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State Representative Debra Hilstrom

245 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-3709

For more information contact: DJ Danielson 651-296-8879

Posted: 2017-04-07
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Press Release

News from the Capitol - April 7, 2017


Dear Neighbors,

It was great to see so many of you at the Town Hall Meeting on Saturday. Sen. Eaton, Rep. Nelson and I were all impressed with the great questions, and we all appreciate the valuable input we received from the community.

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Public Safety Bill

We continue to put together the state budget by considering the various finance bills put forth by the House Majority. Last week, we passed the bills covering Taxes, E-12 Education, Transportation, and the Environment. Monday of this week, we considered the House Omnibus Public Safety Bill. Non-partisan “Session Daily” summarized the discussion of this bill.

This bill funds operations for our state prisons, the courts, and agencies such as the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension in order to keep Minnesotans safe and ensure justice and fairness for everyone. Most years, this bill is one of the more bipartisan finance bills all session. Unfortunately, this bill contained some controversial pieces. The bill puts the state of Minnesota in business with a private prison corporation that has a terrible track record. Private prisons are run with a motive of profit rather rehabilitating offenders and preparing them to rejoin society. They increase recidivism, endanger staff and offenders alike, and lack necessary treatment and programming.

The bill also included an increase in criminal penalties for those who participate in protests. The rights of Americans to assemble are guaranteed under the First Amendment and the government should not penalize Americans for exercising this right. The Republican anti-protest provision of this bill is aimed at curbing free speech and throwing protesters in jail. I hope we work more on protecting Minnesotans and reforming our criminal justice system, and not divisive policies like this.

Higher Education Bill

Tuesday, we considered the House Higher Education Bill. This bill underfunds our public colleges and universities, and lacks adequate funding for the Minnesota State Grant Program. It also contained a troubling piece that could allow for-profit schools convicted of fraud to stay open.

Globe University shut down operations in 2016 after the institution was found guilty of fraud. The university provided degrees that were essentially worthless leaving graduates with nothing but piles of debt. They recruited over 1,200 students to their law enforcement program, for which they received millions of dollars in taxpayer funded student aid. In particular, they targeted veterans eligible for the GI Bill. After working hard to obtain the degree it turns out graduates from this program weren’t even eligible to take the peace officer exam in Minnesota.

I had an amendment to remove any possible loophole as to whether these schools could operate in Minnesota. Unfortunately, this wasn’t adopted. The Pioneer Press wrote about this, and you can read the article here. I will continue efforts to hold institutions like this accountable.

Other Bills

Here are some highlights (and lowlights) or other omnibus budget bills:

  • The Omnibus Tax Bill contains tax cuts favoring wealthy Minnesotans and businesses. I supported unsuccessful efforts to help more Minnesotans by including the Working Family Credit, the Child and Dependent Care Credit, and Local Government Aid.
  • The Omnibus Transportation Bill slashes transit funding, which would result in a 40% reduction in regular bus route service. It contains no long-range, sustainable revenue stream, and instead blows a hole in the state General Fund by redirecting money away from schools, nursing homes, public safety, etc. for roads.
  • The Omnibus E-12 Education Bill underfunds public education by not keeping up with inflation. It also eliminates funding for pre-kindergarten for thousands of students. It would result in teacher lay-offs, larger class sizes, and less resources for students.
  • The Omnibus Environment & Natural Resources Bill rolls back environmental protections and cuts funding, endangering Minnesota’s natural lands, waters, air, and wildlife.
  • The Omnibus Job Growth & Energy Bill cuts job creation efforts, consumer protections, racial and economic disparities efforts, workforce housing, and rolls back Minnesota’s renewable energy progress.
  • The Omnibus State Government Finance Bill puts Minnesotans at risk by not investing in cybersecurity and slashing government services. It deregulates elections, paving the way for more “dark money” and corporate influence in campaigns.
  • The Legacy Funding Bill’s unanimous passage on the House floor signals hope for a bi-partisan finish to the 2017 session. This bill allocates constitutionally dedicated funds to outdoor heritage, clean water, parks and trails, and arts and culture projects.
  • The Omnibus Agriculture Bill supports farmers and farm workers in a variety of ways-- including work on farm safety, funding for mental health counselors, and increased funding for farm advocates. Its unanimous floor passage is a positive sign for end-of-session negotiations.

Today we are considering the Health and Human Services Bill, the last of the major budget bills. Next week the Legislature will take the customary Easter/Passover recess which means there will be no legislative activity. I hope you will stay in touch with your input about these issues; feel free to keep me posted with your concerns and feedback.

Sincerely,

Debra Hilstrom

State Representative

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