This week I met with some local soy bean growers and FFA students. I appreciate them coming to St. Paul and sharing their ideas on how we can support agriculture in our state.
One of the top priorities in the House of Representatives this session is to reform teacher licensing. The current system is cumbersome and costs teachers unnecessary time and money. The state of Minnesota is also facing a teacher shortage, particularly in subject areas such as math, science, CTE and special education. We need to streamline the licensing process so that out-of-state teachers and community experts wanting to teach in Minnesota can get licensed efficiently.
We are also looking at ways to provide tax credits for teachers pursuing masters’ degrees, families paying for preschool, and students dealing with the rising cost of college and subsequent student debt.
Rural Finance Authority Loan Program:
Earlier this week, the House passed legislation that allocates funds to the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) loan program. The RFA partners with agricultural lenders to provide low-cost financing to farmers on terms and conditions not offered by other financial institutions. This program is an important factor in sustaining growth of the farming and agriculture economy in Minnesota.
The RFA portion of the loan is carried at a reduced interest rate to improve the cash flow of eligible farmers. We needed to act quickly due to the state's authorization to sell the bonds for the RFA program expired December 31, 2016.
The bill that passed provides a new authorization and $35 million for bonds to finance the program. Participating lenders provide 55% of the financing for the loans, and the state provides the remainder. The loans are user financed, meaning the debt service is repaid by the borrower, not the taxpayers. Since the RFA's inception, the average default rate has been .0007%
Misuse of U.S. Bank Stadium Suites:
This week the Legislative Auditor, Jim Nobles, released a report regarding the misuse of taxpayer funded suites at U.S. Bank Stadium by officials of the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority. The audit discovered that nearly half of the tickets for the suites went to family and friends of these officials, instead of their intended purpose of using them as a marketing tool to private businesses in order to pay for ongoing expenses of operating the stadium.
To quote some of the findings by the Auditor: “The Authority’s claim that it needs two suites rather than one is not supported by facts or logic.” “The Authority failed to comply with state law by not maintaining a record of who received tickets to its stadium suites.” “We concluded that the Authority’s use of the tickets violated a core ethical principle.” “Given these and other findings, we recommend that the Legislature exercise stronger control over the Authority and, specifically, its use of complimentary tickets to stadium events.”
This misuse of state resources cannot continue. The legislature is currently working to reform the Authority to make them more accountable to the taxpayers of Minnesota.
I’d like to highlight three area teachers who have received special recognition. Neil Lahammer and Sheena Tisland, from Red Wing Public Schools, have been nominated for the 2017 Minnesota Teacher of the Year. My children had the good fortune of having both of these individuals, so I know first-hand of high caliber and their impact on students. Also, congratulations to Cannon Falls High School teacher, Heather Loeschke, on being named this year’s "Outstanding Social Studies Teacher" by the Minnesota Council for Social Studies.
Small Business Revolution (Red Wing):
Congratulations to the city of Red Wing on being a top 5 finalist for best “Main Street” in the country by Deluxe (Small Business Revolution). The winning city will receive $500,000 for revitalization efforts. Good Luck, Red Wing! Vote Daily HERE
If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding anything related to state government, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com or 651-296-8635.
I appreciate your comments and concerns as it helps me be a better Representative.