings on rent.
All Minnesotans deserve safe, secure, and affordable housing. Minnesota was experiencing an affordable housing crisis well before COVID-19. We need to invest in innovative solutions to take on housing insecurity as we build back from the pandemic. We can’t replace a pandemic with an eviction crisis, which is why in the past session, I and my colleagues in the House successfully fought for the inclusion of an orderly off-ramp to our current eviction moratorium. Our 2021 housing budget gives both renters and landlords the time they need to take advantage of federal funds. In the coming session, we must continue to make meaningful strides towards a state where all Minnesotans have a safe and secure roof over their heads. I support approaches such as funding increases for housing programs, reforms to the eviction process and the creation of enhanced tenant protections, as well as reforms to the laws that enable residents of manufactured housing communities to purchase their community. I am proud to have authored legislation to protect these communities from aggressive rent hikes and deceptive practices around utilities, and to enhance their right to purchase the land beneath their homes.
I am proud to have earned a 100% rating by the AFL-CIO on my 2021 voting record supporting workers in Minnesota. If we have learned nothing else from the COVID-19 pandemic it’s that our society is held together by essential frontline workers at grocery stores, pharmacies, large big box stores like Target, Walmart and Costco, as well as workers at distribution centers, wholesale suppliers and in agriculture. These workers do not have the luxury of sheltering in place at home and every day they go into work and risk exposure to the virus to ensure the rest of us have enough food and other necessities while we wait out the worst of the pandemic. Given the critical role they played in our time of collective need, these workers and all workers deserve to make a living wage that reflects the importance of their work to our society. 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.