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State Representative Anna Wills

491 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-4306

For more information contact: Leah Patton 651-296-9895

Posted: 2017-04-07
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Legislative Update

Legislative Update and a Happy Easter from Rep. Anna Wills


Dear Friends,

This week we spent long hours on the House floor debating budget bills. At the start of session, House and Senate leadership looked back at how session ended last year and decided that we needed to allow more time for discussion with Governor Dayton. Accordingly, the policy and finance bill deadlines were set almost twice as early this year than they usually are in an effort to allow for more time and transparency in the negotiation process. Below are brief overviews of each funding bill, and some additional information as well.

Environment and Natural Resources Bill
Last Thursday, the House passed our Environment bill on a bipartisan vote on 80-53. This bill worked to improve transparency in governmental agencies that manage our environment and natural resources.

Notable provisions in this bill included:

  • Delaying the implementation of the buffer law from 2017 to 2018.
  • Improving the sustainability and productivity of the state’s timber industry.
  • Prohibits the DNR from further restricting the use of lead shot.
  • Raising the criminal penalty for those who poach to the point of being grossly over limits.

Transportation Finance Bill
One of the larger bills passed in the last week is the House Transportation bill, which passed last Friday on a vote of 76-54. This bill dedicated approximately $6 billion to building transportation infrastructure over the next 10 years. This bill does not raise the gas tax, and creates a dedicated Transportation Priorities Fund by reallocating $450 million in existing transportation-related tax revenue.


Provisions of note in the transportation bill include:

  • $25 million for the Small Cities Road Assistance program.$300 million for Corridors of Commerce program.
  • $35 million for rail grade crossings.
  • Funding to repair or replace all 97 bridges on MnDOT's local bridge priority list.
  • Additional motor vehicle sales tax funding from the Met Council will be redirected to Suburban Transit for bus services.
  • Funding for a pilot program for suburb-to-suburb bus services in response to Minnesotans who are seeking those routes.

K-12 Education Finance Bill
The K-12 Education Finance bill passed last Friday on a vote of 75-54. This bill follows up on last biennium’s historic increases in education funding for Minnesota schools, and increases our school funding formula by 1.25% and 1.25% in 2018-19, which means $273 million in additional funding over what we were projected to spend. Overall, this bill provides a total of $1.1 billion in new funding for a total of $18.5 billion over the biennium.


In addition, this bill accomplishes the following:

  • Appropriates $300 million for proven early learning programs, including an increase of $1 million over base for ECFE.
  • Appropriates $40 million in Enhanced School Readiness fund to replace voluntary Pre-K in 64 school districts.
  • Makes reforms to increase transparency and accountability in our state’s early learning system, giving parents more information to make choices that meet their child’s needs.

Public Safety and Security Bill

On Monday, we passed the House Public Safety bill on a bipartisan vote of 94-37. This bill will make our communities safer by allocating $2.27 billion to law enforcement and our judicial system, which is a $112.5 increase over current spending.

Notable items from this bill include:

• Allocates new money to local law enforcement agencies to help them pay for officers’ training costs.
• Allows the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to replace an outdated predatory offender registry.
• Increases penalties against those who choose to participate in illegal protests that put people’s lives at risk.
• Provides new revenue to address domestic violence prevention and terrorism recruitment.
• Creates stronger penalties and longer supervision for convicted sexual predators.
• Dedicates funds for additional sex trafficking prevention grants.
• Increases penalties against those who possess and disseminate child pornography.

Legacy Funding Finance Bill
On Tuesday, we passed the House Legacy Funding Finance bill on a unanimous vote of 131-0! This bill allocated $527 million in constitutionally-designated funding towards four funds: parks and trails, arts and cultural heritage, outdoor heritage, and clean water. My provision for funding for the Minnesota Zoo was included, allocating $3.625 million over the biennium.

Higher Education Finance Bill
Also on Tuesday, the House passed our Higher Education Finance bill on a vote of 77-53. Provisions included an increase of $149.5 million in higher education funding for 2018-19. The U of M was funded at $1.1 billion, with Office of Higher Education being allocated $501 million.


Other items of note included:

  • A tuition freeze at the two-year colleges for the 2017-2018 academic year and a 1% tuition reduction in the 2018-2019 academic year. At the four-year universities, there is a tuition freeze in the 2018-2019 academic year.
  • Funding about $386.5 million over the next two years, for an increase of $26 million, for the State Grant Program; and reduces the assigned family responsibility.
  • Requiring a public post-secondary institution to admit an applicant who is in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.
  • Establishing a workforce development scholarship to incentivize students to enter high-demand occupations after high school graduation.
  • Funding a program for student debt counseling through the Department of Education.
  • Creating student loan forgiveness programs for people who relocate to Greater Minnesota, or pursue aviation, agricultural or teaching degrees.
  • Prohibiting mandatory student activity fees at public post-secondary institutions.
  • Creating an academic program for students with intellectual disabilities at Minnesota State.

Agriculture Finance Bill
On Wednesday, the House Agriculture Finance bill passed on unanimous vote of 134. This bill focused largely on preventing agricultural emergencies, funding pollinator research, and developing the next generation of farmers and agricultural innovators.

