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

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Legislative Weekly Recap - May 28, 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Dear Neighbors,

Session was wrapped up in a flurry at midnight on May 18. As you have read in the papers, there was a Jobs & Energy Finance bill sent over to the House floor during the last ten minutes of session. It was over 95 pages long and had just been amended in the Senate. I only had a few minutes to skim the bill and many did not receive the last minute e-mail with the language in it. While the bill had many provisions in it that were non-controversial and had been heard in committee, the normal process would be to have the author walk through the bill, then allow members to ask questions and time for final comments. This session, I have seen this process take anywhere from an hour to six hours on a bill that has this much funding in it. We were given ten minutes with no one but the author called on. Regardless of what the bill contained, this is not the way the House should run. You can watch the chaotic last minute of session here. It was a disappointing end to the session. In the final hours, the House passed a Legacy Finance bill over to the Senate that they were unable to act on. This bill is what directs the special constitutionally dedicated tax funds for the outdoors, arts and heritage programs.

While there were a few things accomplished this session, I was expecting more out of the surplus we had to work with. One of the biggest disappointments is that we adjourned without a Tax Bill or a comprehensive Transportation Bill. The only Transportation Bill that was passed was a “lights on bill” with minimal investment in fixing our infrastructure or funding our transit system. We need to stop the band-aid approaches. Our current funding for transit reminds me of the old adage “you get what you pay for”. We are getting what we paid for – an underfunded system filled with potholes and crumbling bridges.

While the Governor signed most of the omnibus finance bills – Higher Education, Public Safety, Health & Human Services and State Government & Veterans – he vetoed the E-12 Education, Agriculture & Environment and the Jobs & Energy finance bills. You can view the veto letters here: E-12 Education, Ag/Environment, Jobs & Energy.

So, now we are headed to a special session. While the date is yet to be determined, the location has been set. We are going to be meeting in two of the larger conference rooms in the State Office Building across the street from the Capitol because of construction taking place in the House and Senate chambers. The rooms will barely fit the legislators and necessary staff, so I am assuming that the only public access will be via video.

Personal Legislation

I did have one personal bright point during the session, my bill to create a working group to see if we need a Silver Alert in Minnesota passed and was signed by the Governor (HF805/SF857). I will be anxiously awaiting the working group’s conclusion so that I can craft legislation to implement a Silver Alert next session. While there was no final Tax Bill passed, I did have two provisions that were going to be included. One would have added “parks” to the “local trails” language on how the lottery money for the environment is spent. The other would have required the Minnesota Department of Revenue to look at building, or buying, a system to allow everyone to electronically file their State taxes at no charge.

There were other bills I introduced that did not receive hearings that I will continue to work with stakeholders to move forward during the interim. In particular one that puts standard health regulations in vaping studios. Another would require phone companies to note on their bills when a policy expires and/or will be renewed automatically instead of just including that language in the contract in small print. I am also carrying a bonding request for an organization in St. Louis Park called Perspectives. They would like to construct an expansion to serve more women and children who struggle with homelessness. I have toured their facility and am very excited to be a part of something that helps people break cycles and build hope.

Constituent Contact

I would like to thank you all again for either e-mailing, writing or phoning my office this session. Your questions, insights and advocacy were greatly appreciated! Please stay tuned for dates for the Latz/Winkler/Youakim Town Hall Session wrap-up. I will continue to keep you informed as the special session unfolds.

Get out and enjoy the sun!