The 2005 Legislative Session was a highly successful one. I authored 22 pieces of legislation, and many of them were either approved by the Minnesota House of Representatives or signed into law by Gov. Pawlenty.
Minnesotans will benefit from the new laws I authored. The first is the Higher Education package, which provides $107.5 million in new money for the Minnesota State Colleges and University (MnSCU) system, and $105.64 million for the University of Minnesota.
It also provides $10 million for MnSCU’s Centers of Excellence program; it encourages recruitment of top faculty at both the U of M and MnSCU with new funds for competitive salaries; it leaves the State Grant program intact; it increases the maximum tuition considered part of the grant program; it makes up for the federal Pell Grant decrease by increasing grant program participants’ living and miscellaneous expenses; it allocates $3.2 million for the development of a Rochester university; and it eliminates the enrollment adjustment for both the U of M and MnSCU.
Other highlights of the legislation include:
* changing the process of selection for the U of M Board of Regents.
* increasing consumer protections for students enrolled at private career schools
* encourages more fairness for Minnesota students in tuition reciprocity agreements
* expands benefits for veterans in the State Grant program and for MnSCU students
I also authored two bills aimed at improving child care that were signed into law as part of the Health and Human Services package.
The first reduces the child care licensing fee by 25 percent in order to provide relief to child care providers who experienced an increase in their fee in 2003.
The second modifies the child care reimbursement rate formula, which will help child care providers in Greater Minnesota who saw a decrease in their reimbursement rate following a rate freeze in 2003.
Prior to 2003, the state had the authority to establish maximum half-day child care reimbursement rates for each type of care. In 2003, those half-day rates were eliminated. This bill restores the authority to establish maximum rates for child care assistance provided on a half-day basis.
Fergus Falls received funding for several projects in the state’s bonding package including a bill to allocate $7.6 million for improvements to the Fergus Falls campus of Minnesota State Community and Technical College. It would be used to construct an addition for fine arts, technology and student services, as well as the design and remodeling of both general and ITV classes.
Money was also allocated for asset preservation at both the Fergus Falls veterans home and military affairs office, and for renovations for the Minnesota Department of Human Services office in Fergus Falls.
Other key bills signed into law include:
• House File 640 - increases the amount of money a city or county may levy to support humane societies and prevent cruelty to animals.
• House File 82 - granted city of Fergus Falls authority to hold land for economic development purposes for 15 years.
• House File 1058 - extended approval for an additional 24 months for a moratorium exception project proposed by the Broen Nursing Facility in Fergus Falls.
• House File 2284 - increases the market value of homes owned by blind/disabled people eligible for a reduced class rate from $35,000 to $50,000.
I’m also proud of my bills that were not signed into law this session. The first called for the recycling of electronic items, and defines what pieces of televisions, computers and radios should be recycled.
The bill states TVs, computer monitors, keyboards, printers, telephones, fax machines, toys and many other electronic items should be recycled. All of these products contain a small level of toxic material, which if released into the environment as a collective entity, can have harmful impacts.
The second appropriated money for the Prairie Wetlands Environmental Learning Center in Fergus Falls. The $2.5 million appropriation, done through the issuance of state bonds, would be for a grant to the city of Fergus Falls in order to predesign, design, construct, furnish and equip the expansion of the center, 602 State Highway 210 E.
The third bill appropriated money for capital projects to reuse the Fergus Falls Regional Treatment Center.
As your representative, I will work hard to approve legislation important to you and all Minnesotans. I will enjoy the remainder of the summer, but I look forward to returning next year to continue the good fight. As always, I welcome your comments or suggestions. Please contact me through my St. Paul office at 1-800-336-8017 or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.