Specific provisions included:
• Funding for agriculture emergencies such as tractor rollovers, Avian Flu, and noxious weeds.
• Rapid response to plant pests and pathogens.
• Growing and diversifying our agro-economy, in areas like industrial hemp and biofuel.
• Continued support for production agriculture research, farm safety, Ag Education, and youth development.
• Creating a dedicated Pollinator Habitat and Research account.

Job Growth and Energy Affordability
Yesterday, the House passed the Job Growth and Energy Affordability bill with a vote of 76-55. This bill lowers the cost of energy for consumers by reducing unnecessary regulations, and provides new and better paying jobs for our tradesmen/women and displaced workers.

Specific provisions included:

  • Improving vocational training for students wanting to enter the trades.
  • Reducing energy costs to consumers by reducing and streamlining the regulation process for energy providers.
  • Reinvesting funding from ineffective programs into clean energy programs that benefit communities around our state, instead of a select few.
  • Encouraging more infrastructure in our state by cutting fees on construction-related permits and inspections.
  • Working to return over $700 million in unclaimed property back to Minnesotans.
  • Aid to assist homeless families with children with housing.
  • Funding to provide job training to veterans entering back into the civilian workforce after service.

State Government Finance Bill
Our State Government Finance bill also passed yesterday with a vote of 75-55. This bill was aimed at increasing accountability and transparency through reforming certain governmental agencies, as well as addressing priorities for our veteran community.

Specific provisions included:

  • Provide housing for homeless veterans.
  • Train the courts in dealing with veterans suffering from PTSD.
  • Expand the GI Bill to include apprenticeships and on-the-job training and educational benefits.
  • Protect victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking.
  • Prioritize funding for those with disabilities.
  • Establish a first time home buyer savings account at the Department of Revenue.
  • End severance packages to commissioners.
  • Reforms to the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority.

Health and Human Services Finance Bill
The Health and Human Services Finance Bill passed today with a vote of 74-53. This bill is geared toward protecting our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and the elderly, as well as victims of abuse and neglect. The bill appropriates $13.7 billion to health and human services in our state, saving nearly $600 million in taxpayer money by reducing inefficiencies.


Specific provisions also included:

  • Preserving a 7-percent increase for home and community-based caregivers.
  • Providing a substantial investment into child care initiatives and commitment to policy reform of child care regulation in our state.
  • Includes opioid abuse prevention and treatment and provides a 3% operating payment rate increase for chemical dependency treatment services.
  • Relieving the financial burden on families with disabled and very sick children by reducing the TEFRA parental fees by 25%.
  • Increasing emergency shelter and transitional housing for sexually exploited youth.
  • Expanding the statewide bed capacity for inpatient psychiatric services for mentally ill children and adolescents.
  • Establishing a support program and respite care for family caregivers of persons with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Requiring public health care program enrollees to verify their eligibility status.

Teacher Licensure Simplification
Also of note from this week is a bill passed through the House that would streamline and clarify the teacher licensing process in our state. This measure, HF 140, was written in response to a report from the Office of the Legislative Auditor back in 2015 that indicated significant flaws in our teacher licensure process that have caused confusion and frustration for many individuals seeking to be licensed as a teacher in Minnesota.


This bill does the following to reform our licensure process in Minnesota:

  • Establishing a tiered licensure framework that ensures high standards, clear expectations, consistency, transparency, and identifies several accessible and affordable pathways for teacher licensure.
  • Incorporate the unique and valuable skill-set of CTE (career and technical education) instructors within the tiered framework, including recognition of industry-related professional credentials and verifiable work experience.
  • Adopt technical and clarifying recommendations from non-partisan offices to provide increased comprehension of teacher licensure provisions in state statutes and rule.
  • Creates a new Professional Educator Licensing Board to manage this tiered licensure system and provide transparent governance to licensure policy implementation.

Capitol Visits

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Thank you to constituents Nancy, Kate, Marissa, and Therese, who stopped by on Thursday to discuss issues regarding nutrition & healthy food.

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Great to have a visit from constituents Abby, Hannah, and Jamie regarding reproductive rights.

IN OUR COMMUNITY

County Road 42/ Highway 52 Construction

Construction on the County Road 42/ Highway 52 interchange is scheduled to begin on April 10th. The interchange will be shutdown for the summer to complete the project, which will require people to use alternate routes.

To see details on this and other local planned road construction projects, visit: https://www.co.dakota.mn.us/Transportation/PlannedConstruction/Pages/default.aspx

Have a Blessed Easter!
My best wishes for your coming Easter and Passover celebrations. The House is in recess and there will be no official business next week. Conference committees will start the week following the Easter Holiday.

Keep in Touch
As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with your comments, questions, and concerns. Email me any time at rep.anna.wills@house.mn or call 651-296-4306. You can also follow my updates on Facebook at www.facebook.com/repannawills and Twitter at https://twitter.com/annacwills. If you plan to stop by and visit me at the Capitol, my office is 491 in the State Office Building.


Sincerely,

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Anna Wills
State Representative, District 57B

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