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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cheryl Youakim (DFL)

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Legislative Weekly Recap - April 13-19, 2015

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dear neighbors,

We had brief floor sessions every day Monday through Friday. The one exception was a longer session on Thursday when we voted on four bills pertaining to guns. You can read a summary of the bills from Session Daily below:

New limits on weapons seizure during emergencies passes House

House passes no firearm notification requirement for Capitol Complex visitors

House passes bill to clarify authority to purchase firearms in other states

Majority of Minnesota House votes for use of firearm suppressors in state

All omnibus bills are making their way through the Ways & Means Committee in the House and the Finance Committee in the Senate. During the coming week we will be taking up the Omnibus budget bills on the floor. Then those bills will go to conference committees to iron out differences before they come back to the full House and Senate and make their final stop on the Governor’s desk. I will send out more information as I get summaries of what are in those individual House bills.

Avian Influenza

Minnesota leads the nation in turkey production and so far the avian influenza virus has devastated at least 26 turkey farms in 14 counties. The legislature moved swiftly to address this crisis. After Governor Dayton’s Emergency Executive Order, the House unanimously passed a DFL initiative to provide nearly $900,000 in funds for emergency response efforts. Our quick action on this means that additional steps will be taken to combat the spread of the H5N2 virus and provide relief for farmers.

You can read the Governor’s Emergency Executive Order or read more about our actions on the House Website.

Minnesota Poison Control Center

The Minnesota Poison Control system is a statewide asset that serves all of Minnesota even though it is housed in Hennepin County. In 2014 alone, the center received 48,446 calls from all 87 Minnesota counties and is staffed 24 hours, 7 days a week all 365 days of the year. Those answering phone calls are specially trained pharmacists and physicians with 23% of callers being other health care providers and 77% being members of the public. This year its funding was in jeopardy. I support the center's request of an $800,000 increase to its base appropriation so that they can keep their doors open. Currently there is some funding is in the House Health and Human Services Omnibus bill and it is my hope that it survives the process. To see the type of services the center provides, watch this video of a father describing his call to the center when his 2-year-old daughter was poisoned.

Committee Work

While Governmental Operations and Elections finished most of their work during deadline week, we still met Tuesday and Thursday to go over appointments to the Campaign Finance Board as well as an informational hearing on a bill regarding Met Council’s Thrive MSP 2040 plan. We are also meeting in the coming week to hear bills that are mandatory re-referrals from other committees, as well as the Omnibus Pensions bill. Since those bills have missed the policy deadline they will go to Rules if they are passed in Government Operations and Elections.

The Property Taxes & Local Government Committee met Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to take testimony, discuss and vote on the division report that will be sent to the full Tax Committee. While there are a few good provisions in the bill to give agricultural land and border cities tax credits and funding, much of it I found troublesome.

The two provisions that I found the most troublesome were the cut to Local Government Aid (LGA) to three of the four cities of the first class and a provision that allows a reverse referendum on a city’s general operations levy.

Currently LGA is disbursed through a formula that was recently updated by a bipartisan committee and legislation. Using a formula to distribute LGA funds takes the politics out of the process, but making exclusions or exemptions can put politics right back in. Unfortunately, I think that is what is happening in this case. The bill caps the LGA for Minneapolis, St. Paul and Duluth, all of which are regional centers. This is not only short-sighted but has regional impact on public safety and quality of life.

The other provision allows a reverse-referendum tool to be used if a city increases their general operating levy just $1 more than the year previous. If signatures are collected from the equivalent of 10% of those who voted in the last city election, the next budget for the city has to be placed on the ballot for passage. This would allow a very small minority to overturn an elected city council’s decision, a council that was elected by the majority of the citizens. I feel that this provision basically tells city councils “As your State Representative, I want you to trust me to set the State budget but I won’t trust you to do what you were elected to do and set the city budget”. I offered an amendment to strip that provision out of the Property Tax Division Report but it was voted down on a party-line vote.

The Rules & Legislative Administration Committee that I serve on will continue to meet most every day to set what bills will be heard during floor sessions.

Meetings with Constituents

Though I spent most of the week in committees or on the floor, I had a chance to meet with a few small groups of constituents. I met with student social workers, members from SEIU that talked about earned sick leave and a great group of teens from Teens Alone to talk about homeless youth funding.

Tuesday evening I had close to a dozen people come to my St. Louis Park coffee and conversation. We had great conversations and it gave me a much needed lift during a hectic week. Unfortunately, I have to cancel and will reschedule my upcoming coffee on April 25 as we have had a House floor session scheduled for that Saturday.

Upcoming Community Events

St. Louis Park Empty Bowls

Where: Westwood Lutheran Church

When: April 23 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. and from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Coffee & Conversation scheduled for April 25 at the Hopkins Depot Coffeehouse has been CANCELLED due to floor session. I will be rescheduling it soon.

Have a great week!

Cheryl Youakim

State Representative (46B)