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March 28, 2023

A core function of the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is to advocate on behalf of the state’s infants, children, and teens.

As a nonpartisan, pro-child organization, the chapter goes to bat during the legislative session to weigh in as child health experts on topics that have a direct impact on child and teen health and wellbeing.

This legislative session, MNAAP has offered support or feedback on a variety of topics including:

  • paid family medical leave
  • reproductive health care access
  • firearm violence prevention
  • housing insecurity
  • free school lunches
  • banning conversion therapy
  • early childhood education

MNAAP President Eileen Crespo, MD, FAAP, testified before the Minnesota House Workforce Development Committee in support of paid family medical leave.

MNAAP Treasurer Janna Gewirtz O’Brien, MD, MPH, FAAP, participated in a press conference supporting the PRO Act, which protects reproductive health access in the state.

MNAAP Past President Sheldon Berkowitz, MD, FAAP, addressed the Minnesota House Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee in support of common sense firearm safety measures.

Chad Fahning, MNAAP Lobbyist

The new DFL-controlled legislature is off to a fast start in the 2023 legislative session. Legislators are wasting little time as they return to St. Paul for the first fully in-person session since 2020. With buzzwords like reproductive rights, firearm safety, public option, and paid family and medical leave echoing through its halls, the Capitol is once again a beehive of activity. 

The House seems to be moving faster than the Senate this year. This is mostly because (1) the House has already passed many of the same bills in previous sessions and (2) their 4 vote DFL majority towers over the Senate DFL’s slim single vote margin. Where the experienced House leadership can push through progressive policies with members generally falling in line, the new Senate leadership needs to check with every member before moving a bill. If any one member is not on board, it is enough to halt a bill in its tracks.

Counting member votes takes time, but the Senate’s deliberate pace will need to quicken as committee deadlines are fast approaching. All bills on track to passing must be heard in at least one committee in either body by March 10 and must be moving in both bodies by March 24.

By those dates, we will have an updated state budget forecast from Minnesota’s Management and Budget, projected to be released on Feb. 27. In December, the surplus was a whopping $17.6 billion. If those numbers are reflected in this month’s forecast, we can likely expect some large figures when budget targets are released.

In his legislative proposal, Gov. Tim Walz pushed for a significant state budget increase, from approximately $50 billion biannual budget to about $65 billion for FY 2024, ’25. The plan would pour new funding into education, children, and families. In total, about $12 billion of the proposal is dedicated to items such as expanded pre-K, early learning scholarships, mental and behavioral health, a new child tax credit program, an increase in childcare assistance rates, and more. The proposal also creates a new Children, Youth, and Families Department and gives a sizeable bump to the general education funding formula. Referencing his time as a teacher, Walz declared he’s made it his “mission to make Minnesota the best state in the country for kids.”

There’s still a long road ahead this session, and with DFLers in the driver’s seat, we can expect a trunkful of spending initiatives and progressive policies. How much and which ones, however, will be determined in the coming months.

When is the last time you had fun? I mean smiles all around and a real feeling of delight in what you were doing. I wanted to reflect here on the joy that has come from…pickleball. You may have heard about the fastest-growing sport in the U.S. with the funny name. Today, I wanted to focus on the FUN part.

Pickleball began as a pandemic activity for my husband and I; a way to get outside and socially-distance in those dark days of the beginning of COVID where there was nothing but uncertainty. The sport has a dedicated following, and some people take pickleball very seriously. I, however, have found pickleball to be one of the best ways to maintain and rekindle social connections. 

Because pickleball has such a low barrier to entry, any age and physical condition can play pickleball if they want to. All you need is a paddle and court shoes. Despite what you might think, it isn’t just middle-aged or older people playing pickleball. I’ve seen parents playing with their kids, as well as a large number of teens and young adults trying pickleball, too.  

Most importantly, pickleball has reminded me of the simplicity of the childhood invitation, “do you want to play?” To do something without judgment or the embarrassment that stops us from trying new things.  You are a little lost, you learn and you can laugh a little or a lot. It really is the best medicine.

Eileen Crespo, MD, FAAP

MNAAP President

March 24, 2023

HF5 (Jordan, DFL – Minneapolis), a bipartisan bill to allocate about $200 million annually to offer Minnesota students free breakfast and lunch, regardless of family income, passed off the Senate floor on March 14. It was then passed in the House on March 16, and signed into law the following day. Minnesota is now the third state in the nation to offer free school meals to students.

Governor Walz signed the bill into law at a ceremony in a Minneapolis elementary school alongside Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and a pack of school children.

“I was one in six of those Minnesota children who experienced hunger. I was one of those children who grew up with a different colored lunch ticket because my family utilized free and reduced price lunch,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan after the ceremony. “By providing free breakfast and lunch to all of our students, we are removing barriers and removing stigma from the lunchroom.”

Under the free meals program, students would be guaranteed access to the same school lunch provided to all other students under federal guidelines. The bill automatically enrolls students in the federal free school meal program. Previously, parents needed to apply for the free school meal program through a federal reimbursement program based on income.

Initial funding would start in the 2024 fiscal year, with $190 million. That amount would increase to $213 million by 2027.

Registration is now open for a free series of webinars hosted by the American Academy of Pediatrics aimed at addressing misinformation. The series takes place on several dates in April. The AAP designates this live activity for a maximum of 1.25 AMA PRA Category 1 Credit(s)™. Topics covered include:

COVID Vaccination Disinformation 101: Understanding the Ecosystem

Participants will learn about disinformation distribution, how to identify the core bad actors and networks spreading disinformation, and the best practices for responding to disinformation online. The webinar takes place on April 4, 2023, from 10 -11:15 a.m. (CDT).  Learn more.

Learn How to Identify and Respond to COVID Disinformation Threats in Social Media

The webinar will go over different types of responses to different types of threats and participants will practice with realistic scenarios.

The same course takes place on April 11 and April 18, 2023, from 10 -11:15 a.m. (CDT) to allow for smaller groups. Click the preferred date above to learn more.

Countering COVID Vaccination Disinformation in Hispanic and Latino Communities

Participants will learn how to understand the interconnected community factor, how bad actors specifically target these communities, and how pediatricians can counter disinformation. 

The webinar takes place on April 25, 2023, from 10 – 11:15 a.m. (CDT) Learn more.

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