Hello from St. Paul,
Last week, we continued to debate various omnibus bills in the House. The Republican majority set a goal of having all of our Omnibus bills completed before Easter and we did just that! I will highlight this week’s outcomes below. But first, I want to say a word about partisanship. You often hear in the news about the partisanship that exists in St. Paul and the further polarization of the two political parties. However, I want to share with you that many bills that pass the Minnesota House of Representatives do so in a very bipartisan manner. As a matter of fact, there have been multiple omnibus bills that were passed this session with broad bipartisan support; including: Agriculture and Public Safety.
Two weeks ago, the House passed the Transportation Finance Omnibus Bill that invests $6 billion over the next decade, with $2 billion being spent in the next two years alone, without raising the gas tax. The bill is funded through bonds and a re-appropriation of auto-related taxes to be spent exclusively on transportation projects.
Some key provisions in the bill that benefit our area:
- Dedicating $25 million over the next two years to a small cities assistance program that allocates funding to cities with fewer than 5,000 residents for local road improvements.
- Broken down by county:
- Goodhue: $158,375
- Wabasha: $146,266
- Creating a special fund of $25 million for 97 bridge projects recommended by MnDOT
- Allocating $35 million for rail grade crossings to improve rail safety – including the Sturgeon Lake overpass at Prairie Island.
- Requiring counties or the County Transit Improvement Board (CTIB) to fund 100% of operating and future capital costs for light rail
Additionally, the House passed the Education Finance Omnibus Bill, which increases funding for our students and schools by $1.1 billion, including more than $300 million for early learning programs; $22 million for a targeted academic achievement initiative that funds before school, afterschool, and summer programs to help low-income students who are falling behind; and $40 million for enhanced school readiness aid. These new funding levels will help in closing the achievement gap.
Other highlights include:
- Continuing efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, especially in areas with teacher shortages
- Passing sweeping reforms to teacher licensure to help address the teacher workforce shortage
- Repealing the “last in, first out” (LIFO) default in state statute to allow schools and local bargaining units to negotiate mutually beneficial staff retention decisions that better serve students, teachers and schools
- Protecting kids by permitting school districts to provide child sexual abuse prevention instruction
Last week, we passed the Agriculture Omnibus Bill. This bill focuses on supporting this important industry by investing in the following priorities:
- Responding to Ag emergencies, such as tractor rollovers, Avian Flu, and noxious weeds
- Growing and diversifying our agro-economy, in areas like industrial hemp and biofuel
- Continuing support for production agriculture research, farm safety, Ag Education, and youth development
- Creating a dedicated Pollinator Habitat and Research account
Job Growth and Energy:
The House also passed the Job Growth and Energy Affordability Policy and Finance Omnibus, which provides appropriations for economic development, energy and housing.
A provision that was included in the omnibus bill that I championed, establishes a mechanism for government entities to create Housing Trust Funds, which could be used to support workforce housing, senior housing, or affordable housing.
Other highlights include:
- Reducing energy costs to consumers by reducing and streamlining the regulation process for energy providers
- Reinvesting funding from ineffective programs into clean energy programs that benefits communities around our state, instead of a selected privileged few
- Encouraging more infrastructure in our state by cutting fees on construction-related permits and inspections
Additionally, the House passed the Higher Education Omnibus Bill which prioritizes college affordability through public school tuition freezes and reductions, accountability through student loan debt counseling (an issue that I advocated for this session), and accessibility to students previously unable to attend higher education programming.
I also carried a bill that addresses the affordability of higher education through establishing workforce development scholarships for students studying advanced manufacturing, health care, agriculture, or information technology at any Minnesota college.
The House also passed the Public Safety Omnibus Bill funding the state’s law enforcement sector and providing Minnesotans with a core function of state government: keeping its citizens safe.
Reforms in the bill include:
- Allowing the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to replace an outdated predatory offender registry
- Increasing penalties against those who choose to participate in illegal protests that put people’s lives at risk
- Providing new revenue to address domestic violence prevention and terrorism recruitment
- Creating stronger penalties and longer supervision for convicted sexual predators
- Dedicating funds for additional sex trafficking prevention grants
- Increasing penalties against those who possess and disseminate child pornography
These bills will now head to a conference committee with the Senate where the final details will be worked on before heading to the Governor’s desk for his consideration.
Last week, I was visited by superintendents from our district and by Red Wing school board members: Mike Christensen, Heidi Jones, Arlen Diereks, Janie Farrar, and Pam Roe.
I also met with local nurses from Red Wing and Lake City.
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.
The legislature is in recess this week for Easter/Passover break. I wish you all a blessed and safe holiday and hope you have the chance to spend time with your family and friends.
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