Tuesday, February 19th, 2019

Winona County Republicans

Sen. Miller Legislative Update

Greetings from the Capitol!
I took my first major floor votes this week: a budget bill, which was our first step to reduce the $6.2 billion deficit; another bill to lift the moratorium on nuclear power plants; and a bill that sets up alternative pathways to teacher certification. They will be reconciled with House bills and then return for a final Senate vote. Last stop is the governor for his signature. Details of the bills follow.
It was nice to see people from our senate district here at the Capitol last week. Local bankers were here for their Day at the Capitol, and the Southeast Area Labor Council held a reception for legislators. Our district MnDOT engineer gave me a status report on highway projects in our part of the state, and some mayors and city administrators came to talk about state aid to local government (LGA).
Back in the district beginning Friday, I met with members of the Houston school district and later with Mayor Edwards. Saturday morning I participated in a legislative forum hosted by La Crescent-Hokah schools. On Sunday I had pancakes with the Dakota Volunteer Fire & Rescue folks and later Janel and I went to the grand opening of the Rushford hockey rink and then had pizza at The Creamery. We are blessed in our part of the state with wonderful people who contribute in so many ways to the life of our communities.
The Green Acres reform bill that I introduced, SF222, gets its first hearing in the Senate Taxes Committee next Tuesday, Feb. 15. To qualify as Rural Preserve, landowners will no longer have to agree to an eight-year, irrevocable covenant or provide a conservation plan. If you would like to follow the progress of the bill, go to http://www.senate.mn/, then go to MyBills and follow the instructions. If you’re interested in testifying, please contact my office at 651-296-5649.
In the past month, the Legislature made great strides toward reforming state government and improving Minnesota’s job climate. We have worked with business and industry leaders around the state, took a first step toward balancing the budget, and passed reforms that will improve our delivery of government services. Here is an update on this week’s actions.


The Minnesota Senate took a near $1 billion step toward balancing a projected $6.2 billion state budget deficit Thursday. The Senate passed Senate File 60, which addresses structural spending problems by making one-time reductions from this year permanent and prevents state agencies from spending unnecessary funds at the end of the year. The bill is fiscally responsible, sets clear priorities and makes government live within its means.
Senator Claire Robling, author of the bill, said Thursday, “We are in a fiscal crisis, and it’s simply time to get down to business and balance the budget. This bill sends a clear signal that we don’t plan to do everything like we’ve done it in the past. We will be appropriating $32 billion to operate state programs and services for the next biennium and during that process we will be setting priorities and funding those first, with an eye to providing the best product for ourtaxpayers’ dollars. We must move forward and provide true reform in order for our state to get back on a path to prosperity.”


This week Governor Mark Dayton announced his intention for a $1 billion bonding bill, spending $531 million on designated projects and offering $469 million for lawmakers to designate. While a borrowing bill is not inherently bad legislation, Dayton’s off-year request is irresponsible in light of a current $6.2 billion state budget deficit. Senate Republicans held to principle that any 2011 bonding would be done for emergency repairs of state-owned facilities and flood relief or necessary prevention activities, not for indefinite “stimulus” projects. The Legislature’s focus needs to be not on government spending that obligates taxpayers, but on lifting government burdens on job creators.


With strong bipartisan support, the Senate passed a plan to create an alternative pathway into the classroom for well-qualified candidates. In January, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan told a crowd of education and business leaders in Minneapolis that the state has a great track record of education reform, but admonished Minnesota is lacking in ways for talented people to become teachers. Lowering barriers for qualified people would help close the education achievement gap between white students and racial minorities. Alternative licensure is a tool that can attract well educated, diverse and dedicated people to join the teaching ranks.


This week, the Minnesota Senate gave bipartisan approval to a bill that will enable a discussion of the options available to meet future energy needs. With a vote of 50-14, the Senate passed a bill to repeal the nuclear power prohibition. Nuclear energy is clean, inexpensive, and lowers our dependence on foreign oil and gas. Other states are moving on it, and even the President is saying that we all must consider nuclear energy for the future.
SF4 is more than an energy bill. It is a path to energy independence that will offer certainty for businesses and job creators as they plan for tomorrow and work to keep existing jobs. Entrepreneurs seeking to invest, expand, or start a business in Minnesota need to be assured of our state’s ability to deliver base-load power. Lifting the nuclear moratorium isn’t the final answer to Minnesota’s energy concerns, but adds this practical option to a growing number of options that the Public Utilities Commission can consider as part of a statewide, comprehensive energy policy.


The Senate also passed a bill unanimously this week that will extend the June 30 deadline by one year for charter schools to be authorized by the state Department of Education. In 2009, a charter school reform law was enacted with the goal of strengthening the role of authorizers, or “sponsors” as they were formally known. However, the Department’s process for evaluating and approving authorizers has taken longer than anticipated, and the new criterion has caused many current authorizers to not apply. As a result, there are only a limited number of  authorizers currently approved by the Department. Also, there are still many existing charter schools who are not yet overseen by a Department-approved authorizer as called for under the 2009 law. These charter schools are concerned that they will not have a Department-approved authorizer in place in time to meet the deadline.

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

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