Here is my update from the Capitol.
Patient Safe Zone Legislation
Last week, I introduced House File 1088, the Patient Safe Zone Bill. This legislation protects staff, patients and visitors in a hospital, hospice or nursing home. The definition of Patient Safe Zone would be added to the sections of law that offer additional protections in regards to drugs and guns in a "school zone, park zone, public housing zone, or drug treatment facility." It would also increase penalties for inmates who, while receiving treatment in a hospital, assault hospital staff. If enacted, inmates who assault hospital staff would face the same penalties as assaulting a prison guard.
HF 1088 is supported by both the Buffalo and Monticello Hospitals, and has been referred to the Health and Human Services Reform Committee for a potential hearing. I will keep you updated on this legislation as it moves forward.
February Forecast Released
On Friday, the Office of Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) released the February forecast which acts as a framework for the legislature and governor to form a budget for FY 2016-17. Minnesota's surplus is now projected to be $1.9 billion, largely from higher tax collections according to MMB. Additionally, because gas prices have been lower, Minnesotans have been able to spend more in their local economies.
What's clear from this significant surplus is that state government has collected too much from taxpayers, and we should be offering some tax relief to hardworking Minnesotans. Additionally, we can also properly fund our priorities like education and road repair without having to raise the gas tax or other sales taxes and fees. State government has more than enough to fund the priorities of Minnesotans without taking even more from your family's budget.
The House will be releasing their budget targets for committees in the coming weeks, and Governor Dayton is also expected to release revised recommendations, possibly asking the legislature to spend even more than the $42 billion he has already proposed.
Future Farmers of America
Last Thursday, I visited with students from the Future Farmers of America (FFA) program. I am proud to have a fantastic FFA program in our community and believe this program is valuable not only for the agricultural education it offers, but for the leadership skills it imparts.
Unfortunately in recent years, there have been a reduction in the number of FFA programs offered in Wright County, with only three programs available now because of a shortage of agriculture educators. I have talked with all of the University of Minnesota Regent candidates about the need for more agriculture teachers in my district and across Minnesota. I am hopeful we can reverse this trend in the coming years, and bring back more FFA programs in Wright County and across the state.
Thank you to all the FFA students who visited me at the Capitol!
As always, please feel free to contact me about any state legislative issue. 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.