FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday January 28, 2013
Souvan Lee, Research & Policy Analyst
Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans
Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans releases 2013 Legislative Priorities
The Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans (Council), a state agency that advises the Minnesota legislature and governor’s office on behalf of the Asian Pacific community, has identified areas it will focus on for the upcoming 2013 legislative session.
President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law in 2008 and some of its provisions have already begun. By October 2013, Minnesota is expected to have an operational State Health Insurance Exchange Market to help people purchase insurance coverage. The Council welcomes the Insurance Exchange and the ACA provisions, as they will help increase insurance coverage and support many vital health services for API families. Health disparities exist in the API community however this is often masked partly by how Department of Health collects and reports their data that does not always accurately reflect the demographic nature of Minnesota’s API community.
The council will also hold a Day at the Capitol on March 8th to engage our public leaders on health concerns in the API community. Community members are encouraged to attend and share their concerns and experiences with their legislators.
- SF 0001/HF 0005 – establishes the Health Care Insurance Exchange
- S.F. 0005/H.F. 0009 – expands Medical Assistance Eligibility requiring the use of modified adjusted gross income and a standard income disregard
- S.F. 0018/H.F. 0076 – A bill guaranteeing that all necessary health care is available and affordable for every Minnesotan; establishes the Minnesota Health Plan, Minnesota Health Board, Minnesota Health Fund, Office of Health Quality and Planning, ombudsman for patient advocacy, and inspector general for the Minnesota Health Plan
Early Childhood Education
Early childhood education is vital to closing the achievement gap in the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community. We are aware that Southeast Asian children, namely Hmong, Vietnamese, and Cambodian, are less likely to enroll in preschool than White and Chinese children. This highlights the disparities between API students and their White counterparts and within the API community. The newly created Early Childhood and Youth Development Policy committee can be an important partner to help develop culturally appropriate policies for early childhood. In addition, a skilled workforce is vital to the future economic success of Minnesota and it is imperative that we educate our children and this begins at an early age.
Supporting Education Equity
Minnesota has an astounding education system that boasts impressive numbers. However we also have some of the largest racial disparities when it comes to education. Last year, the Council released a report on the state on API students “Asian Pacific Students in Minnesota: Facts, Not Fiction.” The report dispelled the notion that all API ethnicities can be grouped together as one; Southeast Asian students consistently scored lower on the MCA Reading and Math test than Chinese, Asian Indian, and White students. The Department of Education and legislators must continue to work toward achieving education equity for all students.
- S.F. 0002 – authorizes funding for voluntary full-day kindergarten
- H.F. 0001 – Pays back $550 million of the $1.1 billion borrowed from public schools
- H.F. 0031 – A bill for an act relating to education finance; increasing the state reimbursement for reduced-price school lunch meals
Job Creation and Workforce Development
The Council supports the increase in minimum wage, as the increase would help many in the API community who have minimum wage jobs and live in poverty. However, we are also aware that many jobs held by APIs, particularly in the manufacturing industry, were lost in the economic recession. The government has a vital role in job creation and Governor Dayton and the legislature needs to ensure that the API community is well supported in their economic recovery plan, programs, and initiatives.
- S.F. 0003/H.F. 0010 – Increases the minimum wage
- H.F. 0015 – Establishes grant program for collaborative activities to reduce unemployment among minority populations
- H.F. 0046 – Appropriating money for a grant to the Neighborhood Development Center, which provides a range of programs services for multiple racial and ethnic communities
- S.F. 0025 – Prohibits discrimination against unemployed individuals
Foreclosure and Homeownership
Bills recently introduced by the legislature would help lessen the burdens of owning a home and this would help current API homeowners. However legislators can help address issues regarding underwater mortgage loans and foreclosure. In 2010, a number of homes were foreclosed in East Saint Paul and a disparate amount of them were API homeowners.
- H.F. 0002 – Would create a Homestead Credit Refund and expand existing renter’s credit, essentially providing direct property tax relief to middle class Minnesota homeowners and renters
- H.F. 0008 – Creates the Supporting Responsible Homeowners and Stabilizing Neighborhoods Act and provides homeowner opportunities regarding underwater mortgage loans and foreclosure relief on residential homestead property
Voter ID – Protecting the rights of our citizens (continued)
This session is currently re-visiting the photo ID issue that was on last November’s ballot and the Council remains concerned over potential voter disenfranchisement. The House elections committee discussed the introduction of an electronic poll-book at polling places. The poll-books would include a voter’s driver’s license, state ID or a pre-loaded photo. The many members of the Asian Pacific population we fear may be disenfranchised include senior citizens, low-income populations, people who cannot easily obtain a birth certificate (such as being born in a country they fled from as a refugee), and limited English proficient populations.