By Dean Urdahl
State Representative, District 18B
In talking to people throughout the area since the legislative session ended, one of the questions I get asked most is “What did you do for children this year?”
Children in Minnesota are blessed with tremendous opportunity and as a society and a legislature, our goal should be to make sure those opportunities are accessible to everyone. Below is an outline of the five key children’s issues from this year’s session.
Children need the sense of peace and security their community can offer. The last few years have seen too many tragedies resulting from sexual predators being released too soon and some committed by sex offenders who should never be released at all. Now, tougher sentences will mean that the most dangerous offenders automatically spend the rest of their lives in prison and community supervision and tracking standards will be much, much more strict.
If a child gets hooked on drugs, especially ones as dangerous as methamphetamine, their opportunities in life are drastically diminished. We took steps this year to push meth cookers out of Minnesota by making it much more difficult to buy the drug’s ingredients and toughened penalties for those convicted of using and possessing the drug with the intent to distribute.
Disabled children have unique needs and meeting those needs sometimes places a heavy burden on their parents. To ease their costs, we reduced TEFRA parental fees by 25 percent and modified the rate structure for co-pays. If you use TEFRA, or think you may be able to, the Department of Human Services website has application help and information, at www.dhs.state.mn.us.
More Money for Schools
“Four percent this year, four percent next year,” is how I respond when parents ask me about school funding. An eight percent increase over the next two years is among the largest in state history. The bulk of this money will go into the classrooms, where it can have direct impact on the quality of our children’s education. We also repealed the $2,000 family cap on the K-12 tax credit, so qualifying families will be able to receive maximum tax benefits from investing in their children’s education.
We also passed more than $11.5 million in new spending for early childhood initiatives such as Head Start, ECFE and the new Minnesota Early Learning Foundation.
As much as we would all like to have one parent be able to stay home and raise their kids, the realities of modern day life make that difficult, if not impossible. When parents turn to daycare, they need to know their children are being cared for by safe, responsible providers. From now on, licensed child care facilities must do background studies on anyone who may have unsupervised contact with children. Child care providers are also now required to take training in preventing shaken baby syndrome, or SBS as it is more commonly known.
If you have questions about these five issues, please contact me. I can also help if you have questions about eligibility or benefits from other state child care programs. Call my St. Paul office, 651-296-4344, and I will do what I can to help you out.