Column: My first month as your new state senator

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By Sen. Karla Bigham, Senate District 54

It is an honor to be your new state senator. I am glad to be working on your behalf in a bipartisan manner that puts people first. During my first month on the job, I have been busy introducing legislation, meeting with constituents, and participating in hearings held by the committees I serve on (Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee and the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Committee).

My biggest priority right now is making sure our communities receive our fair share of the $850 million legal settlement between the state of Minnesota and 3M. The settlement, announced last month, is the result of drinking water contamination in the Twin Cities east metropolitan region. Providing clean drinking water for people living in our area is an issue I have been involved in for more than a decade. I'm pleased that there are now significant resources available to do right by the Minnesotans who have been impacted.

To that end, I introduced legislation to safeguard settlement resources for their intended purpose in the affected communities (Senate File 3249). It would be unconscionable for these limited dollars to go toward building fishing piers in Alexandria or other outstate pet projects that do nothing to provide clean drinking water in our communities. I also introduced legislation to help finance water quality testing for people who use private wells for their drinking water (Senate File 3163).

If you want to learn more about how the 3M settlement could impact you, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are holding public informational meetings on the following dates:

• March 29 from 6-8 p.m. at Oak-Land Middle School (820 Manning Ave. N, Lake Elmo)

• April 3 from 6-8 p.m. at Park High School (8040 80th St. S, Cottage Grove)

Staff from the MPCA, DNR, Minnesota Department of Health, and local governments will be on hand to discuss and answer questions. According to the MPCA, the meetings will start with a half-hour open house, followed by a short presentation by state agencies at 6:30 p.m., ending with Q&A and more open house time.

Earlier this month, I introduced bipartisan legislation to keep students safe by requiring school districts to create threat assessment teams (Senate File 2993), which would be responsible for the assessment of and intervention with individuals whose behavior may pose a threat to the safety of school staff or students.

Under my proposal, threat assessment teams must include individuals with expertise in counseling, mental health, K-12 instruction, school administration, and law enforcement. Each school district can establish a committee responsible for oversight of threat assessment teams. The proposal is the result of conversations I have had with our local law enforcement officials and local school officials in wake of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida last month.

I appreciate your letters, emails, and phone calls — please keep them coming! As an elected official, I depend on your ideas and feedback to make decisions that impact our everyday lives. My office is a place that welcomes all viewpoints. After all, our State Capitol is the People's House!

My office is Room 3411 in the Minnesota Senate Building, located at 95 University Ave. W in St. Paul (across the street from the Capitol). Please stop by any time. You can also mail me letters, reach me by phone at (651) 297-8060, or email me using the contact form available online at www.senate.mn/senatorbigham. I send weekly email newsletters to provide an overview of what's going on at the Capitol. You can subscribe at www.senate.mn/senatorbigham.

Lastly, I want you to know that I am a senator for everyone. Your voice matters to me, and I want to hear what you have to stay, regardless of your political affiliation or background. Please visit or contact me if I can ever be of service.