Bills We’re Watching

By Erica Solomon, Executive Director

January 26, 2023

Feel like there’s a lot of action going on at the Capitol this session? Us too! There has been so much great progress on issues of importance to NCJW in just these first few weeks of 2023. Here’s a guide to the legislation that we’re supporting and/or following. We’ll do our best to keep this post updated, but things happen fast! For the most up-to-date news about specific bills, we recommend using the MN Legislature’s MyBills tool and keeping in touch with your district’s representatives (even if they are “on your side” of an issue, it’s crucial that they hear words of support and gratitude from constituents). If you need to double check who represents you in the state legislature, you can find them using this link.

 

HF44/SF50: Menstrual Equity 

Chief authors: Representative Sandra Feist and Senator Steve Cwodzinski

The menstrual equity bill, which NCJW has partnered on with the chief authors and a team of student and community advocates, would require that period products be freely available in all 4th-12th grade student restrooms, and provide schools with the necessary funding. Access to period products is a matter of gender, health, and education equity, and it is far past time to ensure that no students in our state miss class because they lack access to or cannot afford the menstrual products they need.

Status as of 1/25: The Menstrual Equity Bill has had hearings in the House Education Policy Committee (Jan. 11) and House Education Finance Committee (Jan. 18). It will now move on to its final committee stop in House Ways and Means. The Senate version of the bill has now been heard and moved forward by the Senate Education Policy and Education Finance Committees, and its next stop will be the Senate Finance Committee. We are hopeful that the bill will be headed to floor votes in both bodies by late February. We are so grateful for the advocacy of the legislators championing the bill as well as the students and school staff that have provided powerful testimony at these hearings.

We are looking forward to the introduction of an additional version of the bill that would provide menstrual products for students at Minnesota State College and University of Minnesota campuses. Senator Clare Oumou Verbeten will join Representative Feist as chief authors of this yet-to-be-numbered bill. 

 

HF91/SF70: Reproductive Freedom Codification Act

Chief authors: Representative Tina Liebling and Senator Erin Maye Quade

This bill, championed by the UnRestrict Minnesota Coalition, would repeal unnecessary and unconstitutional abortion restrictions in Minnesota. The restrictions in question—including a two-parent notification law for minors, a mandatory 24-hour delay period for patients seeking abortion care, a requirement that providers recite state-mandated anti-abortion propaganda to patients, and restrictions on qualified practitioners providing abortions—create dangerous ambiguities in our laws, impose unwarranted barriers to abortion access, and undermine the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy in our state. By repealing these unconstitutional restrictions, HF91/SF70 will ensure that anyone in Minnesota can access abortion care.

Status as of 2/2: HF91/SF70 had its first hearings in the House Health Finance and Policy Committee (Jan.12) and the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee (Jan. 24). On January 26, the House Public Safety Policy and Finance Committee approved the bill, sending it on to the House Ways and Means Committee. In the Senate, the bill has been heard by the Health and Human Services Committee and will next be heard by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee on Friday, February 3rd at 12:30 p.m.

 

HF1/SF1: PRO Act

Chief authors: Representative Carlie Kotyza-Witthuhn and Senator Jennifer McEwen

The Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act would codify the fundamental right to abortion and protect reproductive rights, justice, and access to essential healthcare in Minnesota.

Status as of 2/1: The House passed HF1 on January 19th, 2023, and its companion bill (SF1) is poised to pass the Senate, where the Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety recommended it to pass on January 18th. The Senate floor vote was scheduled for Friday, January 27th at 10 a.m., and the Senate ultimately passed the Pro Act on Saturday, January 28th after more than 14 hours of debate. The bill is now going to the governor’s desk for his signature!

 

HF181: Bias and Discrimination Reporting and Response

Chief author: Representative Samantha Vang 

HF 181, which is supported by the Communities Combating Hate Coalition (led by Jewish Community Action), does not yet have a companion bill in the Senate. This bill would improve data gathering and reporting around bias and discrimination, and create a Bias Response and Community Equity Outreach Team to provide communities that experience acts of hate with culturally-specific support.

Status as of 1/24: This bill had its first hearing in the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on January 17th, 2023.

 

HF25: Crime Reform

Chief author: Representative Cedrick Frazier and Senator Ron Latz 

The Crime Reform Bill, which has strong support from our coalition partners at Mothers Against Community Gun Violence,  would provide funding for an expansion of community-based crime prevention services, including victim services programs, juvenile diversion programs, and social service workers to accompany police responding to individuals who are experiencing mental health crises.

Status as of 1/24: HF25 was approved by the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on January 19th, 2023, and will have its next hearing in the House Ways and Means Committee.

 

HF14: Expanded Background Checks

Chief Author: Representative Dave Pinto

This House bill would require criminal background checks for all firearm transfers, and expand the grounds on which transferees can be disqualified from receiving a gun permit.

Status as of 1/26: HF24 had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd.

 

HF15: Red Flag Law

Chief Author: Representative Cedrick Frazier

The “red flag” or “extreme risk protection order” (ERPO) bill would enable family members or law enforcement to petition the courts to prevent people who pose a significant danger to themselves or others from possessing firearms.

