The 2016 legislative session begins in just a few weeks, on March 8th. This session will be unique not only because of the major construction and renovation projects currently underway in the Capitol building itself, but also because it will be exceptionally brief. Because this is the even year of a biennium, it would be normal for the legislative focus to shift to the passage of a bonding bill to fund public infrastructure construction projects throughout the state.
However, this year is proving to be anything but normal. There is still considerable unfinished business from the 2015 session, including a comprehensive transportation bill and a tax bill with targeted property tax reductions for homeowners, renters, and seniors. There are other outstanding issues from last year waiting to be resolved as well, including extending access to early childhood education to all families in Minnesota and freezing college tuition at all public universities and colleges. I know we can find a way to work together to build a Minnesota economy that works for everyone, even during this rushed session.
I know the legislative process can be confusing, so I wanted to share this short informational video produced by nonpartisan House Public Information Services. It provides an easy to understand explanation of how the legislature is structured, the reasons behind why we meet in session when we do, how to testify about a bill, and where to get important news and information during legislative sessions.
Paid Parental Leave for Minnesota Families
In case you missed it, Governor Dayton recently announced that he will be seeking six weeks of paid parental leave for Minnesota state employees. This is encouraging news for 35,000 qualifying individuals who work for state government agencies. We must also continue to push for access to paid parental leave for all Minnesota workers. You may have read the Star Tribune editorial this weekend calling for action on paid parental leave for all Minnesotans. It is the smart thing to do to get our kids started on the right foot, to improve worker productivity, reduce the pay gap between men and women, and to help working families get ahead in an economy rigged for the wealthy. We are one of only three nations on Earth that do not offer some form of standard paid maternity leave for mothers (Oman and Papua New Guinea are the others). Last session I advocated for passage of the Working Parents Act, and I will continue to push for stronger support for families with working parents and no access to paid leave.
Last week, I joined other legislators to unveil the DISCLOSE (Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections) Act. The DISCLOSE Act would put a constitutional amendment question on the ballot this November asking Minnesota voters to decide for themselves if they think there should be transparency for the sources of the untold sums of dark money in political campaigns. This is a simple, but important reform of Minnesota’s campaign finance system to eliminate a loophole that exempts political groups from reporting spending on “issue based” communications, even if those communications advocate for or against a candidate.
The 2010 Citizens United decision from the U.S. Supreme Court enabled corporations to spend limitless amounts of money on political advocacy, and Minnesotans have been inundated by outside spending in campaigns. The sources of much of this money funneled into Super PACs (Political Action Committees) and other groups have evaded disclosure and scrutiny. Even though the constitutional amendment we are proposing would not stop these campaign pieces, it would at least provide disclosure for voters so they know who is paying for them.
Keep in touch!
I encourage you to contact me on any legislative issues. You can reach me by email at Rep.Melissa.Hortman@house.mn or by phone at 651-296-4280. You can also follow me on twitter, I’m @melissahortman, or you can visit my facebook page for updates at www.facebook.com/MelissaHortman. Thanks! I hope that 2016 is treating you and your families well.