For more information contact: House GOP Communications 651-296-5522
Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Here is an update on recent actions and notable events happening at the Capitol.
HIGHLIGHTS IN THIS UPDATE:
Keeping the Best Teachers in the Classroom
Speaking to House File 1478 on the floor
Two weeks ago, the House passed legislation I am authoring that repeals the so called LIFO (last in, first out) requirement when school districts are forced to make difficult staff retention decisions. By removing the seniority only default in state statute, school districts and local bargaining units are open to explore incorporating other factors that may be important in keeping the best teachers in the classroom.
As we work to craft policies that bring new and more diverse educators into our classrooms, it is essential that we empower our schools and teachers with the opportunity to explore alternative retention policies that better serve our students, teachers and schools.
Currently, we are one of only six states where seniority is the sole factor when making layoff decisions, and this legislation gives school districts and educators the opportunity to negotiate mutually beneficial agreements that take into account important factors that impact student success.
The Star Tribune published a great opinion editorial recently talking about the need for this critical reform which you can read here.
House Republicans unveiled their budget targets last month which House finance committees used as the framework to craft budget omnibus bills. The House began passing omnibus legislation last week.
Highlights of our budget targets include $1.35 billion in tax relief, $450 million in new funding for road and bridge infrastructure, and $1.1 billion in increased funding for K-12 schools over the Fiscal Years 2016-17 amount. The budget proposed by the House reflects a desire to fund our shared priorities while limiting government growth to responsible and sustainable levels, and provide needed tax relief to hard working Minnesotans after four years of substantial budget surpluses.
Education Omnibus Bill
Last Friday, the House passed my bill which invests $1.1 billion in increased funding over the current biennial budget into education, putting more money into every classroom. The Education Omnibus Bill makes meaningful investments in our students and schools and works to ensure every Minnesota child has access to a world-class education.
For our littlest learners and their families, our bill invests more than $300 million in proven and effective early learning programs including scholarships, home visiting, ECFE and school readiness aid. Additionally, we include $40 million in enhanced school readiness aid for the 74 school districts currently in the voluntary pre-k pilot, allowing them the flexibility to either continue the program or fund other early education priorities in their area. I believe our nation-leading, mixed delivery system of quality early education options and scholarships for low income families ensures more parental choice and better outcomes for at-risk children.
What’s more, this bill continues our efforts to strengthen teacher recruitment and retention, attempting to address the teacher shortage that is becoming a crisis in some geographic areas of the state. From continuing innovative programs like Grow Your Own to providing some student loan help for those going into teaching, we are taking steps to ensure a strong teacher workforce.
Finally, the bill also includes $22 million in funding for a new, targeted academic achievement initiative that funds extended time before school, afterschool and summer programs for low-income students to make sure they receive the help and extra time needed to master academic material and succeed.
From putting more money into the classroom to implementing needed reforms, the Education Omnibus Bill puts Minnesota kids first. You can learn more about my bill in a short video segment I recorded here.
Teacher Licensure Reform
In a report issued last year, the Office of the Legislative Auditor, a nonpartisan, independent agency that assesses Minnesota's public programs and agencies, declared Minnesota's teacher licensing system broken. I was appointed to a Legislative Working Group that reviewed the OLA's report over the summer and fall of 2016 and made several recommendations about how to address the problems in our teacher licensure process. HF 140, which passed the Minnesota House of Representatives this week, includes many of those recommendations. In this legislation we create a new governance structure, the Professional Educator Standards and Licensing Board, which consolidates all of the licensing functions into one place and replaces the current bifurcated system in which responsibilities are split between the Board of Teaching and the Department of Education’s Licensing Division.
HF 140 also creates a tiered structure that provides clarity to anyone seeking to be a teacher in Minnesota—a much needed improvement over the current process which has resulted in legal action against the Board of Teaching. This new Professional Licensing Board and tiered structure address the concerns identified by the OLA report and provide much needed transparency, accountability and fairness to Minnesota's teacher licensing process. The Senate has passed similar legislation, and a conference committee to resolve minor differences between the two bills will be convened when the legislature resumes after the Easter/Passover break.
Last week the House passed $1.35 billion in meaningful tax relief that will put more money in the pockets of Eden Prairie residents.
The Tax Omnibus Bill helps seniors living on a fixed income by increasing the income threshold for the taxation of Social Security income to $72,000 for married joint filers and $56,000 for single filers by 2019; addresses college affordability with a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments, as well as additional subtractions and credits for families saving with a 529 Savings Plan; gives a boost to hiring and expansion of Minnesota businesses by exempting the first $200,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and by freezing the automatic inflator; and provides $100 million in direct property tax relief to homeowners and renters.
I am especially pleased that two provisions I authored were included in the House Tax bill. In an effort to help families with young children who struggle with the high cost of daycare, my bill to increase the dependent care tax credit was added to the House bill and will help thousands of Minnesota families with child care costs. Another provision I have worked for many years to achieve is conformity with the federal exclusion on the estate tax, and I am glad to report this provision was also included in the Tax Omnibus bill. Many family owned businesses are hampered in their efforts to pass the business from one generation to the next by our estate tax policies. Minnesota is one of a handful of states with its own estate tax, and this tax policy actually encourages individuals and businesses to take steps to move their assets out of state to avoid this tax. The long-term economic health of our state depends upon encouraging small businesses to start up, grow and stay in Minnesota, keeping the jobs and the revenue they contribute in our state.
With $800 million in bipartisan tax relief vetoed last session, House Republicans are once again advocating for meaningful tax relief that will put a significant portion of our $1.65 billion surplus back in the hands of Minnesotans who helped fund it.
Following the passage of a premium relief and reform bill earlier this session, the legislature is continuing to advance legislation to address our failing individual health insurance market. Last month, both the House and Senate passed versions of the Minnesota Premium Security Plan which sets up a state-based reinsurance program. According to Minnesota Management and Budget, this could reduce premiums in the individual market by 17 percent or more, as well as increase access to care.
To address high costs and instability, this bill mitigates the impact of high-risk Minnesotans on the individual market. The reinsurance program will be managed by the Minnesota Comprehensive Health Association (MCHA) which ran our state’s high-risk pool for over forty years. Making this change is critical to save our individual market which is insuring a population that is twice as sick and just one-third the size it was before the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
While we do not know what the final health care decisions at the federal level will be, this bill is another step in the right direction at the state-level that will help address affordability and accessibility in the individual market for families, small business owners and Minnesotans who purchase their own insurance. Additionally, it will ensure that those with the highest medical needs continue to have access to the coverage and care that they need.
Both the House and Senate came to a final agreement on the bill, and Governor Dayton allowed the bill to become law.
Around the Capitol
With some wonderful Teachers of the Year
With constituents Amineh Safi and Babar Khan
I appreciate the thank you card from Superintendent Connie Hayes and Intermediate School District 916 for my work on mental health grants to help high needs students in these special schools
Last Chance to take my Survey!
My 2017 legislative survey is still available to take online, so if you haven’t shared your thoughts yet, I hope you will take a few moments to do so. Surveying Eden Prairie residents about their priorities for state government provides invaluable feedback and helps me better represent our community at the Capitol.
The link to my survey can be found here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Loon2017
Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts with me! I will share the results with you soon.
If I can be of assistance to you with a state government matter, please feel free to contact me. I always welcome your views, questions and suggestions on issues of interest or concern. I can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can call my office at 651-296-7449. I look forward to hearing from you!
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