The phenomenal statewide turnout at the polls during this past November's election was invigorating. Minnesotans genuinely care about one another, and high civic engagement is evidence of this. There is an impressive, talented, diverse group of legislators entering the Minnesota House in 2019, giving me great hope that together we can deliver positive results.

Personally, this session will mean new responsibilities; I'm honored to have been chosen by my colleagues as House Majority Whip. In this role, I look forward to sharing our DFL caucus' vision broadly in the public and working to advance an agenda reflecting our shared Minnesota values.

Right away in January, it's imperative we handle some unfinished business from last session. In some areas, we've largely had agreement, but, unfortunately, special-interest pressure stalled action.

The opioid epidemic continues to cause tragedies, with too many right here in northern Minnesota. A fee on opioid painkillers would help fund prevention, treatment, and recovery strategies.

Last year we worked to address grave concerns including assault, neglect, theft, and other reprehensible actions in senior-care facilities. An AARP-led consumer work group developed some good recommendations to protect seniors. Unfortunately, the final proposal ended up watered down, meaning these reforms remain near the top of our to-do list. This is another topic I'm confident we can address quickly.

I'm encouraged by indications from DFL House and Republican Senate leadership that we will be able to get these consensus items taken care of in relatively short order. Some of this unfinished work directly affects Duluth, namely legislative approval for a street-improvement sales tax, already approved by voters. This simple measure got bogged down by partisan politics at the end of the last session. With such overwhelming community support to invest in our local infrastructure, there's no reason this should be delayed further.

Minnesotans also expect us to take bold action to solve other persistent problems. Too many people are forced to choose between paying a mortgage, buying food for their family, or accessing health care. This shouldn't be the case for anyone. The MinnesotaCare buy-in proposal is one solution, allowing Minnesotans to take advantage of a quality health care plan at affordable rates and at very little cost to taxpayers.

On top of health care costs, missing work due to giving birth or taking care of an ill loved one can be financially devastating. To guarantee economic security for all Minnesotans, it's time to enact a paid family leave policy. It's also time for the state to follow the leadership of Duluth and other cities in developing an earned-sick-time policy so people aren't forced to choose between getting well and earning a paycheck.

Many school districts continue to face budget crunches, putting students at risk of not receiving the excellent education they deserve. From early childhood to college and career education, we in the Legislature are committed to delivering resources to ensure that all learners, no matter where they live or their background, can achieve.

Despite challenges, Minnesota continues to have a strong economy, vibrant communities, a sound state budget, and a terrific quality of life. That said, it's critically important we work together - from a foundation of sound Minnesota values - to create new opportunities so everyone can succeed and thrive.

 

Rep. Liz Olson is the DFL representative of Minnesota House District 7B in western Duluth. She's also the incoming House Majority Whip. She wrote this at the invitation of the News Tribune Opinion page.

 

ABOUT THIS SERIES

The News Tribune Opinion page asked community leaders to look into their crystal balls and to share their insights into what the new year might bring.

Tuesday: City of Duluth

Wednesday: St. Louis County

Thursday: Duluth school district

TODAY: Minnesota Legislature

Saturday: Downtown

Sunday: Washington, D.C.

Monday: The economy

Tuesday: Tourism

 

What do you see in your crystal ball? Join the conversation with a letter to the editor. They can be sent to letters@duluthnews.com.