Bills We’re Watching in 2024

By Erica Solomon Collins, Executive Director

Last Updated: February 22, 2024

 

Here’s a guide to the bills that we’re supporting this legislative session. We’ll keep this post updated as best we can, but history’s always on the move! 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 a given issue). If you need to double check who represents you in the state legislature, you can find them using this link.


HF173 & SF37: Minnesota State ERA Bill

Chief Authors: Representative Kaohly Vang Her and Senator Mary Kunesh

The Minnesota State Equal Rights Amendment would ensure equal rights under the law with no qualifiers. The proposed language would bar the state from discriminating “against any person in intent or effect on account of race, color, national origin, ancestry, disability, or sex, including but not limited to pregnancy, pregnancy outcomes and reproductive freedom, gender identity, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

Status of HF173 in the House

Status of SF37 in the Senate


HF1658 & SF1704: Minnesota Building Families Act

Chief Authors: Representative Jeff Brand and Senator Maye Quade 

The Minnesota Building Families Act would require insurers in our state to provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility. Given the often-prohibitive costs of infertility treatment, this is a vital component to ensuring that all Minnesotans have the ability to choose whether and how to become parents.

Status of HF1658 in the House

Status of SF1704 in the Senate


HF601 & SF606: Lost and Stolen Firearms Reporting

Chief Authors: Representative Kaohly Vang Her and Senator Bonnie S. Westlin

This bill would require the prompt reporting of lost and stolen firearms to law enforcement.

Status of HF601 in the House

Status of SF606 in the Senate


Reproductive Justice

As a member of the UnRestrict MN coalition, we are committed to repealing unnecessary restrictions on abortion care, protecting patients and providers from post-Roe attacks, and ensuring equitable and affordable access to abortion and other essential reproductive care. While specific bill numbers have not yet been released, you can stay informed on our priorities for the 2024 legislative session here.

2024 Lobby Days

Updated January 30, 2024

By Sam Gault, Communications and Engagement Manager

Thank you to our special guests—Senator Bonnie S. Westlin and Representative Heather Edelson—as well as to our amazing advocacy leads and advocates for making NCJW’s 2024 advocacy kick-off event such a success! For those of you who couldn’t make it, there are plenty of opportunities coming up to join NCJW and our coalition partners at the Capitol once the Minnesota legislative session kicks off on Monday, February 12th. Here, in chronological order, are the lobby days that NCJW is partnering on (that we know about so far). Be sure to check back for updates!

#Day1forERA

It’s hard to believe that, in the 21st century, women’s equality under the law has yet to be codified. NCJW joins ERA Minnesota in calling for an Equal Rights Amendment to be added to the state Constitution through a comprehensive state ERA bill (SF37/HF173), which would be followed by a ballot measure in November.

The #Day1forERA rally will take place on Monday, February 12th. We will gather at 10:00 a.m. in the Capitol Rotunda for the rally, followed by legislator visits.

Register here.

RESOLVE’s Minnesota Advocacy Day

NCJW is also proud to stand with the Minnesota Building Families Coalition and the RESOLVE Advocacy Network in support of the Minnesota Building Families Act, which would mandate that insurers in our state provide coverage for the diagnosis and treatment of infertility.

RESOLVE’s Minnesota Advocacy Day is on Wednesday, February 14th, with doors opening at 8:00 a.m. and orientation beginning at 8:30 a.m.

Register here.

Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day

Following on the passage of the PRO Act and other bills last year to codify Minnesotans’ legal right to reproductive freedom, the UnRestrict coalition will be keeping up the pressure this session to ensure meaningful access to reproductive health, rights, and justice.

Join us at the Capitol on Thursday, March 7th for Reproductive Freedom Lobby Day!

Register here.

Gun Safety Advocacy Days

Protect Minnesota’s Lobby Day is coming up on Tuesday, March 5th. We’ll start with a legislator meeting and advocacy training at 1:00 p.m. in Capitol room G23, followed by a rally on the Capitol steps at 3:00 p.m.

Moms Demand Action will be pushing for bills mandating safe gun storage and gun theft reporting! Save the date for their lobby day on Tuesday, April 16th. Register here.

Stay tuned for more details coming soon about these and other gun violence prevention advocacy events.

