By Rep. Dean Urdahl
It is good to be back at the Capitol for the 2019 legislative session, representing the people of District 18A to the best of my ability as we face another lengthy list of challenges this year.
Just some of the broad headline issues include setting a new two-year state budget, finding solutions for reducing health care costs and bringing Greater Minnesota up to speed on a number of fronts.
As those overarching subjects simmer, I am busy focusing on my particular committees and drafting bills of personal interest. My committee responsibilities this session include serving as the lead Republican on the House Capital Investment Division, in addition to positions with the Education Policy and Legacy committees.
I already have introduced a number of bills and look forward to presenting them during committee hearings. Here are the highlights of some bills I have authored, including four that have ties to education – teaching was my occupation for more than three decades:
H.F. 249 modifies civics testing requirements to ensure students adequately prepared to be capable citizens able to fully participate in the political process. The simple fact civics courses have been de-emphasized in recent years, creating a crisis of knowledge regarding how our government works. This civics gap is detrimental to the foundation of our society and my bill would help to ensure our students have a better understanding for when they engage as citizens of voting age.
H.F. 16 helps smaller schools in our state – particularly in Greater Minnesota – by increasing and expanding funding for the Small Schools Revenue category. Not only would funding increase per pupil in small schools, but the threshold to qualify for Small Schools Revenue also would be bumped up to include more districts. This would help level the playing field for children in Greater Minnesota in comparison with the dollars districts receive in other parts of the state, especially in the Twin Cities.
H.F. 151 establishes a working group to examine how our schools are funded in order to improve what is now an overly complex, cumbersome system that few people can understand and many others question. A concoction of roughly 20 formulas currently is used in determining how much state funding each school district will receive. Streamlining that process would bring the transparency citizens deserve, while also eliminating some other flaws that exist in today’s model.
H.F. TBD creates a consistent mentoring model for teachers throughout the state. We currently are losing 50-60 percent of our teachers in their first five years. This is an effort to help them receive the tutelage they may need to grow into a teaching career and remain in the classroom.
I also have introduced bills with specific ties to our district, including proposals to provide Legacy funding for the Litchfield Opera House and the Wheel and Cog Children’s museum in Hutchinson.
One big change for this session is that Democrats now control the House. It can be more challenging for a member of the minority party to move bills through the process, yet I am confident the relationships I have built with House colleagues on both sides of the aisle will pay dividends. For example, the aforementioned civics bill I drafted already has bipartisan support from 34 House members who have signed on as co-authors. Another dozen have asked to join the roster, so a duplicate version is being crafted to create room for more signatures.
As always, your input is welcome as I continue working to make things better for the people of District 18A and beyond.