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The March 16th first committee policy deadline for the House and Senate is fast approaching. Bills must be passed out of at least one committee by Friday in order to go to the floor this session.
Here's a quick update on some of the exciting things we are working on this week.
Met Council Recommendations
This week the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government has released their list of recommendations to the Metropolitan Council. This list comes after hearing public testimony from the Office of the Legislative Auditor, the Council itself, and city and county officials across the metropolitan area.
One of these testimonies included the example of Highway 10 in Anoka. Anoka County received a letter signed by a member of the Met Council staff informing them that Hwy 10 had been taken off the Transportation Policy Plan (TPP) with no prior discussion or meetings on the issue. The TPP is a long-term commitment to road enhancement and suddenly removing a road from the plan is a MAJOR decision that should not be made by a member of the Met Council staff.
As the Chair of the Legislative Commission on Metropolitan Government and an author on several Met Council reform bills, I am committed to changing the way the metropolitan area is governed. The Met Council is an unelected body with no accountability to a voting public. These recommendations focus on bringing some accountability and transparency to a governing body that has grown in size and scope and is causing a great deal of frustration to local officials.
The list includes a set of principles and reform ideas that I would like to see come to fruition:
Principles for Regional Governance:
• Realigning Metropolitan Council member terms
to encourage continuity.
• Positioning city and county elected officials to
self-determine development through Met
Council advisory guidance and expertise to
ensure accountability to the voting public.
• Stipulating more direct state legislative approval
of the Met Council budgets to promote
Key Reforms for Accountable and Transparent Regional Governance:
1. Reorganize the Met Council so that
the gubernatorial appointees have staggered
2. Allow local governments the ability to accept or
reject Met Council plans by positioning city and
county elected officials to self-determine
development through Met Council advisory
guidance and expertise to
a) Ensure tax levy authority resides
with elected officials, and
b) Make livable communities criteria and
3. Position Legislature for direct involvement in
budget approval process.
4. Strengthen Regional Transportation
a) Transfer metropolitan transit governance,
power and operations to the Regional
Transportation Governance Board
represented by elected officials,
b) Open options over a two-year time frame
for replacement service/suburban transit
c) Require proportional distribution of Met
Council transit reductions,
d) Authorize local approval of light rail transit
e) Establish transition criteria for long-term
funding of reorganized transit options.
Small Business Caucus
This week the House Small Business Caucus, which is a bi-partisan group made up of 42 representatives (including myself), held a press conference to discuss the bills we have in the works. I was absolutely shocked that not one member of the press showed up!
All the media seems to want to talk about is how Republicans and Democrats don’t get along down here but then they don’t even want to cover a bi-partisan committee of 42 members. Our list of pro-business reforms included Tax reformation, Finance and investment solutions, and regulatory changes to ease the permitting barriers for Minnesota small businesses. It amazes me that the state of the Minnesota business climate is something that would be completely ignored by members of the media.
K-12 Education Shift Payback Bill
With the MMB’s February Forecast showing a $1.2 billion budget surplus, this gives us a unique opportunity to start to pay back the K-12 education shift. With a bill announced this week, we plan on paying back all of last year’s shift and starting payments on the debt left on schools by the previous Legislature.
With this bill, we would tap into the state’s $1 billion of cash reserves to pay back all of the $430 million additional education shift passed as part of the budget agreement with Governor Dayton last year. We would also make the first ever repayment of the $2 billion education shift Democrats passed when they controlled the Legislature. Think of this as your family taking money from your excess savings to pay off your loans.
This shift payback is a continuation of our focus on putting kids first. We are changing the state’s priorities to say that repaying schools is more important than sitting on a large pile of cash. It also improves our overall fiscal position and credit.
As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on the legislative session.
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