Looking Back on 2023

Looking Back on 2023

January 19, 2024

By Erica Solomon Collins, Executive Director

2023 was quite a year for NCJW Minnesota! Here are just a few of many highlights. Also, be sure to check out the fantastic videos (linked below), featuring me and two of our current board members, Terri Lindenbaum and Carrie Fink.

Advocacy

Our tireless advocates achieved several wins during the last legislative session, advancing menstrual equity, reproductive freedom, and gun violence prevention across the state.

Firstly, we saw the passage of a tremendously impactful Education Policy and Finance bill that includes funding for menstrual hygiene products to be provided by schools to all students in grades 4-12. This effort toward ending period poverty in our state has been a five-year labor of love, from the beginning led and inspired by student activists who showed up to testify at committee hearings, interviewed with journalists, and pioneered changemaking pilot programs and advocacy groups at their schools.

Secondly, through the work of the MN Reproductive Freedom Caucus and advocacy led by the UnRestrict MN coalition, we have made progress toward keeping Minnesota as a place where pregnant people can safely exercise their fundamental right to abortion. The early-in-session passage of the PRO Act, recognizing this fundamental right, was monumental, but just the beginning. The continued leadership of our UnRestrict coalition partners and the legislative Repro Freedom caucus helped bring the ideals behind the PRO Act to life by passing legislation to lift unconstitutional restrictions, protect against out-of-state anti-abortion attacks and end funding to crisis pregnancy centers.

Thirdly, our gun safety advocacy leads, working closely with a powerhouse of partners like Protect Minnesota, Mothers Against Community Gun Violence, and Moms Demand Action, shepherded through a public safety bill that includes common sense gun safety provisions like expanded background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and support for communities to stay safe and heal.

Service

Throughout 2023, NCJW Minnesota’s volunteers gave generously of their time, energy, and passion in direct service to improve the lives of women, children, and families in our community.

Our Periods Happen program, powered by the generosity of donors and the dedication of delivery volunteers, distributed at least 20,168 pads and 17,606 tampons to schools around the state in 2023.

The Books to Borrow program, meanwhile, received 1,600 books from donations, book drives, and in-store purchases, restocked its 3 libraries with 1,240 books, and gave out approximately 165 books at pop-up events in the 2022-2023 fiscal year. Additionally, the program held a highly productive convening of NCJW volunteers and staff to begin envisioning the future of the program in May of 2023, followed by four volunteer-led pop-up events at Neighborhood House’s Francis Basket Food Market at Sibley Manor Apartments and two in partnership with Project for Pride in Living.

The Rapid Response Fund may be one of NCJW’s less visible programs, but it is also one of our most impactful! Through this program, we distribute emergency funds to St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools families experiencing homelessness and high mobility. In the 2022-2023 fiscal year, we distributed a total of more than $16,000 to 32 families to cover costs such as security deposits, rent, and student fees.

The Rapid Response Fund also supports a free student clothing closet, which we have piloted and staffed with volunteers, at Camden (formerly Patrick Henry) High School in Minneapolis. The Clothing Closet has proven so popular that it expanded into a bigger space (with the help of our volunteers) in August, and it has been serving dozens of students every week this school year.

Learning and Strengthening

In 2023 we celebrated 130 years of NCJW, and still going strong!

Over 150 of our advocates, partners, and past and present leaders gathered together for “Shared Table, Shared, Stories” in May. Hosted by chef and entrepreneur Imani Jackson of Chopped and Served, this was our first in-person fundraising event since 2019.

On the leadership development front, we held three webinars to educate and energize our amazing advocates. In “Abortion 101,” we got a refresher on abortion access and reproductive health from a Nurse Practitioner with extensive experience as both a provider and a researcher. Then, at “Courts 101,” we heard from Kathy Bonnifield, Senior Program Officer at the Piper Fund, on the judicial appointments process and fair courts advocacy. Finally, Julie Berman led an advocacy training session on changing Minnesota insurance laws to mandate coverage for infertility treatments.

Additionally, we kicked off a year-long, community informed strategic planning process—receiving a grant from the Pat and Tom Grossman Transformational Fund of the MN Jewish Community Foundation, partnering with Aurora Consulting, and hosting a community visioning session to gather input from our network.

