The 2016 session has begun and most of our work at the start is focused on discussing bills in the committee process. Look for more news on those as things progress.
Thursday was Gun Day on the Hill in St. Paul as Second Amendment advocates visited. I want to thank the folks who took time out of their day to discuss this very important issue with legislators.
Last year was a strong one in terms of gun rights as we led to passage several key measures, including:
As successful as we were last year, you can be sure some people will bring new attempts to compromise the Second Amendment in 2016. We House Republicans will remain strong in defending our constitutional rights.
In other news, we recently learned child care providers have overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to unionize their industry. Providers voted 1,014 against, 392 in favor, despite the deck being stacked toward unionization. Only around 25 percent of the child care providers – those receiving state assistance for children they care for – received ballots. And only 50 percent of the ballots returned – not 50 percent of the ballots issued – needed to be "yes" votes to gain passage.
But, despite that landscape, the providers rightfully prevailed. This whole push seemed to defy the will of the public and providers themselves. Providers weren't asking to be unionized. Parents certainly didn't want to encounter increased costs and further restrictions. It was a top-down push from the governor and union folks that wanted to bring child care under their umbrella and in the end, the people prevailed.
The state also recently received an updated budget forecast. It calls for a $900 million surplus through June of 2017. Sales tax projections came in $311 million lower than expected. In total, projected revenue declined by $466 million. The report attributes at least part of the drop to a weakened economic outlook nationally and lower consumer spending.
This report should not change much about our approach for the 2016 session. We in the House will continue to prioritize tax reductions and a long-term transportation plan. In fact, lower consumer spending serves to underscore how important it is to pass tax relief this session. The House passed legislation last year that would have provided nearly $2 billion in relief to Minnesotans, including an important provision that would stop the state's practice of taxing seniors' Social Security checks. The Senate Democrats refused to pass our bill in 2015, but I encourage them to get on board this year.
Stay tuned and, as always, your feedback is welcome on these or any other issues of importance to you.