By FOUNG HAWJ
Minnesota State Senator (DFL-67)
ST. PAUL (June 24, 2013) — The 2013 Legislative Session presented many challenges and important choices. When I look back at our accomplishments, I am proud to see numerous St. Paul-related bills now signed into law. Not only did I lead some of these local accomplishments, but I actively supported legislation that honestly balances Minnesota’s budget and invests in our future. While I am new to politics, I am not new to helping people. And this year, we helped thousands of Minnesotans by investing in job creation, education, property tax relief, and new initiatives to grow the middle class.
As Senator of District 67, I successfully passed bi-partisan legislation adding an adult basic education program advisor to the Governor’s Workforce Development Council. I’ve learned from volunteering and working with many diverse groups on St. Paul’s East Side the importance of including many different voices in community planning and decision making. This bill ensures all stakeholders will have a seat at the workforce discussion table.
A number of bills I authored also passed as provisions in this year’s omnibus bills. Included in the Jobs and Economic Development Omnibus Budget is $1.5 million for the Minnesota Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs to administer a statewide youth jobs skills development program. The Neighborhood Development Center in St. Paul, a non-profit organization that helps new entrepreneurs and small business start-ups, also received funding through the Jobs Budget bill. Both of these programs build Minnesota’s workforce and strengthen our communities through the support of business development.
Additional St. Paul projects receiving support in FY 14-15 are the Ordway Center’s concert hall construction and Como Zoo habitat preservation exhibit restoration. Our area parks and trails will also receive funding this year through the Legacy Omnibus Bill.
Beyond these local projects, I helped the legislature make a historic $735 million investment in education for all learners–from early education scholarships and voluntary all-day kindergarten to a major investment in direct financial aid and a two year tuition freeze for all U of M and MnSCU schools. We also passed significant education policy reforms such as replacing the GRAD test with exams that better evaluate students’ college and career readiness. This new funding and reform will help give our kids access to a world-class education and prepare Minnesota students for the 21st Century workforce.
The 2013 legislature also made great strides in providing health care coverage to more Minnesotans. Early in session, I co-authored legislation that provides access to quality health care coverage for an additional 35,000 low-income adults. Not only does this expansion save Minnesota an expected $129 million for FY 2014-2015, but it means thousands of low-income children, families, and individuals will be able to see doctors sooner and live healthier lives.
Through informative meetings with constituents and my legislative work this session, I have gained a new understanding of the everyday struggles Minnesotan’s experience. More importantly though, I’ve developed a boundless optimism about what is possible when we work together. It is with this mind-set that I approached my new leadership post this year and I will continue developing it as your State Senator.
Contact Senator Foung Hawj at [email protected] or call 651-296-5285.