My 2016 Legislative Survey is now available to take online, giving me another opportunity to gather feedback from constituents about important issues being debated at the Capitol. Your opinions are valuable and guide me toward supporting legislation that best serves our community.
To take my survey, just go to this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/ONeill2016
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts! Also, don't forget to share my survey with your friends and family in District 29B!
Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund Bill
Last Thursday, the House passed bipartisan legislation which extends unemployment benefits for eligible out-of-work employees on the Iron Range for 26 weeks, as well as gives a boost to businesses across the state by right-sizing the state's overfunded Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.
In regards to the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund, this bill benefits businesses across the state, helping them keep more money to grow their company and hire new employees. Minnesota businesses pay into the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund which is currently carrying a nearly all-time high balance of $1.5 billion. The legislation credits $258 million to employers, as well as reduces their future obligations to pay into the trust fund when the balance exceeds the fully-funded threshold per federal standards. In short, this bill keeps more money in the private sector which is good for employers, employees and our state's economy.
The bill was passed off the House Floor and sent to the Senate for consideration.
Higher Education Hearing
On Tuesday, the Higher Education Committee held a comprehensive informational hearing on the University of Minnesota, hitting on a number of important issues including the review of their Department of Psychiatry, administrative costs, tuition increases and aborted fetal tissue research. The U of M is an institution funded by Minnesota taxpayers and many of our kids receive a higher education there. We must ensure that this important institution is living up to moral, ethical and financial expectations and doing right by it students and our state.
The first part of the meeting dealt with the nonpartisan review by the Office of the Legislative Auditor of the U of M's Department of Psychiatry after Dan Markingson, a patient in a study, committed suicide in 2004. That report found a serious ethics lapse within the department. Three of the whistleblowers who worked at the university also came to testify regarding this case saying there is a culture of silence within the institution. The audit also noted that the U of M Board of Regents did not do their job in creating additional oversights following the findings in the Markingson investigation.
The committee also reviewed tuition costs at the university, and I have to say I was disappointed in the way they accounted for tuition hikes at the U of M. It felt a bit like smoke and mirrors, as they changed the way they presented their tuition costs to make themselves look better and disguise the fact that they are an outlier when it comes to the high cost of tuition. Student debt is an important issue to families, and I would like to see more accountability and transparency from the university on this issue.
Finally, the committee discussed the aborted fetal tissue research being done at the university, and I was once again frustrated by the lack of transparency presented by their administration on this issue as well.
The U of M had an external audit done to review how long they have been using aborted fetal tissue, the cost, the results of their research, etc. In spite of knowing about this legislative hearing well in advance, they did not bring the results of this audit with them to share that key information with legislators. It feels like a purposeful avoidance of sharing details on a serious ethical issue, and I am disappointed that they did not disclose this information with the House Higher Education Committee.
Legislators and the public want openness from the University of Minnesota, and unfortunately this legislative hearing did not answer all of our questions. I will continue to push for their institution, from professors to the president, to be honest and forthright with the people of Minnesota.
If you need assistance an issue pertaining to state government, my office is available to you. You can e-mail at Rep.Marion.ONeill@House.MN or call my office at 651-296-5063. You can also write a letter to me. My office address at the Capitol is 549 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155.