Honoring the Memory of Those Who Died at Tree of Life

By Susie Kaufman, NCJW MN State Policy Advocacy Chair

October 31, 2023

Five years ago, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, eleven of our Jewish brothers and sisters were murdered because of their religion. Hundreds more lives were changed forever as people lost mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, parents, and friends. And thousands of us were further traumatized by yet another attack on Jews in their house of worship, a place where we go for prayer, solace, reflection, and community. The shooter was armed with at least four guns, including an AR-15.

As anti-Semitism in the United States and across the globe has continued to grow over the past several years, and particularly in the last month, it has become even more incumbent upon us to be active members in the gun violence prevention movement. To that end, members of NCJW’s Gun Violence Prevention Committee have worked tirelessly over the past several years to advocate for concrete and effective gun safety legislation in Minnesota. And this past legislative session, they finally found success.

In May, the Minnesota legislature passed, and Governor Tim Walz signed into law, a bill to require background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection bill, which allows a judge to temporarily remove guns from the home of anyone deemed to be a risk to themselves or to others. These fundamental gun safety laws will make us safer as Jews, as Minnesotans, and as Americans.

We can also continue the hard work of advancing other critical gun safety legislation, including a federal assault weapons ban. These weapons of war have no place on our streets, and only serve to make us as Americans, and specifically as Jews, unsafe. We must honor those who died at the Tree of Life Synagogue with action, and we hope you will join us.

Voting and Tikkun Olam

By Maddy Lerner, Board Member

 October 24, 2023

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been distracted, distraught, and horrified. Focusing on other subjects and not the Israel-Hamas War has seemed all but impossible to me. And truthfully, it still plagues me. Like so many of you, I have family in Israel and their safety has consumed my every thought. I wake up every morning, reaching for my phone to see what I might have missed overnight. I have sought comfort from my family, friends, and fellow activists. In these conversations with my support system, the words “Tikkun Olam” (repairing the world) kept floating around in my head.

To the Jewish people, Tikkun Olam means that we have the power to repair the world – and we have a duty to do so. This is one of many reasons why I am proud to be Jewish. This duty and commitment to peace and needed change is an integral part of our observance. So as I shift to another issue, please know that during this time, it is important to take care of yourself and your loved ones. Take the time to process and heal. Take the time to ask for space or support. I stand with you in solidarity.

The more I thought about Tikkun Olam and the important of peace and change, the more I thought about another timely topic – voting.

Growing up, my family was very politically engaged. Likely as an infant, you would find me seated amongst my family as they were engaged in a conversation on the state of the country – or the world. As a child, I started to understand the political terms my family used. As a young teen, I even felt comfortable contributing to the conversation. All this to say, it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I started volunteering on political campaigns when I was in high school. Today, I can say that I’ve been in the political field for over a decade.

When you go doorknocking, you almost never know who is going to be on the other side of that door. It could be someone who is friendly and kind, someone who supports your cause. It could be someone who slams the door in your face. But it might be someone who is adamantly against voting in general. One tool you pick up in canvassing is to know when you can’t change someone’s mind. But I often think about those who don’t see the importance of voting. And then I think about education surrounding voting.

So apologies because I’m now going to get on my soapbox.

It is important to vote in every election – even when it’s not a presidential election year. Any given year, you could be voting for: President, Senator, Representative, Governor, State Senator, State Representative, Mayor, School Board, etc. All of these posts have an impact on your daily life – whether you see it publicly or it’s more behind the scenes. All of these people are ultimately elected to represent YOU. So why not have a say in it?

A few times I’ve been asked: “Why are you voting? It’s only city council on the ballot right?” As a woman, I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote just over a century ago. I think about the number of women in America who couldn’t vote before 1920. I think about those who fought for women’s suffrage. This is a privilege and a duty that I have that so many before me did not. Aside from the magnetic pull I feel towards a polling station on election day, this and so many others are the reasons I find to vote.

So this year, on Election Day in Minnesota – Tuesday, November 7 – I encourage you to consider voting. I encourage you to have your voice heard. I encourage you to speak up for those who cannot.

In the spirit of Tikkun Olam, I will be voting on November 7 and I hope you will do the same.

My Experience at the 22nd Century Conference

By Sam Gault, Communications & Engagement Manager

 July 19, 2023

I was honored to receive a McKnight Foundation scholarship to represent NCJW MN at the 22nd Century Conference, which took place on July 6-9 in beautiful downtown Minneapolis! It was an inspiring gathering of pro-democracy activists, organizers, and researchers, and I’d like to share some of my key takeaways with you.

