Senator Champion's 2015 End-of-Session Report
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Minnesota saw remarkable progress when Democrats were in control of the House, Senate and Governor’s office. We were able to accomplish some great things.
This year, things have changed. The Minnesota House is controlled by a Republican majority and we are experiencing the challenges of divided government. Some Republicans seem to only be satisfied when government doesn’t work.
House Republicans showed their hand early this session. They tried to eliminate LGA for Minneapolis, cut wages for tipped employees, kick 90,000 off their affordable health insurance, and threaten the livelihoods of our teachers.
Senate DFLers opposed these Republican proposals and we were able to defeat them. While we were able to pass some good things this year, we certainly didn’t get everything we wanted in this budget. There were a number of missed opportunities and disappointments. I’m especially disappointed my Restore the Vote legislation didn’t pass, but I have not given up on making sure this becomes law. I will continue the fight to make our communities safer, our schools better and opportunities for our citizens greater.
Thank you for the honor of representing you. Please feel free to contact me whenever I can be of assistance.
Bobby Joe Champion
Minnesota State Senate
Restoring the Right to Vote
I was the chief author of bipartisan legislation to allow Minnesotans who are on parole or probation the right to vote. Minnesota would join 18 other states that grant voting rights to felons on probation or parole.
Despite broad bipartisan support and an incredibly strong coalition backing it, voting rights restoration legislation failed to pass this year. I was able to pass the bill in the
DFL-controlled Senate, which marks the first time the bill passed a legislative body. Unfortunately, the bill was never given a hearing in the GOP-controlled House.
The purpose of the bill is to restore voting rights to individuals with felony convictions who live in the community but are unable to vote because they are still on probation, parole or conditional release. This current policy disenfranchises more than 47,000 citizens who are living in our communities and paying taxes; they are unable to vote due to a felony conviction on their record.
My legislation would allow citizens to vote after they are released from jail, rather than the date they complete parole or supervised release, which can be many years. Current law unnecessarily and excessively discourages positive participation, perpetuates racial disparities, and adds cost and complications to voting.
I am proud of the progress that voting rights restoration made this year. The issue is finally getting the attention it deserves. There are a number of legislators from both sides of the aisle on board with passing this legislation, and I am hopeful thousands of Minnesotans will someday have their voting rights restored.
The fight Continues for Drivers Licenses for All
Under current law, undocumented immigrants cannot get drivers licenses in Minnesota. Driver’s licenses are a necessity for immigrants to get to jobs where driving to work is the only option. Thousands of immigrants that live in Minnesota are forced to drive for everyday tasks, like getting to work and taking children to school. I introduced legislation to change that. My bill changes the types of documents needed for people to use as a form of identification that is accepted to receive a driver’s license. It retains all the testing requirements to make certain all drivers drive safely on our roads. Additionally, my bill allows licensed drivers to ascertain motor vehicle insurance as they drive on our highways.
Unfortunately, this bill did not become law this year because House Republicans refused to pass it. Republican House leadership does not represent Minnesota families and does not acknowledge how important and basic driver’s licenses are to immigrant families. I am committed to continue my work to ensure this bill becomes law.
Every day, trains carrying oil and other hazardous materials pass through Minnesota. These trains present real risks to public safety and our natural resources. That is why I co-authored legislation to strengthen Minnesota’s ability to prevent disasters, and respond quickly and effectively if they do occur. By improving safety precautions and disaster preparedness, these efforts would improve the safety of Minnesotans living near railroads carrying hazardous materials. Specifically, I have worked to prevent a connector track at the intersection between BNSF and Canadian Pacific (CP) railroad lines. This connector track would increase traffic and allow mile-long trains carrying oil and potentially other hazardous materials through Theodore Wirth Park, across I-94, near Target Field, and through downtown Minneapolis.
HOME Pilot Project
The 2014 Legislature designed the HOME pilot project (Housing Opportunities Made Equitable) to help close the disparity in affordable housing for all communities of color in Minnesota. Last year, I successfully passed legislation to fund the project with a $60 million appropriation for competitive grants to community organizations to provide financial education, case management, credit mending, home buyer education, and foreclosure prevention mitigation services.
