One of the highlights this week in St. Paul was seeing a huge delegation from Perham attend a House committee meeting to discuss a bill I authored to provide flood relief.
The meeting room was packed and I would estimate around 50 people from our District 8A were on hand. The bill is H.F. 563 and it provides $10 million to address persistent flooding problems near Perham. Local citizens provided an outline of the issues they face with high-water levels that have lasted years on end and have caused significant property damage.
This is a long-term issue which needs separate action from the bill which passed earlier this session that provided relief specific to last summer's widespread flooding caused by storms in June. The committee meeting for this bill was informational in nature, meaning no votes were taken. I look forward to continuing our work on this proposal.
In other news, we received an update state economic forecast today. It calls for a $1.9 billion surplus. This is an increase from the last forecast in November and will provide the House with a framework as we now begin putting together a formal budget proposal for our state's next two-year cycle.
As for action on the House floor, this week we passed a bill 130-0 that would help us take steps to improve Minnesota's child protection system. One part of the bill prioritizes the safety of children when social workers make decisions regarding intervention. Another provision reverses a law passed last year that barred consideration of screened-out reports when investigating abuse reports.
Finally, this week we reached final passage – and Gov. Mark Dayton signed into law – a bill regarding raises he provided for his commissioners. Here is a summary of what took place:
Democrat majorities in the House and Senate changed the law in 2013, allowing the governor to provide raises for his cabinet members without legislative approval. In January, Dayton approved raises of $25,000 to $35,000 – and more than $80,000 in one case – for state commissioners. This action drew backlash from legislators and citizens alike who felt those raises were overly generous.
The legislation we passed eliminates the huge pay increases that were given to the commissioners. Secondly, we returned to the Legislature the authority to raise pay for commissioners that had been given away two years ago. The governor will however, have authority to grant raises on the single day of July 1 this year before losing that authority after that day.
Stay tuned and I will let you know if anything else develops on this subject.