Happy back-to-school month!

Lt. Gov.Peggy Flanagan

By Lt Governor Peggy Flanagan

Boozhoo, and happy back-to-school month! A sure sign of summer coming to an end is our Great Minnesota Get Together – the State Fair. Some of my must-do Fair activities include watching the Llama costume contest, riding Ye Old Mill, viewing the crop art, and attending Indigenous People’s Day at the Fair. I am excited for another year spending time at the fair connecting with Minnesotans from across our state, and celebrating the diverse people, lifestyles, and food that make Minnesota the best state to live.

In August, the Governor and I traveled to the Lower Sioux Indian Community for an official government-to-government visit and met with the Tribal Council to hear about their current issues and priorities. The Tribe took us on a tour of the first hempcrete house, where we learned about the opportunities hemp can provide for tribal economies. We also visited the Cansayapi Wicoicage Oti to witness intergenerational cultural engagement and education. The Governor and I committed to these government-to-government meetings with the Tribal Nations that share land with the State of Minnesota when we took office, and I am proud that we have followed through on that promise.

The start of September also marks one month since adult-use cannabis legalization fully took effect in law. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is hard at work implementing the automatic misdemeanor expungements in the Criminal History System and applications are open until September 11 for the Executive Director of the Cannabis Expungement Board. Legalizing adult-use cannabis was about keeping our communities safe, advancing justice for Minnesotans, and investing in a strong economic future. We are looking forward to supporting and working with the tribes on the compacting process and are grateful for their partnership.

Also in August, payments of up to $1,300 per family began going out to Minnesotans and will continue through the end of September. These direct payments are a crucial way to put money in the pockets of Minnesotans who need it and empower families across the state to meet their needs on their terms. Putting money directly back into the pockets of those who made our economy this strong in the first place was a top priority for me and the Governor this year. Based on your 2021 tax return, the legislation provides payments of $260 for single filers making $75,000 or less, $520 for married couples making $150,00 or less, and another $260 for each dependent, up to three dependents. I am grateful for the Minnesota Department of Revenue staff who are ensuring these payments go out in time for back-to-school expenses, taking a weight off millions of Minnesotans’ shoulder this fall.

As a mom of a fifth grader, the start of a new school year is always a busy and exciting month in our house, but this school year is particularly exciting. For the first time in our state’s history, students in Minnesota will have access to free breakfast and lunch every day at school. Watching Governor Walz sign the Free School Meals bill into law this past session was one of the proudest moments of my career. By providing free breakfast and lunch to all students, we are removing stigma in the lunchroom, helping family pocketbooks, investing in the health and well-being of our children, and ensuring that no student goes hungry.

This session we also passed a $5.5 billion increase in school funding – the biggest investment in education that’s ever been signed into Minnesota law. That budget included an increase of $28 million over four years to American Indian Education Aid, with a clause that makes clear that these dollars may only be used for non-Native students after all American Indian students’ specific cultural and academic needs are met. Students and families across our state will benefit from our education investments this session for generations to come.

August was a month of positive change, reflection, and fun. However, and with great sadness, we learned about the passing of Ada Deer on August 15. Ada Deer was a trailblazer, an auntie who paved the way for so many Native women – like me – to fight for change and justice. Losses of this magnitude give impetus to current leaders to fill in the gaps and continue leading the work that has been laid by those who came before us. If it weren’t for Ada Deer showing us what is possible and her drive for change, I, and so many other Native leaders, would not be in the position that I am today. She will be greatly missed but her legacy will live on for generations.

As we move into a different season of life and gear up for the legislative session, I want to remind you that now is the time to make your voices heard. Don’t hesitate to reach out to our office and your local leaders and legislators to let us know what you want to see in this next session. Every Minnesotan can make a difference, and I’m excited to see where this next season takes us.