For more information contact: Susie Merthan 651-296-2955
We are working through the final days of the legislative session and must adjourn by midnight on Monday, May 20. The most recent news is that the Governor and legislative leadership have reached an agreement on budget targets for conference committees. The numbers are very close to the House proposals and our focus remains to grow new jobs, invest in education and set our state on stable financial footing into the future.
The new budget invests a historic $725 million in education—from early childhood through college. This investment will help Minnesota to build the world’s best workforce, close the achievement gap and make sure that our students are working towards bright and successful economic futures.
We will fully pay back the $854 million previously borrowed from our schools within the next two years, close the $627 million budget deficit, and create a small projected surplus into the future. It’s absolutely critical that we pay off the state’s credit card in order to move forward economically. Our state has faced a budget deficit for 9 out of the last 11 years, and we’ve seen dramatic increases in class sizes, state fees, and college tuition. It’s time for a new direction that includes responsible funding of our priorities. We are paying for these investments by asking the wealthiest 2 percent of Minnesotans to pay their fair share, closing corporate tax loopholes, and making strategic cuts and reforms in spending.
Tonight, we are debating the Jobs, Commerce, Energy and Housing Budget Bill, which will provide a $346 million tax cut to Minnesota businesses—the largest cut to businesses in our history. This will save the average employer $150 per employee by reducing the amount that employers pay into the unemployment insurance fund.
The final details of our budget proposals are currently being negotiated. If you have any questions on specific proposals, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Anti-bullying has become a national movement, as schools and communities work to make things safer for our students. We recently passed HF 826, the Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act, on the House floor. I am proud to be a coauthor of this legislation to give all kids equal protections from severe bullying in schools.
Minnesota currently has one of the weakest anti-bullying laws in the nation at just 37 words. The Safe and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act will replace the current patchwork of individual school district policies all over the state with comprehensive policies that effectively address bullying and train all school staff to aid in prevention. Restorative Justice is the foundation of the Save and Supportive Minnesota Schools Act. This is a high priority for me because I have years of experience and documented results from restorative justice interventions and this approach is an effective way to prevent bullying.
The bill requires that public school districts and charter schools implement policies to prevent bullying, cyberbullying, harassment, intimidation and promote remedial responses. Schools will create and implement these policies in consultation with students, parents and community members, and must annually review and update them. Private schools do not need to do so, but are encouraged to participate.
We all know the damage that serious and ongoing bullying can do to individual students and to the classroom learning environment. The anti-bullying bill we put forward strikes a balance between making schools safe and respecting students’ rights to freedom of speech. The anti-bullying measures in the bill apply when bullying substantially affects a student and becomes a disruption in the classroom. Incidents that happen outside of school will not fall under the law unless they become a problem at school.
If you have any questions about any other legislative issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me. You can watch our House floor discussions live on your local cable channel or through this House link: http:/www.house.leg.state.mn.us/htv/mnhouse.asx.
Thank you for the honor of serving our community at the state Capitol.