Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Winona County Republicans

Sen. Miller Legislative Update

March 23, 2011
Greetings from the Capitol!
We’ll be putting in long hours this week as we finalize our budget bills by a self-imposed deadline of this Friday. A month ago we established targets for overall spending in each major area–such as education, transportation, agriculture, public safety–but now we have to put the meat on the bones. Our plan is to spend $34 billion, the amount of revenue the state currently expects to raise over the next two years, which is about $2 billion more than the November forecast. Our budget will protect funding for education, health and human services and public safety. The plan recognizes the core constitutional requirements of state government but scales back on previously projected growth and spending.
Thanks to everyone who has so far completed the survey I placed in the Winona Daily News and Fillmore County Journal and inserted in the Houston County Journal. Though it is unscientific, it helps me know where my constituents stand on some important issues. You can complete the survey online at my Senate website. Here’s the link.
I presented an income tax reciprocity bill to the Senate Taxes Committee this week. It was well-received and is included in the omnibus tax bill.
Last Wednesday was Business Day at the Capitol, and more than 20 representatives of local businesses stopped by. Some Winona State faculty were also here last week and a large group of AFSCME Council 5 members. Constituents also came to talk about parks and trails, Head Start, and other local issues.
The crowd at our Chatfield townhall meeting last Saturday wanted to talk about education, the budget, voter ID, and about deer hunting and other matters of local interest. I will schedule a Saturday townhall in Winona in the coming weeks.
On Saturday I also stopped by the Southeastern Minnesota Gamehaven Merit Badge Fair. Boys who aspire to become Eagle Scouts must complete a Citizenship badge, and I was invited to speak about “Rights and Responsibilities of Community, County, and World Citizenship.” I am certain that these fine young people will grow up to become exemplary citizens.

Highlights of the week:
A biennial state Revenue Department study released last Wednesday and reported widely in the media contains a variety of pieces of information that are useful to policymakers. You may see the numbers used to support an argument that some don’t pay their share in taxes, but it is important to note that the federal tax burden is not included in the analysis. Some lawmakers think it should be. However, the report does show progressivity in Minnesota’s income tax system: taxpayers in the top 10 percent of households pay 54 percent of the total individual income taxes paid, while those in the bottom 10 percent actually have a negative burden due to refundable tax credits. The figures are based on 2008 tax receipts.
Two bills to improve the integrity of voting are making their way through Senate committees. After several hours of public input, they have been amended to allow more types of identification, permit vouching for individuals in care facilities, and allow voters in residential facilities or shelters for battered women to use a state-issued photo ID from a previous residence in conjunction with a certification of residence from their facility in order to register on election day. Both measures will continue to have public hearings.
The Minnesota Senate gave bipartisan, unanimous support to a bill that would require teachers to pass a basic skills examination in math, reading and writing prior to admission to a higher education teacher preparation program. Current law allows teacher candidates to take the basic skills test when ready to apply for a license and permits a teacher who failed the basic skills test to receive and even renew a temporary one-year teaching license up to two more times.
According to a 2010 Board of Teaching report on the basic skills exam, there was a 13 percent failure rate and Minnesota’s “pass” score for the basic skills test is one of the lowest in the nation. Additionally, the National Council on Teacher Quality released a report in 2010 called “Blueprint for Change in Minnesota.” It gave Minnesota a grade of “D” in “delivering well-prepared teachers” and advised the state to close licensure loopholes such as permitting persons who have not yet passed state licensing tests to teach in classrooms. Currently, about 100 teachers are working with extended licenses, having not passed the basic skills test. Eighty teachers have a second or third renewal according to the Board of Teaching.
A bill to allow experienced paramedics to become certified by the Emergency Medical Services Regulatory Board as “community paramedics” passed the Senate with unanimous bipartisan support. As community health workers, they could provide a new avenue for citizens to access health care, and prevent the inappropriate use of ambulance services and hospital emergency department resources. Under the proposal, certain EMS personnel could provide health services and advanced levels of care for prevention, emergency care, evaluation, triage, disease management and referrals. Such procedures would be covered by Medical Assistance.

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