Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update from St. Paul.
I value your input and want to hear from you about issues being debated at the Capitol this session.
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House File 2 Passes
On Thursday, the House debated and passed House File 2, an education reform bill.
The most significant change in the bill is the way it deals with staff retention and teacher layoffs. Currently in state law, only seniority can be considered by school districts if they have to make reductions in staff. HF 2 changes that so in addition to seniority and other locally negotiated factors, merit as determined by teacher evaluations must also be included.
Making this change away from seniority-only to also include merit means that we are keeping the most effective teachers in our classrooms.
Additionally, the bill also increases school district's access to quality teachers through simplifying the out-of-state teacher licensure requirements and by streamlining the path to alternative teacher licensure.
Finally, the bill empowers school districts to bring in community experts for vocational, technical and career education programs.
House File 2 is a student-focused bill that improves student learning and empowers our schools and teachers. As a parent, I know we all want the best education for our kids. I am pleased that it passed the House on Thursday and am hopeful it will move forward this session and be signed into law by Governor Dayton.
Last Friday, the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) announced that our state has a $1.869 billion survey for Fiscal Years 2016-17. The legislature and governor will use this number as a framework to craft a state budget this year.
MMB cites that our substantial surplus is due in large part to cheaper gas prices that allowed consumers to spend more in other parts of our economy. With that in mind, I think that the proposals by Governor Dayton and the DFL Senate to raise gas taxes and take more from your family budget would be poor public policy. Moreover, just when Minnesotans are starting to see some relief at the gas pump, state government should not be burdening people with higher taxes.
In the coming weeks, House Republicans will release budget targets for fiscal committees based on the information from the February forecast. Governor Dayton is also expected to release revised budget recommendations, possibly requesting the legislature spend more than in his initial $42 billion plan from earlier last month.
This week in the Public Safety and Crime Prevention Committee, we heard my bipartisan bill HF 801. The bill creates a new offense of real or personal property arson that results in bodily harm.
Currently in law, unless someone is killed from arson, there are no additional penalties for the crime if it causes injury to another person. This bill adds penalties for bodily harm caused by arson, acting as a deterrent for anyone considering committing arson.
HF 801 addresses the risk to first responders fighting fires, as well as to other victims of this serious crime. The bill was recommended to pass out of committee and sent to the General Register, where it can be taken up on the House Floor on a future date.
If you ever need assistance on a matter of state government, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I am here to serve you!
Have a wonderful weekend.