By Rep. Dean Urdahl
With the 2019 session now past its midway point, bills related to the state budget will come to the forefront as we look to establish a new two-year plan for the state’s finances.
Much will need to be sorted out over the next several weeks, from the governor’s and House majority’s proposals to raise the state’s gas tax by 20 cents per gallon and extend a tax on health care, to the Senate majority’s own budget plan.
As those issues remain works in progress leading up to our May 20 date for adjournment, here is an overview of bills I have authored that continue making their way through the committee process and remain viable for enactment:
H.F. 1749, civics education: Requires juniors or seniors to take a for-credit civics class as part of the 3.5 social studies credits required in Minnesota high schools. Reports show less than 30 percent of students are proficient in civics and the unintended consequences are damaging to our society. If we don’t teach our children, how can we expect them to know their role in preserving our great country? We must do better and my bill would help restore civics as a rightful priority in our schools.
H.F. 1617, clean water appropriations: Provides a total of $60 million in capital investment funding for clean water infrastructure projects for municipalities throughout the state via the Public Finance Authority.
H.F. 478, firefighters’ mental health: Provides $400,000 to establish a grant program to address mental health issues caused by post-traumatic stress disorder among firefighters and their families.
H.F. 243, Litchfield Opera House: Appropriates $100,000 in fiscal year 2020 is appropriated from the arts and cultural heritage fund for a grant to the Greater Litchfield Opera House Association for electrical repairs and upgrades.
H.F. 228, Fort Snelling: Appropriates $12 million in bond proceeds, the final state funding needed for a Fort Snelling renovation project. The Minnesota Historical Society would like to replace the current underground visitor center with a new one. The new visitor center would be in a renovated barracks building that would total around 38,000 square feet. The current visitor center has water leakage issues.
H.F. 227, Wheel and Cog Museum: Provides a $170,000 grant in fiscal year 2020 to the Wheel and Cog Children's Museum of Hutchinson through the arts and cultural heritage fund.
H.F. 16, small school funding: Increases Small Schools Revenue for districts (excluding charter schools) with fewer than 960 students from the current $544 per pupil times a ratio based on the number of pupils below 960 to $631, and links this amount for the basic aid formula. Thus, this amount will increase as the basic aid per pupil increases. Additionally, the threshold for a small school is increased from 960 to 1,500.
H.F. 423, child care (co-author): Appropriates $10 million fiscal year 2020 for the Greater Minnesota Child Care Facility Grant Program. This program is established to keep or enhance jobs, increase the tax base, or expand or create new economic development in the area in which the grants are made, by providing facilities for the child care necessary to support workers and their families. These grants are for child care providers or centers outside of the seven-county metro area.