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State Representative Joe McDonald

503 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-4336

For more information contact: Chad Urdahl 651-296-5520

Posted: 2017-11-09
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Legislative Update

A veterans message and more from the House


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Son, Jacob, and I are pictured while deer hunting near Effie, Minn., last weekend. No luck so far, but we’ll keep trying!

Greetings,

I hope you are enjoying this fall, even if Old Man Winter is trying to flex his muscle a bit earlier than many of us would like. Here is a mish-mash of some notebook items:

This Saturday is Veterans Day and I hope you will join me in expressing a heartfelt thank you to the men and women of our military – active or retired. Their selfless sacrifices in the name of liberty and to protect us as citizens are worthy of recognition every day of the year, but it is good we have a specific day set aside to honor them.

The Legislature has made support for veterans a top priority and a number of new laws we created during the 2017 session will benefit them. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • $1.449 million operational funding increase for Veterans Affairs Department programs and services to veterans.
  • Minnesota GI Bill expanded to include apprenticeship and on-the-job training benefits; and increases educational as well as apprenticeship and on-the-job training benefit amounts.
  • Increases Support Our Troops individual grant eligibility amounts from $2,000 to $4,000.
  • $500,000 to the Humanities Center for Veterans Defense Project grants.
  • Expansion of impersonation of military officer (“stolen valor”) to include any military member for the purpose of financial gain
  • $700,000 for Veterans Journey Home grants.

These achievements follow another significant breakthrough we accomplished in the 2015-16 biennium when we exempted military retirement pay from being taxed. That change in law just became effective for the 2017 tax filing year and is another step forward in making Minnesota a more welcoming home for veterans.

Real ID & MNLARS

To update on what has been an ongoing topic: The federal government recently granted Minnesota an extension for implementing Real ID until October of 2018. This means Minnesotans don’t have to worry about complying with new standards for boarding planes or entering federal facilities in the near future.

The focus now is on getting our new motor vehicle licensing and registration system – MNLARS – up and running effectively. There have been serious implementation problems and long-range concerns that must be addressed. It is reminiscent of the botched MNsure rollout. Here is one recent report on problems with MNLARS.

Just this week, House members sent the governor a letter with several requests designed to improve this situation. The House also has established an online comment site where citizens can provide feedback. Click here for that page if you’d like to comment.

High School Page Program

I encourage high school juniors to take advantage of a rare opportunity to work behind the scenes of Minnesota’s state government by serving as a legislative page at the Capitol during the 2018 session.

The House of Representatives page program has been in place for more than 40 years and Minnesota is one of only a select few states in the nation to offer this program. Pages attend meetings with legislators, constitutional officers, members of the judiciary and others. They also assist during House floor sessions, participate in mock committee hearings and more.

Program participants are selected each year based on a formal process which includes an application, faculty recommendation and an essay. Stipends are available to defray expenses. December 1 is the deadline for high school juniors to apply. My son, Jacob, participated in the page program last April and he said it was one of the greatest experiences for him. He learned a lot, met many great people and had a fun and awesome experience.

Please don’t hesitate to contact my office if you have any questions. More information also is available at this link, or by calling (651) 296-7452. Local schools also can provide further assistance.

Have a great weekend and be safe if you head out hunting!

Regards,

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