The conference was hosted by the 22nd Century Initiative, which seeks to build a truly multiracial and pluralistic democracy in the U.S. in this century. To this end, the immediate aim of the 22nd Century Conference is to foster strong pro-democracy coalitions to block the agenda of authoritarian movements while promoting equitable participation and pluralism.

One of the most provocative and fascinating sessions I attended, put on by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), was titled “White Privilege Is Real but It’s Not an Organizing Strategy.” The facilitators began by contrasting authoritarian organizing, which creates divisions, with progressive organizing, which fosters intentional and strategic cross-class relationships on the basis of shared material interests. They went on to distinguish between two types of progressive organizing: race-avoidant vs. genuine allyship. The former, which presents narrow, community-specific issues through an apolitical lens, can be an effective means of identifying and addressing immediate problems them (e.g., “The streets in this neighborhood are not safe for pedestrians, so let’s demand that the city build sidewalks!”), but tends to ignore the systemic injustices underlying those problems. The latter, by forging multiracial coalitions across class lines, “calls in” white people to support movements led by Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) on the basis of mutual interest (e.g., “All people need, and deserve, to live in safe and healthy communities. We all do better when we all do better!”). Thus, while it is necessary for white activists to acknowledge and reflect upon their own privilege, the SURJ facilitators cautioned against falling into the trap of simply stopping there: The real work for white anti-racist activists consists in recognizing their shared interests with BIPOC-led movements and organizing to support them!

I also attended a wonderful session—the facilitators of which included Brandon Schorsch, the Combating Hate Organizer at Jewish Community Action—entitled “Weapon of Movement Destruction: Fighting Antisemitism and Its Weaponization in Minnesota and Beyond.” Among other topics, we discussed the importance of taking antisemitism more seriously in progressive circles. Efforts to combat antisemitism often get siloed because so many progressives assume (incorrectly) that all Jewish people are white, whereas there are actually many Jewish people of color, and white supremacists do not consider any Jews to be “really” white. The paradox of contemporary authoritarian politics is that they claim the mantle of fighting antisemitism (e.g., by falsely accusing progressive organizers or politicians of antisemitism) while simultaneously reviving old (often Medieval) antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories. It is therefore vital for progressive organizers to recognize that antisemitism fuels today’s antidemocratic, authoritarian movements and to take a united stand against it and all other forms of hate.

There is so much more that I could say, but this blog post is getting rather long, so please feel free to email me (sam@ncjwmn.org) if you’d like to chat about what I’ve said here or learn more about the conference!

NCJW’s 2022-2023 Year in Review

By Erica Solomon, Executive Director

 June 13, 2023

Summer has arrived. School (and the legislature) is out for the year, graduation party tents appear in backyards, and the countdown to the first day of camp has begun in many houses–often more for the parents than the kids! Here at NCJW, June also marks the close of our fiscal and programming year and, while the work continues through the summer for us, it feels like a graduation of sorts as we reflect and prepare to step into the year ahead.

At our May 23 event, Shared Table, Shared Stories, we celebrated 130 years of NCJW with a joy-filled room of 150 plus advocates. We looked back on our legacy and celebrated past leaders (check out the event slideshow for some great throwback pictures!), and I had the privilege of sharing highlights of the previous 11 months. Here is a bit of what I shared…

At the Capitol, we saw an action-packed legislative session that included great progress on our primary advocacy issues, thanks in large part to advocates like you that wrote your representatives, showed up to march and lobby in-person, and lifted up your stories to empower changemaking:

