Friday, November 24th, 2017

Winona County Republicans

Legislative Updates for Jan 31st

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Fist up is Senator Miller.

Greetings from the Capitol!

Until this week our committee meetings were taken up with overviews by Senate Counsel and Research and by major stakeholders in our areas of responsibility, but now we have begun to consider our first bills. Legislating is a great responsibility: we are writing laws that will make a difference, large or small, in the lives of Minnesotans. If you’re interested, you can watch committee hearings and floor sessions on the Minnesota Channel.

Last Friday we went to Hibbing for a joint meeting of the Environment and Jobs Committees to talk about what state government can do to improve our employment picture. One of the things that most people agree on is that we need to speed up the time it takes for existing and new businesses to get environmental permits and to deal with all sorts of state regulations. We toured a mine and then had our committee meeting at Hibbing Community College before a couple of hundred people.

A big part of the reason that Minnesota generally does better than most states whether the economy is humming or in a slowdown is that we have a very diverse economy. Mining is a crucial part of the mix.  We need to find the right balance between supporting our businesses and protecting the environment that is another one of our unique assets.

I am continuing to work on changes to the Green Acres law. Here’s a link to some comments I made on Winona radio: http://www.winonaradio.com/Green-Acres–Miller/9025334

Here’s a recap of last week’s legislative business:

PHASE ONE BUDGET SOLUTION

(SF60) Passed the Senate Finance Committee this week and moved to the Senate floor. This common-sense measure reduces projected spending by more than $1 billion through FY 2012-13 and immediately solves a portion of the projected $6.2 billion deficit. It also reduces the long-term FY 2014-15 deficit by over one-half billion dollars. The bill continues the $822 million one-time budget reductions that the legislature enacted last year. It also recaptures unspent money in state agency budgets and requires the legislature and constitutional officers to lead by example by making further budget cuts in their own current two-year budget.

SCHOOL EMPLOYEE WAGE FREEZE & MANDATE RELIEF

(SF56) A bill that helps schools reduce financial and bureaucratic burdens has passed the Education Committee. The bill removes a requirement that schools spend a prescribed amount on counselors and social workers and on staff development and also eliminates the fine for districts that fail to settle teacher contracts by January 15. In addition, the bill freezes employee compensation for all school district employees for two years in order to keep class sizes down and preserve important curricula and programs.  The measure has been endorsed by the Minnesota School Boards Association, the Minnesota Association of School Administrators, many individual administrators and superintendents, and the editorial boards of both the Star Tribune and Pioneer Press. The Minnesota Association of School Administrators estimates that the freeze would save $80 million over two years and allow districts to retain about 1,000 teaching jobs statewide.

FREEDOM OF CHOICE IN HEALTH CARE ACT

(SF33) Legislation that would repeal Minnesota’s Medical Assistance expansion under Gov. Dayton and exert individual rights against Obamacare’s requirement that every American purchase health insurance, passed in the Health & Human Services Committee this week. Minnesota’s early enrollment in Medical Assistance does not have any residency requirements and removes all current asset limits for individuals entering the program. There is concern that Minnesota will become a “magnet” for those seeking government-subsidized health care. The total cost to the General Fund in FY 2011 for MA Early Enrollment is $26.5 million (depending on the time period for implementation) and has gone up significantly since the Legislature adjourned the 2010 Session, with a larger than expected number of enrollees to be transferred into the program.

Anyone who acknowledges an individual’s freedom of choice or is familiar with the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution has to question the wisdom of allowing bureaucrats in Washington, D.C. to determine and decide an individual’s health care plan.

PHOTO ID FOR VOTING

To inspire confidence in the integrity of our election system, a bill was introduced this week that requires photo identification for voting. Polling consistently shows that the overwhelming majority (80% or more) of Minnesotans support a photo ID voting requirement. The measure would provide free state-issued ID to individuals who cannot otherwise get it.

ENDING THE NUCLEAR BAN

(SF4) This legislation opens the door to alternatives to our current coal-fired power plants by lifting the 17-year ban on permitting new nuclear power plants. Lifting the moratorium allows us to begin a discussion about the role of nuclear power in Minnesota and its possible use as an option to fill the state’s growing need for reasonably priced energy. Much of the opposition to nuclear power relies upon action from the federal government concerning the storage of nuclear waste. President Obama has promised to act on this, but the action and funding remain to be seen. This bill was passed in the Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee and should be brought up on the floor within the next week.

——————–

JEREMY MILLER
State Senator, District 31
320 State Capitol Building
75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-5649

Proudly serving Fillmore, Houston, and Winona Counties.

And now for the update from Rep. Drazkowski.

Hello from the State Capitol,

In early December, state economists warned lawmakers the state would be
facing a $6.2 billion budget deficit for the upcoming budget cycle.  In
years past, legislative leadership would have waited until late March to
begin thinking about addressing this problem.  I’m pleased to report
that legislative Republicans have already unveiled the first step
towards balancing the state’s budget.

On January 18, Minnesota House and Senate Republicans introduced an
early action budget bill that takes immediate steps to reduce the budget
deficit by $1 billion.  The bill reduces spending for state agencies by
$200 million in the current budget while making other one-time spending
cuts permanent, reducing the long-term deficit by another $840 million.
The measure was approved by the full House on Thursday.

The first phase of the budget balancing plan includes a provision that
I have led on, cancelling the return of the Political Contribution
Refund program that uses tax money to refund political contributions up
to $50 for individuals and $100 for couples, saving $11.8 million.
Republicans included a provision to keep the K-12 general education
formula, special education funding and further reductions to higher
education off-limits from the $200 million reduction. Constitutional
offices and the Legislature will also see a reduction to their current
budgets.

The legislation holds Local Government Aid at the current level of
$426.4 million, which is the level many local governments expected when
setting their budgets.  Also worth noting: Market Value Homestead Credit
funding will increase by $20 million thru 2013 under this proposal.  The
Market Value Homestead Credit is a direct benefit to homeowners to
reduce their property taxes by having the state pay a portion of the
homeowner’s property tax liability directly to the taxing district.

Finally, in the current budget that ends June 30, 2011, the bill gives
the Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner the directive to reduce
state agency spending by $200 million to prevent a “Christmas in
June” for agencies that spend excess money in order to protect
their total level of funding.

There’s no reason to delay the inevitable. We know we face a budget
crisis, so there’s no reason why we can’t get the ball rolling and
whittle some of this deficit away as quickly as possible.  Many of these
cuts were enacted by the Democrat-controlled legislature last year –
but only on a one time basis.  Now that we are proposing that their cuts
for the next biennium, I am hopeful they will continue to be in favor of
these reductions and we can send a strong, bipartisan message to
Minnesotans that our spend-first, ask questions later way of budgeting
is coming to an end.

In other news, I’ve had good response to a bill I’m chief-authoring
that allow local governments to be freed from some costly and burdensome
state mandates.  If you’re interested in learning more, click on this
video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gH4iMCn7lA

Have a great weekend,

Steve

Steve Drazkowski
State Representative
District 28B
Room 401 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155-1298
Office: 651-296-2273
Fax: 651-296-5378
Sign up for email updates at
http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/join.asp?id=15286

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