Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update from Saint Paul.
Education Reform Bill Passes House
On Thursday, the House passed House File 2, a bill that will reform education in Minnesota, improve student learning and give more flexibility and local control to school districts.
The centerpiece of this legislation is the reform of seniority-only policy when it comes to staff retention decisions during difficult budgeting times. With statutory teacher evaluations now in place, HF 2 allows school districts and local unions to negotiate policies that will include merit in staff retention decisions, ensuring that the most effective teachers can remain in the classroom. Additionally, the bill also limits placement of students with ineffective teachers in consecutive years.
Effective, quality teachers play a significant role in student achievement, and keeping the best teachers in our classroom is important for students, parents, educators and school districts.
Additionally, the bill also empowers school districts to tap community experts to fill unmet needs and teach vocational, technical or career training to students. It also increases access to quality teachers with out-of-state teacher license recognition by encouraging regional licensure reciprocity with neighboring states.
Ensuring every student receives a world-class education is one of my top priorities, and I am pleased that HF 2 was passed on the House Floor this week.
United States Navy Reserve Celebration
On Tuesday, I attended the One Hundred Year Centennial of the U.S Navy Reserve at the Naval Operational Support Center in Minneapolis.
During the program, we heard from a number of wonderful speakers, and I also had a chance to talk with Senior Sailor Richard Thill (pictured above). He served as a crewmember on the U.S.S. Ward which fired the first American shots of World War II. It was an honor to talk with him at the ceremony.
Thank you to all the men and women who serve or have served in the Navy Reserves!
February Forecast Released
Last Friday, the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget released the February Forecast, revising Minnesota's projected surplus from $1 billion to $1.9 billion.
With such a substantial surplus, it's clear that state government has collected too much from hardworking taxpayers, and that money should be returned through tax relief. Additionally, Minnesota should not be collecting even more from people through a new gas tax, or any other additional taxes and fees.
The House Republicans will release their budget targets later this month, sharing their plan on how the state budget should be allocated.
House File 134
On Monday the House debated and unanimously passed a bill I authored, HF 134. This technical bill amends the statutes governing the Board of Governors of the Big Island Veterans Camp and repeals outdated language currently in state law.
I appreciate the support of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for HF 134. It has been sent over to the Senate and hopefully will be debated there soon.
On Tuesday, two bills I authored were heard in the Taxes Committee.
HF 125 is a bipartisan bill that supplies an income tax credit for businesses hiring qualified veterans. The credit equals ten percent of the wages paid to a veteran, up to $3,000 for each disabled veteran hired, $1500 for each unemployed veteran hired, and $500 for each 9/11 veteran hired.
HF 134, another bipartisan piece of legislation, allows income tax subtractions for military retirement pay, which would be phased in over five years beginning in 2015.
I am pleased that both of these bills were heard in the Taxes Committee, as they will both help attract and employ more veterans here in Minnesota.
Veterans Day on the Hill
Wednesday was Veterans Day on the Hill at the Minnesota State Capitol. I, along with Rep. John Persell, Sen. Bruce Anderson, Sen. Roger Chamberlain and Sen. Tom Saxhaug, made remarks during the celebration.
It's so important to recognize and pay tribute to our veterans, and I was honored to take part in their day at the Capitol.
As always, thank you for the honor and privilege of being your state representative.