Status as of 1/26: HF15 had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd.

 

HF396: Safe Firearm Storage

Chief Author: Representative Jamie Becker-Finn

This bill would mandate the safe storage of all firearms and ammunition, and would impose criminal penalties for violations.

Status as of 2/3: HF396 had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd.

 

SF353: Capitol Complex Safety

Chief Author: Senator John Marty

This Senate bill would prohibit the possession of dangerous weapons in the state Capitol Complex.

Status as of 1/26: SF353 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, with its hearing date to be determined.

 

SF606: Lost or Stolen Firearms Reporting

Chief Author: Senator Bonnie S. Westlin

This bill would require the prompt reporting of lost or stolen firearms.

Status as of 1/26: SF606 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, with its hearing date to be determined.

Menstrual Equity Bill Makes Progress

Representative Sandra Feist presents HF44 to the House Education Policy Committee

by Erica Solomon, Executive Director 

January 13, 2023

Periods Happen–which started when one school’s request for menstrual hygiene products sparked an NCJW program that has distributed 200,000 pads and tampons to the community–is close to counting a legislative achievement among its impacts.

After faltering at the last moment in 2022, chief authors Representative Sandra Feist (39B) and Senator Steve Cwodzinski (49) introduced the Menstrual Equity Bill in the first week of the 2023 session as HF44/SF50. NCJW has been working alongside Rep. Feist, Sen. Cwodzinski, and a team of community advocates (many of them high school students led by Hopkins High Junior, Elif Ozturk) to bring menstrual equity to Minnesota schools by providing funding for period products for all 4th-12th grade student restrooms. Learn more about the bill, the research behind it, and how it would help Minnesota students thrive, in this Star Tribune Opinion piece from January 11, 2023.

Where we are

This past Wednesday, January 11, the bill had its first committee hearing with House Education Policy. A great slate of student and school nurse testifiers did a fantastic job advocating for the bill’s necessity and impact. Rep. Urdahl (16A) introduced an amendment to prevent the bill from including “boys” gendered restrooms (currently, it states that products must be provided in at least one of these in each school). NCJW opposes this amendment because the inclusion of trans or nonbinary students that have no choice but to use gendered restrooms at school is crucial to fulfill the bill’s goal of creating equity for all students that menstruate. Additionally, exposing even male identifying students that don’t menstruate themselves to these products helps eliminate stigma and normalize periods–an important goal of the legislation. Thankfully, the amendment did not prevail, and the committee approved the referral of the bill in its original form to the House Education Finance committee. This is a big win as it brings us one step closer to a floor vote and eventual signing into law!

Students Evelyn Gore and Tori Robarge testify for the House Education Policy Committee

What’s next? 

The House Education Finance Committee will hear the bill on Wednesday, January 18 at 10:30 a.m. Later that same day, at 12:30 p.m., the Senate House Policy Committee will hear their version of the bill. Another strong group of testifiers is lined up for the day’s hearings. We welcome you to attend the hearings, which will be held Capitol 120 (House committee) and Senate Office Building Room 1200 (Senate committee). You can also livestream them on the House website and Senate YouTube channel as your schedule allows. We look forward to sharing outcome of the hearings, and hopefully being scheduled in the Senate Education Finance Committee soon afterwards.

How you can help

Contact your representatives in support of the bill! Here’s a template you can use, but it is super barebones and we encourage you to add a personal touch! You can also utilize/share this one-pager/policy brief and these social media graphics. To read the full text of each version of the bill and follow its progress, search HF44 or SF50 on the MN Legislature website. 

If you are connected with any school staff and/or 4th-12th grade students that would be interested in submitting a written statement of support, or possibly testifying at an upcoming hearing, please get in touch with Erica Solomon at Erica@ncjwmn.org.

Let’s make 2023 the year that we #EndPeriodPovertyMN!

Advocates with Rep. Feist at the House Ed Policy Hearing (L-R: Dr. Thomas Stinson, Tori Robarge, Evelyn Gore, Carolyn Handke, Erica Solomon, Kathleen Mahli, Elif Ozturk, Kari D’Averill

2023 Policy Priorities

by Laura Monn Ginsburg, NCJW Minnesota Advocacy Co-Chair and Past President

December 22, 2022

Full steam into a new year (and new legislative session)!

Earlier this month, our team of advocacy leaders met to discuss NCJW MN’s policy priorities for the coming year. Given the shifting power dynamics at the MN Capitol, our historical areas of interest and advocacy, and our capacity to show up as the allies and advocates we want to be, we landed on four familiar and important topics:

  1. Reproductive Justice – Protecting access to abortion and ensuring all Minnesotans can safely receive the affirming and validating care they deserve. We look forward to continuing our work with the UnRestrict MN to lessen barriers and burdens to those seeking abortion services.
  2. Menstrual Equity – Ensuring all students who menstruate have the items they need to stay in school. From grassroots work to deliver items likes pads and tampons to area schools to grass-tops work advocating for subsidized menstrual products in all Minnesota public schools, we’re excited to continue this work.
  3. Gun Violence Prevention – Working to keep all Minnesotans safe from gun violence. We’ll continue our work with key partners—including Mothers Against Community Gun Violence (MACGV), Protect MN Interfaith Alliance, and Moms Demand Action MN—to advocate for commonsense gun laws and protections that ensure Minnesotans can live without fear of gun violence.
  4. Fair and Independent Courts – #CourtsMatter is a longstanding NCJW MN priority to advocate for judicial appointments that uphold a fair and independent rule of law.

