During the last couple weeks, the MN Legislature passed several important bills that affect our community’s well-being. Here is an update:
English Language Learner bill
The omnibus early childhood through grade 12 education budget bill passed with bi-partisan support on April 4, 2014. Of its many provisions, the most relevant to our Asian Pacific Minnesotan community is Article 3 regarding English Learners. It requires early childhood literacy program providers to use a culturally relevant integrated approach to literacy and extended the time a qualifying EL student may generate aid to attain English proficiency from 5 to 6 years. Many of our community members are recently-arrived immigrants and refugees, and therefore will benefit from this legislation.
Anti-bullying Bill (Safe Schools Act)
After its passing by the both the House and the Senate, Governor Dayton signed into law the Safe Schools Act on April 9, 2014. This legislation requires all Minnesota school districts to develop and execute a plan to reduce bullying. The MN Department of Health and Department of Education found that 54% of Asian Pacific teenagers reported bullying in the classroom compared to 31% of their White peers. Our Asian Pacific Minnesotan community is relatively young, with 31.5% of our population under age 18, compared to the rest of the state at 24.2%. A significant number of our youth are refugee-experienced English learners in public schools who will benefit from this legislation.
Women’s Economic Security Act
The House passed this legislation last week, which strives to break down barriers to economic progress facing Minnesotan women and their families, and therefore affects all Minnesotans. Among its many provisions, it aims to close the gender pay gap, strengthen workplace protections and flexibility for pregnant women, expand access to high-quality and affordable childcare, enhance protection for victims of domestic violence, and expand employment opportunities for women in high-wage, high-demand professions as well as support growth for women-owned small businesses. Our Asian Pacific Minnesotan women, especially those who are working mothers and wives, will be helped by this legislation.
Minimum Wage Bill
After passing both the House and the Senate, Governor Dayton signed into law the Minimum Wage bill on April 14, 2014. By August 2016, Minnesota’s minimum wage will be raised to $9.50/hour for large businesses and $7.75/hour for small businesses and indexed to inflation. This legislation will affect more than 350,000 Minnesotans who work at or below minimum wage. Asian Pacific Minnesotans’ per capita income is $25,121, compared to White Minnesotans’ per capita income of $32,750. Some ethnic communities within our Asian Pacific Minnesotan population who have much lower per capita income will benefit from this bill.
Thank you for reading this legislative update. The legislative session is in recess from April 11 to April 21, 2014, and will reconvene on April 22 until May 19, 2014. Our Council’s legislative agenda can be found on our website. Please don’t hesitate to contact our office with your questions and thoughts on any legislative matter.