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State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7807

For more information contact: Gina Vega 651-296-5526

Posted: 2017-02-15
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Legislative Update

Legislative Update- February 15, 2017


Neighbors and Friends,

The legislature is a dynamic and ever changing environment. We are hearing an array of bills every day in committees and floor sessions. Below is a sample of some of the bills we’re considering this week.

VETERANS BILLS

This session, there are a number of bills moving through committee related to taking care of and honoring our veterans. One bill (HF51) would increase the veteran's property tax exclusion for many disabled veterans. Another bill (HF17), would exempt disabled veterans from paying the motor vehicle registration tax.

House File 16 is proposing a change in the individual income tax credit to certain military retirees for their past service. Currently, the veteran must have served in the military for at least 20 years or have a service-connected disability of 100%. House File 16 increases the income level at which the tax credit begins to phase out, and expands the credit to all disabled veterans who have a compensable service-related disability. This measure increases assistance and recognition to additional lower income and disabled veterans.

GOVERNMENT REFORM

A package of bills has been introduced to increase transparency in state government. One measure would make the Legislature subject to the Minnesota Data Practices Act and our state’s open meeting laws. The Legislature has long exempted itself from these laws. Another bill aims to avoid end-of-session mayhem and confusion – witnessed in recent years – by requiring joint budget targets being adopted by the House and Senate in an open and transparent process weeks before the end of session. Budget targets guide decision making for each budget area, such as education.

Provisions of the bill include:

- Letters, emails and other communication and documents (but not individual constituent correspondence) will generally be available for public review;

- All legislative schedules will be public so citizens know who their representative is meeting;

- All meetings – including conference committees -- will be open to all Minnesotans with sufficient advance notice to allow real public participation;

- Requirements for transparent information and open meetings will be enforced with real teeth.

This bill builds on the legislative reform package introduced last year.

PERPICH UPDATE

Last week, the Perpich Board appointed a new interim director, Peg Birk, whose prior experience includes assistance with changes in non-profit leadership.  The Pioneer Press provided coverage of this appointment and you can read it here. I will be sure to keep you updated on further Perpich Board developments.

CONSTITUENT VISITS

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to meet with constituents from the Minnesota Nurses Association.  The nurses were encouraging legislative support for safe staffing ratios of nurses to patients.  I was grateful they could take the time out of their busy schedules to come visit and advocate for patient safety.

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Last week, I was pleased to meet Hannah McCormack, who participated in the Capitol High School Page Program.  Hannah attends Tartan High School.

For years the High School Page Program has provided students a unique experiential legislative education opportunity in St. Paul. Participants are exposed to a wide variety of experiences designed to provide them with a deep understanding of our state government. Among the many highlights included in each student's week at the Capitol are: 

• Individual meetings with legislators designed to allow students to discuss the issues that matter most to them. 
• Experiencing the legislative process firsthand by assisting members during legislative session. 
• Participating in a mock committee session designed to develop students' leadership skills and to inspire them to think critically about the issues confronting our state. 
• Providing students with the opportunity to meet with constitutional officers, members of the judiciary, lobbyists, and members of the media.

Thank you Hannah, for all of your hard work!

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Please contact me with any questions or concerns.  I appreciate your input.

Sincerely,

JoAnn Ward

Minnesota House of Representatives  ·   100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, MN   55155   ·   Webmaster@house.mn