Our Champions for Choice events which took place in 2022 were a great success among our volunteers, advocates, and families associated with A-Team Minnesota.
Champions for Choice Award Presented to Senator Utke
On April 22, 2022, the A-Team Minnesota honored Senator Paul Utke as our first Champion for Choice. The Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center in Park Rapids hosted the event.
Senator Utke represents District 2 and is the Chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee and a member of the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee.
In the 2022 session of the Legislature, Senator Utke introduced amendments and bills to correct the direction of the Elimination of the Subminimum Wage Task Force, which was established in the 11th hour of the 2021 session.
In previous years, Senator Utke supported increasing wages for Direct Service Professionals with the introduction of the Competitive Wage Factor in the rate system and other bills intended to improve the quality and availability of Services for people with disabilities.
Congratulations to Senator Paul Utke and are very hopeful that he will continue to work with us in future sessions!
Champions for Choice Award Presented to Rob Ecklund
On June 22, 2022, the A-Team Minnesota presented another Champion for Choice Award to Representative Rob Ecklund, in recognition of his leadership in sustaining 14c Commensurate Wage provisions in Minnesota.
Representative Ecklund is the chair of the House Labor, Industry, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee. In 2021, his committee took testimony (both pro and con) for a bill that was going to eliminate sub-minimum wage provisions in Minnesota. His committee decided not to include this bill in their omnibus bill, but the language got included in the Human Services Conference Committee Omnibus bill which got passed.
In March 2022, he co-authored HF4071 (which was a companion bill to SF3408 co-authored by Senator Paul Utke) to change the direction of this task force to advance employment, and to add membership for those who were not represented in the original task force. This bill was referred to the House Human Services Reform and Policy Committee. The Legislature adjourned and no special sessions were conducted so unfortunately these important changes were not carried out.
Even though no legislation was passed in the last session to correct the flaws in the Eliminate Subminimum Wages task force, Representative Ecklund provided leadership and support on behalf of maintaining all employment choices for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in Minnesota and has committed to continuing with his support.
Christine Zimmer Receives A-Team Minnesota Advocate Award
The A-Team Minnesota presented an award on August 24, 2022 to Christine Zimmer. Christine provided lobbying services for A-Team Minnesota during the 2021-2022 Legislative session, focused on advancing a full array of choices for employment for people with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities.
A-Team Minnesota provided written and oral testimony to several bills, in hearings of several committees in the House and Senate, and Christine was instrumental in coordinating this effort.
She also was able to connect directly with key legislators in these committees to help them understand the importance of keeping and improving the employment environment across the state.