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

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Report from the Capitol

Friday, March 15, 2019

Thank you to Al Kruse, Keith Van Overbeke and Darwin Dyce of the Land Stewardship project (above) and Krist Wollum (below) of the Cattlemen’s Association for recently visiting my office in St. Paul.


Two forms of disaster relief were topics of discussion at the Capitol this week as we addressed legislation to provide assistance to farmers whose buildings have collapsed and to make funding available to combat flooding that is anticipated this spring. Here is a meaty recap of those issues, along with other highlights from this week:

Disaster recovery loans for farmers

The House approved legislation on Thursday making disaster recovery loans available to farmers whose barns have recently collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, sleet, or ice.

Dozens of farm buildings have caved in recent days, primarily impacting southeastern Minnesota and also occurring in other parts of the state. The legislation (S.F. 2225) authorizes the Minnesota Rural Finance Authority to issue Disaster Recovery Loans to farmers whose properties sustained damage retroactively to Jan. 1, 2019.

Farmers can use Disaster Recovery Loans for several purposes:

  • To clean up, repair, or replace farm structures and septic and water systems, as well as replace seed, other crop inputs, feed, and livestock;
  • To purchase watering systems, irrigation systems, and other drought mitigation systems and practices when drought is the cause of the purchase;
  • To restore farmland; or
  • To replace flocks, make building improvements, or cover the loss of revenue when the replacement, improvements, or loss of revenue is due to the confirmed presence of the highly pathogenic avian influenza in a commercial poultry or game flock located in Minnesota.

With the Senate having previously approved the bill, it now is in the hands of Gov. Tim Walz for enactment.

Replenishing disaster account

With the Minnesota Disaster Contingency Account depleted and projections for widespread flooding this week in Minnesota, House Republicans have put forward a bill to transfer $20 million in both 2019 and 2020 to the contingency account, effective the day after final enactment.

The contingency account was designed to help provide relief dollars on the fly, but that only works if there is money available to appropriate. Flooding events in Brainerd and Duluth last year drained $11 million from the account, leaving it empty. Former Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of an omnibus bill last year struck down funding to rebuild this account.

The governor and House Democrats have proposed putting $10 million into the account for 2019, but just last year we saw how quickly this funding can be depleted and the $10 million others are proposing simply won’t cut it.

Experts are predicting major flooding throughout the state – including the greater Marshall area – this spring and this issue is too important to wait until the end of session in late May. The urgency is here, so let’s take care of it now.

State Fair recovery bill

I am looking at introducing a bill to fund a repair of the historic Cattle Barn at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds after it collapsed under the weight of snow earlier this week. Fortunately no animals were injured in the collapse because the building is used for storage in the winter and does not contain livestock. But, when summer rolls around, the Cattle Barn will be an important asset for ag folks from throughout the state – including many in our area – during the State Fair and beyond. We need to fix this, so stay tuned…

Child care program fraud

The Office of the Legislative Auditor has been investigating fraud in the Minnesota Child Care Assistance Program and it reported some findings this week.

In some ways, the report still leaves us with more questions than answers, but we do know there is widespread agreement that a substantial amount of fraud is taking place in CCAP. It also is clear the Department of Human Services has been less than diligent in its monitoring of this program.

The agency’s leadership needs to do far better in ensuring the integrity of this program and in protecting our tax dollars from being subjected to waste, fraud and abuse. The Legislature also needs to investigate guard rails that could be in place to tighten up our programs to make sure we are being good stewards of tax dollars.


The high cost of health insurance has been a major subject of discussion – and frustration among citizens –and House Democrats failed to take advantage of a great opportunity to make improvements this week. The Senate already has passed a bill to extend Minnesota’s reinsurance program for three years, which Minnesota Management & Budget confirms would reduce premiums in the individual market in plan years 2020-22. Unfortunately, House Democrats blocked efforts by House Republicans to put the Senate bill up for a vote of the full House.


The House passed a bill 127-0 this week to designate the first Saturday in October as Veterans Suicide Awareness Day. Far too many veterans are taking their own lives, with reports showing veterans are 1 1/2 times more likely to die by suicide than civilians. I am pleased to support this bill so we can raise public awareness on this issue and get our veterans the help they need.

Lighting systems for wind turbines

I have introduced a bill (H.F. 2390) requiring wind companies to implement radar-activated lighting systems that turn blinking lights atop wind turbines and tall towers on and off depending on whether aircraft is in the vicinity. These Aircraft Detection Lighting Systems can reduce light pollution by remaining dark most of the time, lighting up only when necessary to serve as beacons.

Night vision for hunting

A bill (H.F. 2442) allowing for use of night-vision equipment while hunting coyotes or foxes received a committee hearing on Thursday and passed, moving to the next step in the process.

Look for more as these and other issues develop. Until next time, have a great weekend.