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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Josh Heintzeman (R)

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Legislative Update from Rep. Josh Heintzeman

Friday, March 10, 2017

Dear Friends,

Last Tuesday, the Minnesota Office of Management and Budget released their February Economic Forecast.  These projections tell the legislature what money is available to start writing the budget for the next two years. In addition, on Thursday, we passed the Uniform Labor Standards Act through the House.  Some details on the forecast, the ULSA, and a framework for how I think we should approach combating aquatic invasive species are below.

February Economic Forecast

The February forecast predicted that our state’s budget will increase by $250 million compared to last November’s projections, bringing it to a total of $1.65 billion. 

We already knew that Minnesotans are being over taxed, and the growing budget surplus confirms it. I, and my fellow caucus members, will continue working on tax relief measures for folks so that they can keep more of their own money. I am optimistic that we will pass significant relief measures this session to lighten the tax burden for our state.

Uniform Labor Standards Act

Last Thursday we passed the Uniform Labor Standards Act through the House.  This bill keeps all authority to set minimum wage and employment benefit standards with the state.  For the last 160 years (since Minnesota has been a state), this has been the precedent.  However, there has been a recent trend, especially in the Metro, of local governments setting higher standards in their jurisdictions.

This may not seem like much of a problem at first glance, but major issues start to arise when regional businesses are required to comply.

For example, Minneapolis set a higher minimum wage for businesses in that city.  If a small business in Greater Minnesota has an employee who spends 80 hours or more in Minneapolis per year for work, that employee must be paid the Minneapolis minimum wage and benefits. Small businesses have to rework their accounting practices and benefits policies to accommodate this, even if they are simply transporting their goods to the Metro.

Cost of living is significantly lower in Greater Minnesota, and growing businesses often can’t sustain paying their employees a Metro wage, much less expand.  Again, this hits businesses in Greater Minnesota, like Twin Cities Brainerd Express (TCBX), hardest.

The Uniform Labor Standards Act simply gives authority for setting employment standards to the state, which lets our growing businesses know what is expected of them when they want to expand to other areas of the state.

What is more, issues like minimum wage and employment benefits have huge impacts on the lives of folks across the state; they deserve the attention of our state government.  These important debates shouldn’t be decided by random standards set by local governments.

Again, this bill passed the House on a bipartisan vote, and is still up for debate in the Senate.


Combatting Aquatic Invasive Species

While I was a manage on the Thirty Lakes Watershed District Board before joining the legislature, and now as Vice-Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Committee in the House, the question I hear most often is "Can we stop AIS (aquatic invasive species)?”

The answer is yes, however that would require that we adopt water use rules that would cripple Minnesota's tourism-driven economy and crush the traditions we all hold dear. Public water accesses would have to be closed and private accesses regulated.

Along with dock equipment, boats would no longer be allowed to access more than one lake, and all aircraft (including fire-fighting equipment) would be prohibited from landing in water. Additionally, a massive governmental agency initiative would be required to enforce these incredibly controversial initiatives...

I am being brutally honest on this issue with the goal of fostering a conversation that needs to be started sooner than later. I think we have to be realistic about our expectations and rely on known science.

Agencies must be honest with the public. Almost every group using our lakes is to blame, and we must move beyond pointing fingers to developing better prevention strategies. We also need to invest in realistic and proven solutions, rather than burying our heads in the sand as the problem compounds. States with fewer aquatic resources have led the way in developing lake restoration technologies, and we should be building on those ideas here at home.

I mentioned last week that I have introduced a bill that would designate the narrowleaf cattail as an invasive species, which would be a step in the right direction toward maintaining our native ecosystem. Let’s start an honest conversation about AIS and what expectations we can and should have in dealing with this issue.

Thank you all for your support.  Please don’t hesitate to call or stop in my office with any questions you may have.