Less than three weeks remain before the 2021 session is scheduled to adjourn and major work remains on setting a new state budget. Before we get to the latest on that subject, I want to mention I wrote a letter to the governor earlier this week urging him to lift his current restriction prohibiting marching bands from performing on public streets.
With the summer parade schedule soon starting, it is important to address this issue now before bands are sidelined for a second-consecutive season. As a Litchfield High School graduate and former marching band member myself, I empathize with the many – the very many – area citizens who have reached out to me expressing concern that a second consecutive season may be lost.
We’ve been through a lot the last year and, while many of us have had to put certain things on hold, a number of experiences our children sadly have missed out on are truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. We can’t turn back the clock, but we should be doing all we can to make sure they are able to take advantage of what may remain before them.
My letter to the governor reads, in part:
“Band students develop a great sense of teamwork, self-worth and work ethic through their participation in the marching band program. They lost last year completely and losing another year of involvement in this life defining activity would be very unfortunate.
“I have heard from mayors and dozens of parents who are concerned about marching bands and the impact of closing them down has on young people. I respectfully ask you to please allow them to use city streets to perform.”
As for budget work, both the House and the Senate have completed conducting votes on the initial round of omnibus finance bills. Conference committees are now working to find agreement on a dozen different budget subjects and, as you may expect, the subject of taxes appears to be the most significant bridge to gap. The House majority proposes more than $2.5 billion in tax/fee hikes in the tax bill and transportation bill alone, while the Senate is not seeking increases.
The last omnibus finance bill to make its way through the House includes provisions related to health, human services and early childhood. With a shortage of child care opportunities in our state – especially in Greater Minnesota – I am pleased to see there is language in the bill to create an ombudsperson office to assist providers with numerous issues they face. That said, I do hope substantial changes are made to this bill in general because it continues to expand government-run healthcare and imposes burdensome new mandates that drive up the cost of health care for Minnesota families.
As the House Republican lead on the Capital Investment Committee, I continue working closely with that subject. While even-numbered years are traditionally when more substantial bonding bills are assembled, a slimmed-down version may be put forward this year to address some more time-sensitive, priority infrastructure projects. Stay tuned.
As significant challenges lie before us in finding agreement on a capital investment package and the budget in general, the House and Senate did this week pass a bill with $7.8 million for public safety assistance costs in the Twin Cities.
The bill provides $1.5 million in funding to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety for the Emergency Management Assistance Compact to reimburse out-of-state law enforcement who traveled to the Twin Cities to provide assistance for the Derek Chauvin trial. An additional $6.3 million is provided for State Patrol Trooper and DNR Conservation Officer expenses related to civil unrest.
House Republicans unanimously voted in favor of final passage of the bill because we support of our law enforcement.
Have a good weekend and I will be back with more from the House soon.