There are now just two days left in the legislative session. Budget negotiations between the Republican majorities and Governor Dayton had been continuing. But yesterday, during a break while the Governor was attending a family funeral, the Republicans suddenly announced that they were cutting off negotiations and passing a set of bills without any agreement. The last time they did this was just one week ago, and it resulted in the Governor vetoing the bills.
The Republican budget bills are currently being finalized; as of this writing, I do not know their content. But I am hearing that they are likely to continue to contain unrelated policy provisions that the Governor has long indicated are unacceptable. If so, they will lead to yet another set of vetoes in the final hours of the session.
It has now been several years since our state enacted a "bonding bill," which provides long-term borrowing for important infrastructure. Critical projects like the Dorothy Day Center expansion, and many others, need funding now. Nevertheless, earlier this week I joined many of my DFL colleagues (and some GOP members) in voting down the majority's proposed $800 million bonding bill. Because of the long delay in passing a bill, there is a large backlog in projects across the state. My DFL colleagues and I feel that a bonding bill this session should include at least $1 billion in projects (a traditional benchmark), to lessen this backlog, take advantage of low interest rates and repair critical infrastructure across the state. Such a bill can and must be passed.
State Employee Contracts
After state employee labor contracts are negotiated (as they were last fall), they are ratified by the Legislature. Ordinarily, this is a simple step. But the Republican majorities have instead held these contracts hostage, not only refusing to ratify them but refusing to take any action on them (even hold hearings) altogether. On the House floor, my DFL colleagues and I have repeatedly tried to have these contracts even considered, much less approved.
The current contracts contain an inflationary pay increase and paid family leave, among other changes. If they are not ratified by session end (May 22), state employees will suddenly lose the pay increase (which they have had for months), be called back to work during ongoing family leave, etc. Our public employees deserve better than this shameful treatment. I'll keep fighting to prevent it.
The "Real ID" issue - which would have prevented airline passengers from traveling without a passport - has been held up for several years now as the Republican majority tried to insert unrelated language about driver's licenses for undocumented immigrants into the bill. A "clean" version of the bill (without the immigration language) passed the Senate by a wide margin several weeks ago. I'm glad to note that earlier this week the House majority finally allowed the clean bill to be voted on and approved.
There are many public safety and humanitarian reasons for undocumented immigrants to have legal access to a driver's license - they have been ineligible only since 2003 - but Real ID was not the place to address this issue. I will continue working to find a way for everyone driving on our roads to be doing so legally and safely, no matter their immigrant status.
In the midst of everything else, I'm honored to have been selected as a 2017 BILLD Fellow by the Council of State Governments. This prestigious program offers training for "promising state leaders." I'll work hard to put the skills I gain to use on your behalf. You can read more about the BILLD Fellowship here.
I'll continue to keep you posted. Thank you for the honor of serving our community,
State Representative, District 64B
321 State Office Building
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