Greetings from the Capitol, where time is short in the 2016 session and we are working to reach agreement on a number of key issues, including a long-term transportation plan. House Republicans are calling on Gov. Mark Dayton to fund roads and bridges without a gas tax increase.
Dayton and his staff are expected to prepare his first transportation offer this weekend and announce it Monday morning. This comes on the heels of House Republicans offering a compromise transportation proposal Wednesday based off their 10-year plan to meet the state’s road and bridge infrastructure needs with existing resources.
Minnesotans already are paying 47 cents per gallon in taxes. It was only in 2012 that the last gas-tax increase was fully implemented, so it seems a bit much to be going back to the taxpayers again with an increase that would make our gas tax one of the most expensive in the nation. Polls continually show people do not want to see it raised again and people in our district say the same thing. The House plan shows we have the resources available to provide a boost in funding for our roads and bridges without raising taxes if we stick with it as a priority.
The House Republican offer released Wednesday puts additional dollars into highways, township roads, turnbacks and makes progress on rail safety. On the transit side, in an effort to ensure taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively, the House Republican compromise provides common-sense Met Council reforms.
The House has been addressing other bills as we continue ironing out transportation, tax relief, bonding and other supplemental budget bills, including a higher education package I authored. One bill we passed Thursday strengthens penalties for interfering with the body or scene of a death passed the House without opposition. "Laura's Law," is directed toward crimes similar those involving 18-year-old victim Laura Schwendemann, of Starbuck. Her body was found in a corn field 12 days after she was reported missing last fall.
The bill makes interfering with the body or scene of a death with intent to conceal the body or evidence, or otherwise to mislead the coroner or medical examiner, punishable as a felony. The change would raise the maximum penalty to up to 10 years imprisonment, a fine of up to $20,000 or both. The current gross-misdemeanor label limits the maximum penalty for such a crime to 365 days in jail and a fine.
The proposal now is in the hands of a conference committee, which will work to reconcile differences between House and Senate versions of the bill.
On a final note, the Obama administration has issued a directive indicating public schools must permit transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity. I encourage our congressional members to stand up to this divisive overreach. Here is a link to the full story.
Until next time, have a good weekend and best of luck to those who plan to hit the lakes for the fishing opener.