  • A highlight was the passage of a tremendously impactful Education Policy and Finance bill, which includes funding for menstrual hygiene products to be provided by schools to all students in grades 4-12! This effort toward ending period poverty in Minnesota has been a labor of love for at least five years and has from the beginning been inspired and led by student activists who showed up to testify at committee hearings, interviewed with journalists, and pioneered changemaking pilot programs and advocacy groups at their schools.
  • With the one-year anniversary of the fall of Roe v. Wade happening this month, it’s easy to remember that we started last summer in a dark place for reproductive health, rights, and justice. While, at a national level, we still have a lot of work to do protecting and expanding abortion access, through the work of the MN Reproductive Freedom Caucus and advocacy led by the UnRestrict MN coalition, we have made progress that is worth celebrating in making and keeping Minnesota as a place where pregnant people can safely exercise their fundamental right to abortion. The early-in-session passage of the PRO Act, which recognizes this fundamental right, was monumental, but it was just the beginning. The continued leadership of Gender Justice, other UnRestrict partners, legislators of the Repro Freedom caucus, and more helped bring the actual practice behind the PRO Act to life by passing legislation to codify the lifting of unconstitutional restrictions, protect against out-of-state abortion attacks, ending funding to crisis pregnancy centers, and more.
  • Our third primary advocacy issue this year, as it has been for many, many years of hard work, was gun violence prevention. Along with a powerhouse of partners like Protect Minnesota, Mothers Against Community Gun Violence, and Moms Demand Action, our gun safety advocacy leads worked tirelessly on the passage of a public safety bill that includes common sense gun safety provisions like expanded background checks, extreme risk protection orders, and support for communities to stay safe and heal.

In the midst of all of this advocacy work, we also upheld our 130 year commitment to providing direct impact programs to the community:

  • Thanks to the dedication of our delivery volunteers and the generosity of our Give to the Maxi Pad donors, the Periods Happen program continued to distribute menstrual hygiene products to schools across the metro. As of today, our totals for this school year are over 18,000 pads and nearly 13,000 tampons distributed. As we head into the next chapter of the fight for menstrual equity in Minnesota, we maintain a supply of products that will be available to schools as they see how state funding will be implemented, to non-school organizations like food shelves, and to other potential recipients that might become the new focus of Periods Happen.
  • Another program, whose impact might be less readily visible but is no less monumental, is the Rapid Response Emergency Fund, which distributes emergency funds to St. Paul and Minneapolis Public Schools families experiencing homelessness and high mobility. This school year, the program has distributed a total of $21,800 to 42 families in quickly mobilized funding that has allowed them to cover a security deposit for a new housing situation, make rent after COVID or a death in the family led to missed work, covered fees for student enrichment activities, and much more. The social workers with whom we work on this program have shared that, in the face of immense need, this program is often the swiftest, most flexible and accessible safety net available for keeping families housed and keeping students in school and learning. Again, while this program may not be our most visible, I hope you can tell that it is certainly one of our most impactful.
  • The Books to Borrow program has continued to stock lending libraries in low-income housing communities with age- and culturally-appropriate books to instill a love of reading in families with early learners. Books to Borrow also hosts pop-up activities at community events like National Night Out and helps us build on incredible, often longstanding, partnerships with Neighborhood House, Project for Pride in Living, and more. As more in-person activities become possible after several years off due to COVID, we are excited to see what new and re-launched opportunities lie ahead for the program.
  • In addition to that, we also piloted and supplied volunteers for a free student clothing closet at Patrick Henry High School; hosted student groups from Carleton College and Beth El USY to learn about our reproductive health, rights, and justice work; led programming on the importance of the federal judiciary through Courts Matter MN; wrote over 1,200 get-out-the-vote letters through the Vote Forward campaign; and had a presence in Nationwide NCJW efforts like the Jews for Abortion Access Week of Action, Repro Shabbat, and the Israel Granting Program. Phew! When I hear all this it makes me feel ready for summer vacation!

As I said, though, the work continues, and we have a lot to look forward to as we transition from one fiscal year to the next, including continued advocacy on important issues and building and strengthening collective power through coalitions and partnerships. We also look forward to continuing and, in many cases, revitalizing our direct service work with new and returning leaders and volunteers, exploring new and expanded programs, and more leadership development opportunities. Most excitingly, we look forward to kicking off a comprehensive, community-informed strategic planning process that will welcome the input of our stakeholders, take stock of where we are in our 130th year, and color in the roadmap of what lies ahead for us.

So all I have left to say is…thank you. By writing yourselves into the NCJW Minnesota story, and by your continued commitment to action, you personally–and more importantly all of us together–are the special sauce that is going to keep this legacy of changemaking thriving into our next 130 years and beyond. I hope that all of what I’ve just shared has got you excited to be a part of it, because, whether it is by showing up to volunteer, supporting our fundraising efforts, joining an advocacy committee, or even just keeping an eye on our work via email and social media, we not only want, but need you to be a part of it.

