For more information contact: Bennett Smith 651-296-6422
We are now two months into the 2017 legislative session and things are moving along quickly! Here an update on some important issues:
In the legislature we have a set of self-imposed deadlines for bills to make it through the committee process or they “die” for the year. The first deadline, for policy bills to be out of their policy committee, is this Friday (today) at midnight. The next two Fridays bring the second and third deadlines. While a few committees aren’t subject to these deadlines, such as Taxes, we’re going to start to see many policy initiatives end for the year after Friday.
Childhood Lead Press Conference
Because of the committee deadlines I mentioned above, I held a press conference with my colleagues on Wednesday to draw attention to an issue that hasn’t been given a hearing by Republicans this legislative session – toxic lead poisoning. Every year over 700 children in Minnesota become lifetime victims of toxic lead poisoning, and we need to do more as a state to prevent it. I’ve introduced legislation to force home sellers and landlords to test for lead, and provide a tax credit to help them clean up the problem. You can read more about my bill, and other bills to test for toxic lead in schools, childcare facilities and in food, here.
On Wednesday I was joined by Ticiea Fletcher, Amy Waller, Rachelle Menanteau, Amanda Kappes and Senator John Hoffman to discuss the importance of the Lead Poisoning Prevention Act (HF 491).
State Budget Forecast
Recently, the office of Minnesota Management and Budget released the updated state budget numbers. The news for Minnesota is good – a $1.65 billion surplus. For the fourth year, Minnesota is projecting a positive budget balance, and the projections show that the state has a structurally balanced budget for at least four years. In addition, Minnesota has once again met its obligations to its rainy day fund, which has lead to the reinstatement of our AAA finance rating from Fitch. The February budget forecast announcement is an important step in our biennial budget process. House members now await Republican leaders’ budget targets so that we can create budgets in each division.
I believe we have to take this opportunity to be aggressive about investing this surplus in support of affordable housing, students in E-12, avenues to affordable higher education and job training, improved transit networks, a clean environment and better supports for struggling families like reducing the costs of childcare, senior care, and health insurance. I’m committed to fighting for using this surplus to fund programs that help lift up the most vulnerable members of our community, so that this economic justice approach can help us all do better.
Protecting the Environmental Quality Board (EQB)
Last week in the Environment Committee we heard HF 1291, which would among other permitting changes, eliminate the Environmental Quality Board (EQB). The EQB is made up of nine state agency heads and five citizen members, and their duties include providing leadership and coordination regarding priority environmental issues such as climate change and silica sand mining. HF 1291 would eliminate the EQB altogether, which I strongly oppose.
Preemption Passes the House
Last week the Minnesota House passed HF 600, which would pre-empt (forbid) local governments from setting workplace policies for our own cities. If enacted, it would prevent our local communities from setting pro-worker policies such as earned sick leave, paid family leave, fair scheduling, a higher minimum wage, and other policies. The bill would roll back earned sick time for 150,000 Minnesotans, and prevent future wage and benefit increases in communities across the state, especially Minneapolis and St. Paul, which have already passed strong ordinances and are considering passing a $15/hr minimum wage.
Committee hearings on HF 600 drew strong criticism from a broad variety of Minnesotans including nurses, faith leaders, parents, labor leaders, city officials, neighborhood groups, and workers. Governor Dayton has said he would veto the legislation. I voted against the bill, but it passed 76-53 in the Minnesota House and awaits Minnesota Senate action.
Reckless GOP Gun Bills
On Wednesday, the Public Safety Committee heard two controversial gun bills. HF 188, the one we call the “Reckless Carry” bill, would end the permit requirement to carry a firearm in public and allow anyone to carry a firearm in public without any permit or gun safety training! HF 238, the “Shoot First” bill, would dramatically expand where it’s legal to shoot and kill someone – on your private property and also anywhere else where you think someone might be in the act of committing a felony!
Both bills drew considerable public testimony and media attention. Both bills were held over for possible inclusion in the Public Safety Omnibus Bill, and I will continue speaking out against these dangerous gun laws, and oppose them if they come before me for a vote-- as I expect they will.
As we approach the second deadline next week, I have five hearings on issues important to our community: urban agriculture (HF 2076 and HF 1461), Dakota and Ojibwe language preservation (HF 2127), East African youth intervention and services (HF 2017) and the East Phillips Neighborhood Institute that will include an indoor urban farm (HF 2156). You can learn more about these bills by clicking the links here, and I welcome you to attend the hearings and also to give me your thoughts about them.
I’m still working to get hearings on my bill to impose a Super Bowl temporary tax to help victims of sex trafficking (HF 2132), my bill to provide undocumented Minnesotans with an opportunity to get a drivers license (HF 2089), my bill to require a pill tax to fund opioid treatment (HF 1534), and my bill to provide funding for Project Lookout senior high rises (HF 2263), plus several bills restricting oil pipeline construction in Minnesota.
Stay in Touch
You can always contact me if you have questions or concerns at 651-296-0294 or by email at email@example.com .
State Representative – District 62A
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