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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Report from the Capitol

Thursday, January 31, 2019

This week’s visitors at the Capitol included Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski and City Manager Crystal Johnson (above) and Credit Union DAC representatives Grant Goplen of Canby and Dustin Citrowi of Dawson (below). Thanks to all for coming by to talk about the issues.

Dear Neighbor,

Greetings from St. Paul, where we now are nearly one month through the 2019 session. Most of our efforts remain focused on introducing bills and hearing them in committee meetings. Here are a couple of those highlights and an update on a separate issue:

Paid Leave

A bill has been introduced under the “Paid Family and Medical Leave” title, but there’s much more to it than that. The reality is this bill would raise taxes on every working Minnesotan and their employer to pay for an expensive added layer of bureaucracy that would be used by only a very small percentage of people. Estimates indicate this would apply to less than 1 percent of our population at an unknown cost.

This is the wrong approach because it would add significant costs and unnecessary red tape. Furthermore, we always have to be careful of unintended consequences and, in this case, this bill could disincentivize businesses that already are providing good benefit packages to their employees, causing them to scale back to meet the minimum requirements of the bill.

The bottom line is we shouldn’t raise taxes on all Minnesota workers and businesses to create a new program that only 1 percent of our people would use. The focus should be on incentivizing good benefits instead of creating another costly state program.

Election security

Election integrity is vital to our state and nation, which makes action taken by a House committee this week extremely disappointing. On a party line vote, House Democrats voted down an amendment to a bill that would allow Minnesota to take advantage of federal election security funds provided under the Help America Vote Act. Federal law requires a state match to take advantage of the federal funds. Instead of fully funding the election security measures, House Democrats chose to advance the bill without the required funding match attached.

What makes this vote especially perplexing is that in a press release last May, Secretary of State Steve Simon – a former House Democrat himself – said that failure to provide the funding would be a “direct threat to our democracy.” Then, earlier this month, Simon reiterated the need to act quickly on the elections security legislation, stating that “Protecting the security of our elections systems remains a critical need.”

Child care fraud

Legislators once again this week submitted a data practices request regarding fraud in Minnesota’s Childcare Assistance Program. The request concerns the allegations of upwards of $100 million of CCAP funds being allocated to fraudulent childcare facilities and possibly going overseas to terrorist groups.

This is the fifth data request made on this subject in the last several months. The first four were made while the Dayton administration was in office and they simply chose to ignore the requests. The latest request was made to new Department of Human Services Commissioner Tony Lourey in the hopes this new governor’s administration will cooperate with our efforts to combat this apparent fraud on taxpayer dollars.

Legislators are publicly calling on DHS to release internal communications and a private investigative firm's report – prepared at taxpayer expense – that could help us learn more about CCAP fraud and efforts by the DHS Office of the Inspector General to stop it. It is never acceptable for taxpayer dollars to be used fraudulently and concerns our money may be landing in the hands of terrorists is alarming.

The nonpartisan Office of the Legislative Auditor has been investigating this issue and is expected to issue it’s a report in the next month. I look forward to seeing what is revealed.