This session, the Senate Housing bill included an additional $500,000 in funding for the program. Unfortunately, the additional funding did not become law. I will work on legislation to continue funding this important pilot project. The bill was created with the assistance of the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing (MICAH) and has seen widespread support across the state.
My Commitment to our Kids and Our Schools
The final education bill after the special session includes $526 million in new general fund resources for FY 2016-17, including $346 million to increase funding for school districts on the general education formula by 2% in both FY 2016 and FY 2017.
Although the education bill does not include the statewide universal pre-kindergarten initiative that was a priority for Governor Mark Dayton, it does devote $96 million to increase funding for initiatives focused on young children, including:
$48 million for early learning scholarships; $3.5 million for the state’s early learning and child care rating system; $31 million for School Readiness; $2.8 million for Early Childhood Family Education; and $10 million for Head Start.
The bill also includes $5 million for the Northside Achievement Zone, St. Paul Promise
Neighborhood and new education partnership pilots that help children succeed by coordinating support for families at school and in their communities.
My NO Vote Against the Environment Bill
The agreement negotiated between the legislative leaders and Gov. Dayton for the
Environment and Agriculture bill included provisions that greatly concerned me. The
two most egregious were the elimination of the Pollution Control Agency (PCA) Citizen’s Board and the nonferrous mining exemption from solid waste rules.
I was disappointed that the final bill rolls back environmental protections that have been in place for year, but I pledge to work to bring them back next year.
I supported the final jobs and economic development budget bill, which included a directive for the commissioner of the Department of Employment and Economic
Development (DEED), in collaboration with the Minnesota State Colleges and
Universities (MNSCU), to develop and administer a customized training program for skilled manufacturing industries. In addition, I advocated for and received additional resources for youth employment opportunities.
Unfortunately, I was unhappy with a provision that allows a cooperative association or municipal utility to charge an additional fee to net metering customers with a capacity below 40 kilowatts to recover all fixed costs required to serve the customer.
Senate District 59, I hope you're enjoying this beautiful weather like I am. Yesterday, I enjoyed a nice bike ride through our district for the Walk and Roll MN Challenge. Thanks for inviting me North Minneapolis Bicycle Advocacy Council!
As you probably know, the Minnesota legislature is currently on break until Tuesday, April 7, 2015. After busy schedules moving bills through committees during first and second deadline, we are now at the halfway mark of the 2015 legislative session. We will begin to enter the fiscal portion, where we work out budgets, after we return from break.
I usually send out updates on just a few bills, but this week, I'm giving you bill summaries for most of the bills moving through the legislature thus far. There is a lot of content, but I wanted to make sure you're able to read up on other bills you may not be aware of. You can access the mid-session report at http://senatedfl.mn/2015-mid-session-update/ The site is user-friendly and organized by committee. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact my office. Take care and enjoy your Spring!
Join me for a special screening of the film Selma on February 19!
Want to express your views about the importance of voting rights, while getting the chance to check out rising-star director Ava DuVernay’s Best Picture-nominated film Selma? Save the Date for February 19, as State Senator Champion and Friends present a special screening at the Brooklyn Center Regal Cinema!
Watch the preview for the film by clicking here!
Check out an interview with Ms. DuVernay and lead actor David Oyelowo here
Featuring the following co-hosts:
The Second Chance Coalition, Elliot Park Neighborhood Association, Heritage Park Neighborhood Association, Neighborhoods Organized for Change (NOC), The Council for Crime and Justice, Better Futures Minnesota, Turning Point, Inc., KMOJ 89.9 FM, and Insight News
Thursday, February 19, 2015
Doors Open at 6:30 PM
Show Starts at 7:00 PM
Brooklyn Center Stadium
6420 Camden Ave N
Brooklyn Center MN 55430
This event is open to the public
To get a ticket, RSVP by emailing my Legislative Assistant, Joane’ McAfee (her email address is email@example.com) with your:
You will receive a confirmation email from Joane’ once your ticket has been reserved. If you have any questions, please contact Joane’ at 651-296-9246 or the email address listed above.
We hope to see you there for this amazing event!
James Oberstar: 1934-2014
Representative Jim Oberstar was an inspiration as a legislator, and as a person.