You may not be surprised to see any of these on our list. NCJW MN has actively advocated for all four of the issue areas listed above. However, we come to each new year (and each new legislative session) with fresh eyes and open minds as we consider where we can be most useful and successful.

If any of these sound like an issue you’d like to support, join us! Contact sam@ncjwmn.org and we’ll be happy to get you on the team. We all have the ability to make a meaningful difference, especially when we bring our voices together.

Introducing: The NCJW MN Stories Blog

by Erica Solomon, Executive Director 

December 8, 2022

Welcome to the brand new NCJW Minnesota blog! Our hope is that this will be a forum for us to share updates, news, and action opportunities, and also for you, our NCJW Minnesota advocates, to share your own stories. I thought I’d kick us off by sharing a bit more about what this organization means to me, and why, after six years as a volunteer, Board member, and committee leader, I was so thrilled to join the staff as executive director this past June. 

My NCJW story begins in the long-ago days of early 2016 (I can’t believe I’m saying that, but it really does feel like it was another world back then, right?!). After spending the majority of my life in St. Paul and its suburbs, I’d packed up my covered wagon for the move to Minneapolis and a job at JFCS. I was at a big transitional point in my life and career, and was eager to get more involved with the Jewish community in ways that resonated with me as an adult (because, in so many ways, I just wasn’t the person I was in my “star in the USY musical” days anymore). 

NCJW was going through its own changes as well–it was right around this time that the separate St. Paul and Minneapolis sections merged into the singular NCJW Minnesota that we know today. The expanded reach of the section, its mission to develop new leaders, and the well-timed suggestion of a colleague who was an NCJW Board member at the time all converged into my landing in “Women Leading Change,” a cohort that convened monthly to learn about the organization, build skills, and get fired up about the power of collective change-making. 

In those six months of Women Leading Change, I got a taste for what I consider the three boldface headers of my NCJW story–themes that continued to grow with me as I moved on to other engagement opportunities with the organization, and move me daily as I continue the work in this newest role…

Empowerment
If you’d asked me, before I stepped into that first NCJW event in 2016, what “advocacy” meant, I honestly might have drawn a blank. Like so many folks, I always thought about policy and government as something that happens to individuals and communities. NCJW showed me that we the people, when we work together and stand up for our beliefs, truly have the power to make change for ourselves, our families, and our neighbors. For the first time in my life I was contacting my representatives, lobbying in St. Paul and Washington D.C., and empowered with the knowledge that I have a voice and all kinds of ways to raise it (besides, you know, the aforementioned showtunes). Never have I felt more empowered than when I had the opportunity to co-lead Minnesota’s delegation to NCJW’s Washington Institute in 2019–talking with federal legislators about what matters to me, and feeling heard in the most meaningful way I ever have. 

Intergenerational
Aside from the powerful learnings, there was another big takeaway from that first jump into NCJW…this was a place with history and big l’dor v’dor energy. Yes, I suppose that goes without saying for an organization founded in 1893. But here was a space with a broader range of age representation than my then-25-year-old brain could conceive of. Sitting next to me learning the ins and outs of changemaking were women in just about every stage of life from 20s to late 80s…and I think there was at least one baby who tagged along too! I also learned that my great-aunt and namesake, Elaine Simon, served as a past President of NCJW Minneapolis. Fast forward to getting my mom involved in NCJW (yes, we’re one of the rare cases in which the daughter was the influencer and not the other way around), and having the opportunity to connect with her in a whole new way as fellow Board members and allied advocates. 

At my first NCJW Washington Institute in 2019, where I lobbied at the nation’s capital alongside my mom and several other NCJW Minnesota advocates.

Living my Judaism
To steal a quote from one of our Board members’ reflecting on her involvement with NCJW: “It’s where I Jewish.” Growing up, I had a certain set of ideas of what it meant to be Jewish–attending synagogue, marking traditional holidays and life cycle events, going to Jewish summer camp, etc. Of course, many of these things are still important to how I live my Judaism today, but what NCJW introduced into the mix was the potential of more actively living out the values of tikkun olam (repairing the world) and tzedek, tzedek tirdof (justice, justice you shall pursue) through social action. The fact that I can connect deeply to my faith through advocacy, and the unique voice I have showing up as Jewish in Interfaith and non-faith-based coalition spaces, even further increases that feeling of empowerment…bringing us full circle back to boldface header #1. 

I hope that learning more about what NCJW has meant to me inspires you to share your own story…or at least to return to this new blog for more. Check back regularly for updates and reach out to info@ncjwmn.org if you have ideas for topics you’d like to see, or if you’d like to contribute a blog post of your own.