Board and Leadership Applications

By Amy Shapiro, Member of Leadership & Organizational Development and Nominating Committees

 April 5, 2023

 As we look toward our next program year, we’re inviting applications for board and other leadership roles! We rely on volunteer community leaders for all of our board governance, direct community service, policy advocacy, and leadership development work. We welcome the opportunity to learn more about you and your interests as we look to fill board positions, committee rosters and the many other volunteer opportunities NCJW Minnesota provides. Current board member Amy Shapiro recently sat down for an interview on her experiences in leadership:

________________________________________________

Q: How did you first become involved with NCJW?

A: I originally got involved with NCJW when my aunts were active in leadership with NCJW Minnesota. My Nana, of blessed memory, would also tell me about her involvement with NCJW throughout her life. I heard that they wanted to engage more young adults, I was invited to a couple of events and the rest is history!

 

Q: What initially drew you toward serving on the board?

A: I was interested in serving on the board because I thought it would be a great opportunity to grow in my own leadership and work with other smart and interesting women on causes I care passionately about. I was able to participate in a Leading for Change series of workshops through NCJW Minnesota and after that experience I knew I was interested in joining the board.

 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your board service? What are some of your proudest accomplishments?

A: I really love the fact that it is an intergenerational organization. We have the opportunity to build relationships with other smart, thoughtful and passionate women who want to make change in the world for the better.

I feel proud that I am part of an organization that other Jewish women have been active in for the past 100 years. The same organization that advocated to get women the right to vote is the same organization I’m involved in today, advocating for the issues that matter most to me.

 

Q: What advice would you have for someone considering serving on the NCJW board for the first time?

A: I would recommend to anyone who is considering applying for leadership involvement, please do so, whether you’re born and raised in MN, new to the area, or anything in between! We have lots of opportunities to serve on committees and build your leadership.

Committee or board service is an excellent way to give back to the community, fight for issues you care about, and build your relationships and leadership skills all at the same time.

 

Q: What are the biggest opportunities that you see for NCJW in the coming years?

A: So much continues to be at stake. It’s going to take all of us to take action to make the changes we’d like to see in the world.

________________________________________________

If you or anyone you know is looking for an opportunity to impact progressive policy and contribute to community equity, please consider joining us! Learn more about board and leadership positions and apply by filling out the NCJW Minnesota Leadership Application or email info@ncjwmn.org with any questions.

Applications are open through the end of April.

 

Abortion Resources

By Sam Gault, Communications and Engagement Manager

March 1, 2023

Thanks again to our wonderful presenter (who we are not naming here for privacy reasons), to Maddy Lerner for facilitating, and to all of you who showed up, asked questions, and helped make our first educational event of the year such a huge success! For those of you who were unable to attend abortion 101, our presenter has supplied a brief list of resources pertaining to abortion in the United States:

Podcasts:

  • SMA (self-managed abortion) is a storytelling podcast that was created in 2020, before Roe fell. It presents stories about how and why people opt to manage their own abortion.
  • Radiolab recently put out a two-part podcast about smuggling mifepristone and misoprostol to Ukraine. While it doesn’t really apply to what’s up in the United States, it provides a fascinating perspective on the state of reproductive freedom internationally.

Resources for people seeking abortions:

  • SASS (Self-Managed Abortion, Safe and Supported) is a U.S. project of Women Help Women, a global nonprofit organization that supports the rights of people around the world to have information about and access to safe abortion with pills. Information is power. We all deserve accurate information about our bodies and reproductive health.
  • Abortion Finder provides up to date state-by-state laws as well as funding and clinic information.
  • The Guttmacher Institute tracks and synthesizes state and national data on reproductive health and rights.

Family Planning info and resources:

  • Euki is a secure sexual health app and period tracker with links to lots of great resources. It does not track personal information or sell it to advertisers.
  • Bedsider is an excellent place to get up to date information on contraception, sexual health, and abortion.

An example of the experience of providers in restricted states:

This is by no means a comprehensive list of resources! If there is a question or topic that you wish had been addressed here, please email sam@ncjwmn.org for additional resources.

Menstrual Equity Developments

By Sam Gault, Communications and Engagement Manager

February 15, 2023

We’re so proud of our menstrual equity champions! NCJW Minnesota’s Periods Happen initiative has made great strides in recent months, both in terms of product distribution and legislative action.