Jim carried on his father's United Steelworker legacy by serving as an exemplary advocate for laborers and their families throughout his life. During his tenure as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, he served as chair for the Transportation and Infrastructure committee, led on aviation and rail transit issues, advocated for bicycle paths and trail development, and was a strong voice for the Head Start program and mine safety legislation. He was crucial in obtaining the funds for the rapid re-build of the I-35W bridge, and his steadfast efforts to secure infrastructure investments kept other such disasters from occurring. Jim, a native of Chisholm on the Iron Range, served the U.S. Marine Corps as a civilian language teacher, and helped create the Economic Development Administration before he was elected to the U.S. House in 1974.
Thanks to Rep. Oberstar, future generations of Minnesotans will have greater access to healthy outdoor activities, and rail transit connecting our Twin Cities. He was a true titan, and will be greatly missed.
Need Healthcare? Or Want To Help Others Get Healthcare? Check www.mnsure.com!
At www.mnsure.com, you can compare plans from Minnesota insurers, and see if you qualify for a low-cost or free plan. Also, if you want to help bring better healthcare to your fellow Minnesotans, sign up here to join the growing ranks of Assistive Partners, where we are looking for:
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MNsure es un Mercado en línea único e integral para que las personas que viven en Minnesota puedan obtener ayuda, comparer, elegir y comprar los planes de seguro médicoque major se adapten a su presupuesto y necesidades.
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Sign up here to receive email updates about MNsure (the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota, aka Obamacare), and click here for fact sheets about this expansion of access to quality healthcare!
2013 Legislative Session - Addressing the Big Issues
After re-taking control of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature, Senator Champion and his partners in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party collaborated with Governor Mark Dayton to pass several pieces of legislation, moving Minnesota forward to national prominence once again.
While we still have significant work to do, specifically in regards to my legislative priorities, such as raising the minimum wage, reducing gun violence, and restoring voting rights to those completing their sentence for a felony, we made serious progress in 2013. In the next year, we will pass a bonding bill that will put thousands of Minnesotans to work rebuilding our transportation infrastructure and other important projects that impact the lives of our state.
Ban the Box
Democrats, Republicans and Independents agree – having a job is a good thing. My bill to "ban the box" removed a roadblock to Minnesotans seeking to join the labor force. Now, when applying for a job, it is now illegal for an employer to inquire or consider an applicant's criminal record when deciding who gets an interview.
Freedom to Marry
Minnesota became the twelfth state to legalize marriage for gay and lesbian couples. We also included language that provided legal protections for churches, non-profits and private businesses that do not choose to participate. Gov. Dayton's signature on this historic bill was witnessed by over 7,000 Minnesotans.
Expanded Sick Leave Flexibility
I authored a bill that allows employees, if their workplace provides them "sick time", to use these hours to care for their adult children, spouse, sibling, parent or grandparent, in addition to their child.
Housing is one of my central issues, and I am proud to have brought together the resources of Legal Aid and the Multi Housing Association for my tenant protection bill. This legislation assesses a $500 fine to those that do not notify prospective tenants that a house is in foreclosure. It also makes permanent a provision in the Renter Protection Act that permits a tenant to remain in the foreclosed residence for 90 days after a lease expires, and grants those wishing to appeal a court decision an extra 5 days to file their action.
Protection for Minnesotans with Disabilities
Many Minnesotans utilize the assistance of service animals. I wrote a bill to expand the rights of persons with disabilities to enter public establishments with their service animals in accordance with the American Disabilities Act.
Minnesota Prosperity Act
Our version of the DREAM Act permits the children of immigrants that attended three years of Minnesota high school to receive the in-state tuition rate in Minnesota, in addition to financial aid and scholarships.
Sex Trafficking Prevention and Safe Harbor Law
This involved an investment in our local law enforcement to identify victims of sex-trafficking, and an expansion of the Safe Harbor Law to enhance their support services and shelters.
Drivers License for All
I sponsored legislation to ease restrictions on driver’s licenses for non-U.S. citizens. Right now, many members of the immigrant community drive without a Minnesota license and insurance. This bill increases the number of licensed drivers and insured drivers on Minnesota’s roads.
Part-time Working Student Aid
Included in the Higher Education Omnibus bill was my provision to allocate student aid based on how many credits a person takes, not whether that person is considered full or part-time. This bill will decrease the debt students owe when they graduate and provide them with additional flexibility.
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Published and prepared by Bobby Joe Champion for Senate.