Minnesota Senate POCI Caucus Press Conference: Notes 

Notes by Cirien Saadeh

Press conference held April 14

Senator Mary Kunesh (DFL – District 39), Senate POCI Caucus Chair opens press conference 

  • The People of Color and Indigenous Caucus press conference reviews the 2023 POCI Caucus legislative priorities
    • Group of 10 DFL senators, standing “together across, race, culture, experience, united in the goal of making Minnesota better and a more equitable place to live” 
    • Largest group of people of color that the Minnesota Senate has ever had in history
    • 6 of the ten members are newly-elected
  • “Our goal has been to advance policy solutions to ensure that all Minnesotans are able to live in a safe community. That they are healthy and prosperous in their livelihoods, where everyone has an equal chance to succeed.” 

Senator Foung Hawj (DFL – District 67)

  • “One of the major legislation on my agenda this session is the environmental natural resources trust fund. This is available, as a result, of our lottery proceeds to provide environmental protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of our state air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources. The trust fund is due for sunset in 2024, and we the legislature are charged with re-authorizing the constitutional amendment or dedication. While this fund contributed to many important projects over 60 years of history, some of our communities have been left out. With this re-authorization, we will create community grants programs that will open the door wider to our BIPOC communities that have not adequately accessed our state dollars in the past.” 
  • “Funding will be set aside for previously under-served populations in a way that will increase accessibility and participation in the process.” 

Senator Erin May Quade (DFL – District 56)

  • Says she wants to level-set and focus on the “national assault on civil and human rights that we have seen across this country”
  • “In Minnesota we get to do things differently. We are protecting civil and human rights, we are ensuring civil and human rights, we are investing in the things that matter most to communities.” 
  • Says her priorities are disability justice including Medicare Assistance for Employed People with Disabilities; TEFRA fees; the READ Act; non-exclusionary discipline; the Reproductive Freedom Codification Act

Senator Omar Fateh (DFL – District 62)

  • Says the higher education omnibus bill includes provisions funding increases in the state grant program, funding for the American Indian Scholarship Program, expanding the increased funding for the Hunger-Free Campus programs; and the Minnesota Commitment to Higher Education Act
  • Transportation Network Company bil, authored by Fateh, is a priority, “the Uber Lyft Bill” – “We had several hundred drivers approach us, earlier in the year or last summer, and they organized and they told us some of the challenges they’re facing driving for Uber and Lyft. This included a decrease in wages, not being able to support their families, there’s a safety issue where we heard drivers that were attacked, beaten, robbed, and there’s a deactivation piece where Uber and Lyft are deactivating folks without giving them a reason why.” 
  • “Right now we’re working to ensure that A) we’re increasing their wages and 2) we have some assurance to provide some support, and 3) that Uber and Lyft are not able to just deactivate folks who this is their sole source of income.”

Senator Alice Mann (DFL – District 50)

  • Currently working on legislation related to “stopping the suspension of our youngest learners, K-3rd grade” 
  • Currently working on a bill “that would make MinnesotaCare accessible to all undocumented Minnesotans who financially qualify for the program”
    • “We will not let you die on the street because you’re missing a piece of paper.” 
  • Currently working on paid family and medical leave legislation

Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten (DFL – District 66) 

  • “Our legislature is finally starting to look like Minnesota and I am just so proud to be a part of it.” 
  • Currently working on legislation related to racial justice
  • “I feel it is so important that racial justice and human dignity is reflected in my priorities and all the work that I do here at the Capitol.” 
  • Vice Chair of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee
  • Carrying several bills in the area of judiciary and public safety that she hopes will address racial disparities
  • Bill priorities include:
    • Minnesota Connecting Families legislation, “that will ensure our incarcerated folks and their families are not being charged these exorbitant fees in order to communicate with one another”
    • Judiciary and Public Safety omnibus bill which includes funding for the POST Board “to ensure they have the resources to investigate police misconduct and that’s really important to me because I represent the district where Philando Castile was shot and killed six years ago by the police.” 
    • Cannabis expungement legislation
    • Eviction court reform
    • Clean Slate Act
    • English Language Learner cross-subsidy
    • First Generation Homeowner Down Payment Assistance Program

 Senator Zaynab Mohamed (DFL – District 63) 

  • Carrying “Office of New Americans” legislation, “This bill is about creating an office in our state so that folks who are immigrating from different parts of our world…who are coming to our state to be able get the jobs they need and that we’re making sure that they’re a functioning part of our state.” 
  • “Hate crimes are something we have seen increase across the country….” – says she worked on this bill when she “was in community” as the Advocacy Director for CAIR-MN
    • “The bill that we worked on was the hate crime bill so when a hate attack happens at a mosque or to an individual, law enforcement can be able to identify it and right now they’re not able to do that with the way the law is written. This bill allows the community to have input and properly identify hate crimes. We cannot solve the problem if we can’t see it.” 
  • Jobs Bill “is about equity, it uplifts the corners of our state where the sun doesn’t shine and brings light everywhere”
    • Other provisions includes: “workforce for formerly incarcerated Minnesotans,” “workforce for at-risk youth,” “building certification programs for disadvantaged communities,” “workforce development for folks struggling with mental health” 

Senator Kunesh

  • “As the Education Finance Chair and a retired teacher of 25 years, I have focused my attention and built an omnibus bill that has a $2.514 billion target. This is the largest target that Minnesota has ever invested in our education system. It centers first on our students and our teachers, after hearing their voices loud and clear.” 
  • Senate File 2684’ biggest investment is 4 and 5% on the formula, “that has never been done before.”
    • “It also includes unemployment insurance for our hourly workers who have been left out of that kind of support year after year after year.” 
    • “It buys down our SPED and our EL cross-subsidies.”
    • “It builds our teacher ranks by investing more, almost completely in the Increase Teachers of Color and Indigenous Program.” 
    • “It ensures a focus on literacy through the READ Act.” 
    • “It expands opportunities for full-service community schools.”
    • “It increases early childhood scholarships and permanent VPK.” 
    • “It funds support personnel like nurses and social workers and mental health resources, which is one of the top requests by teachers and students.” 
    • “We also did something quite incredible by making breakfast and lunch available to all students at no cost, and that’s been passed already and has been enacted.” 
  • “When we have these communities where everyone is treated with fairness and justice and empowered to participate fully in social, cultural, and economic lives, we are all going to succeed. The evidence is strong that individuals thrive in these types of communities. That is our goal.” 

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