While our tampon supply has been holding up, since we tend to get fewer requests for them, our supply of menstrual pads was dwindling. At the beginning of this month, we were down to our very last carton of Seventh Generation pads from the company’s 2020 donation. Thanks to the generosity of 80 donors, our “Give to the Max(i Pad)” campaign this past November was a huge success, and we raised enough money to order 100 cases of Kotex pads, for a grand total of 14,400 individual pads! The new order arrived just in the nick of time, as we received three requests for pads from three schools in the past week alone. Now all we had to do was transport 100 cases of pads to our storage unit for distribution…

A mighty team of volunteers (pictured above) stepped up to save the day, making quick work of transporting our order from the medical supply company to the warehouse, where they are ready to be distributed as we head into the final months of the school year. Thank you Abby, Lisa, Marilyn, Rollie, and Pam!

If you’d like to join the listserv of Periods Happen delivery volunteers, please send me an email and I’ll add you straightaway.

On the legislative side, we’re closer than ever to passing House File 44/Senate File 50 to bring menstrual equity to Minnesota schools! You can learn more about this bill, as well as other legislation we’re watching this session, from the regularly updated “Bills We’re Watching” post on this blog. Erica Solomon, our Executive Director, was also recently interviewed about NCJW Minnesota’s work on menstrual equity on Gender Justice’s podcast—give it a listen here.

If you would like to write a post for this blog—whether on an event, a social issue, or anything else NCJW-related—please don’t hesitate to send it my way!

Bills We’re Watching

By Erica Solomon, Executive Director

January 26, 2023 [Updated 3/8/2023]

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: K-12 Menstrual Equity 

Chief authors: Representative Sandra Feist and Senator Steve Cwodzinski

The K-12 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 3/8: The Menstrual Equity Bill has completed its hearings in House and Senate Committees and is now awaiting a floor vote. 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 its hearings.

 

HF2488/SF1215: Higher Ed Menstrual Equity 

Chief authors: Representative Sandra Feist and Senator Oumou Verbeten

The higher education menstrual equity bill would require that period products be made freely available to students of state-funded colleges and universities in Minnesota.

Status as of 3/8: HF2488/SF1215 had its first hearing with the Senate Higher Education Committee on March 2, and is currently awaiting its first hearing in the House.

 

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, which re-referred it to the House Health Finance and Policy Committee for a hearing originally scheduled for Thursday, February 23rd (which has now been delayed due to weather). In the Senate, the bill has been heard by the Health and Human Services Committee and passed with amendments by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

 

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 3/8: Governor Walz signed the PRO Act into law on January 31, making Minnesota the first state to codify abortion rights after the fall of Roe v. Wade.

 

HF366/SF165: Reproductive Freedom Defense Act

Chief authors: Representative Tina Liebling and Senator Lindsey Port

The Reproductive Freedom Defense Act would cement Minnesota’s status as a safe harbor for people exercising their reproductive autonomy by protecting anyone in Minnesota seeking abortion care, as well as providers in the state, from prosecution under laws aimed at imposing other states’ abortion restrictions on us.

Status as of 2/21: The House version of this bill has been approved, with amendments, by the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy, Judiciary Finance and Civil Law, and Health Finance and Policy Committees, and will have its next hearing with the House Ways and Means Committee. The Senate version is still awaiting its first hearing with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

 

HF289/SF366: Positive Pregnancies Support Act

Chief Authors: Representative Liz Olson and Senator Mary Kunesh

The Positive Pregnancies Support Act would shift state funding away from crisis pregnancy centers and toward agencies providing genuine help to pregnant people by banning states grants to agencies that encourage clients toward one pregnancy outcome over another, as well as by requiring state grant recipients to provide pregnant people with medically accurate information and services with regard to abortion and pregnancy.

Status as of 2/21: The House version of this bill will have its first hearing with the House Health Finance and Policy Committee and the Senate version has been referred to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee.

 

HF181/SF691: 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/SF524: 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 2/8: 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/SF1116: 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 2/8: HF24 had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd. It is scheduled for its next hearing with the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee on February 9th.

 

HF15/SF1117: 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 2/8: HF15 had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd. It is scheduled for its next hearing with the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee on February 9th.

 

HF396/SF916: 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 2/8: 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.

 

HF601/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 2/8: SF606 has been referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, with its hearing date to be determined. It had its first hearing with the House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee on February 3rd.

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.