By State Rep. Bud Nornes
Committee work is all but finished in the Legislature and now most of the biggest, most important bills of the session are ready to be presented to the full House.
We have spent the last three months drafting, hearing, debating and re-working bills, but this is the time when things get serious as we creep toward the May 18 date for adjournment. Significant work remains between now and then, including erasing a $6.4 billion deficit. Floor sessions will take place more frequently, including weekend dates.
It is possible for Minnesota to live within its means to help us avoid the severe cuts some fear. We just need to set good priorities and take advantage of the many good ideas for doing things better.
This is an outstanding opportunity for us to pass legislation that will give us a strong economic future by creating new jobs through enticing businesses to start up and/or expand in Minnesota. I have had a close-up view of these proceedings as a member of the Higher Education/Workforce Development Committee and I feel our final bill misses the mark in several workforce areas.
First, a provision has been offered that will force businesses to pay a higher premium on unemployment insurance. This is an added cost that businesses cannot afford, especially at a time when they already struggling in today’s economy. This does nothing to stimulate or encourage business growth and, in fact, could very likely have the opposite impact. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce has come out against this.
Another provision would create an 18-member council to study how we can foster a better business climate. The Tax Foundation lists Minnesota among the 10 worst states in terms of its business climate, so there definitely is room for improvement.
But do we really need to recreate the wheel when we could adopt successful plans neighboring states already have in place? Rep. Morrie Lanning is quite familiar with this topic since he represents a Minnesota-North Dakota border city: Moorhead. Rep. Lanning can speak at length about advantages businesses can gain west of the Red River, putting his city at a distinct disadvantage.
The good news is it appears as if the bill will be split into two parts, one for higher education and the other workforce development. While I have serious reservations about some workforce development provisions, the higher education legislation is more reasonable and it would be easier to support.
One thing we must keep in mind is this: While deadline pressure often induces the passage of important bills, hasty work can lead to ill-advised legislation and unintended consequences. That happened last year when last-minute changes damaged the Green Acres agricultural land program. We spent the better part of this session working to restore Green Acres and it was only recently that new legislation passed to fix some – but not all of – the problems.
Nornes represents District 10A in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and can be reached at (800) 336-8017 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.