The 2023 Legislative Session is over, and I’d like to highlight some of the bright spots, especially when it comes to legislation and issues that I personally addressed this year. As a Republican, it’s not easy to have your voice heard when all of state government is controlled by Democrats. But I was able to work with the House majority on several issues – particularly on veterans’ topics – and am pleased with the results for our district considering how the deck was stacked.
The biggest news came on the last day of session, as a bill I chief-authored that secures $78 million in bonding proceeds to renovate the Hastings Veterans Home was approved in a comprehensive capital investment package. In actuality, the project will cost more than $230 million, but two-thirds of that cost will be paid for by the federal government. This project is long overdue for our veterans who live on the Hastings campus and I’m proud to have delivered this for them.
Speaking of the Hastings Veterans Home, I’m also proud to have played a role in helping influence the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs to make leadership changes at the Hastings Veterans Home and beyond. Whistleblower allegations of a toxic work environment should always be taken seriously, and it was welcome news when action was taken.
The transportation funding proposal included my bill that exempts veterans with a 100% service-connected disability from paying a number of transportation-related taxes and fees. They include registration taxes, the motor vehicle sales tax, and fees for driver’s licenses, license plates and vehicle titles, on up to 2 vehicles.
A bill I co-authored that allocates $200,000 to the amazing Veterans nonprofit Every Third Saturday (ETS) was also approved. Based in Minneapolis, I brought the bill to the Democrat state representative who represents the area that includes the organization, and was glad to see it prioritized this session. ETS is providing a critical mission for homeless and struggling Veterans in the Twin Cities by providing clothing, basic supplies, help with transitioning into housing, job opportunities, and so much more.
In addition, proposals that I chief-authored were approved that reform firefighter pensions and allow Cottage Grove residents to decide whether or not to raise local taxes. The City is seeking $6 million in River Oaks improvements, $17 million in Hamlet Parks improvements, and $13 million in Mississippi Dunes Park construction costs. This is not something the City of Cottage Grove can do on its own; it needs a legislator to draft a bill and have it signed into law before the city can ask residents to vote on whether or not they support increasing their taxes for these specific projects, and that’s what’s happening. I also worked closely with the City of Hastings to table changes to its charitable gambling ordinance in the wake of state electronic pull tab reform.
And when we’re talking about legislative disappointments, that e-pull tab reform sits at the top of my list. This session the Democrat majority, after hearing from our Tribal Nations, passed language that will end e-pull tabs as we know them. This maneuver will financially decimate local VFW’s, Legions, Lions Clubs, and youth sports associations in every corner of our state. This change does not take effect until the summer of 2024, so there’s still time to push back and defeat this nonsense, and I will be working VERY hard to do just that.
Finally, I am truly troubled by the direction our state is headed thanks to all-Democrat control and their extremely radical agenda. Thanks to their insatiable appetite to spend and take your money, Democrats blew through a $17.5 billion budget surplus and raised taxes by more than $9 billion, moves that will negatively impact all working Minnesotans and our way of life.
HONOR OUR HEROES ON MEMORIAL DAY
Let us never forget that freedom isn’t free. If you’re ever looking for a true American hero, start with the men and women who fought for our nation’s interest and paid the ultimate price.
The Memorial Day weekend is recognized as the unofficial start to summer, but I hope you’ll join me on Monday in recognizing the real reason for the holiday – to honor the men and women who gave their lives defending what is still the greatest country in the world.