To the editor,
The best way to find out what the state can do to improve the way it operates is by hearing directly from those who are hindered by current practices.
That was the mind-set I took into a recent meeting in Willmar where a handful of legislators – including majority leaders from both the House and Senate – met with area business people and representatives of local counties, cities and school boards. The event was the first of 15 or so meetings designed to solicit citizen input as we assemble a package of bills called “Reform 2.0.”
My goal was to do more listening than talking, hearing what folks had to say and soak up information. The common thread I heard is this: Businesses, local governments and schools are asking the state to take a step back and provide relief from overly burdensome mandates, permits and regulations.
One meeting attendee said relief from government red tape is key because businesses can’t afford to wait to grow. They sometimes turn down high-dollar tax incentives because it takes up too much time and effort to reap the benefits. We passed legislation this year to streamline the permitting process, but we need to do far more to clear the way for our entrepreneurs to thrive and create jobs.
Local governments are seeking relief from duplicative state and federal regulations. They also want to higher levels of government to quit bossing around lower levels of government and businesses through mandates. For example, one attendee said we should level of rule-making authority state agencies have. A new wastewater regulation handed down by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency could cost our cities great sums of money just to meet compliance at a time they already are strapped for cash.
Schools are requesting we do not cut funding and restore the money shifted as part of the budget agreement as soon as possible. Schools also are concerned with unfunded mandates and seek relief from them.
This input I received will be helpful as I continue serving on a regulatory reform working group in the Reform 2.0 effort. I also am continuing to serve as co-chair of the House Redesign Caucus which also is investigating ways our state can function better.
I welcome local citizens to participate in this process and invite your ideas, big or small. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my legislative office at (651) 296-4344.
Rep. Dean Urdahl