It was great to see Future Farmers of America members from throughout the state at the Capitol Tuesday for FFA Day on the Hill. Agriculture is crucial to our way of life in Minnesota and to the overall health of our state. It is good to see the industry’s future is in good hands with these bright, young students in blue corduroy ready to step up as ag leaders for the next generations.
Another busy week at the Capitol is coming to a close. The vast majority of our time at this point in the session is being spent in committee meetings in order to consider bills in the initial stages of the process.
For example, a number of bills related to school safety are being introduced and Tuesday was be Student Safety First Day in the House. Hearings took place in various committees to discuss student safety. This includes reviewing our $405,000 investment in the School Safety Center, part of the Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. House members also introduced legislation allowing schools to use the long-term facilities maintenance revenue program for school facility safety.
I, along with other members of the Legislature, have received much correspondence on the subject of school safety following the recent Florida tragedy. There are a great number of layers to this issue and opinions ranging far and wide on each. Mental health is a major factor in this issue and, while there is a long way to go, the Legislature has made progress in recent years. In 2016 and 2017, the Legislature funded school-linked mental health grants to expand services to school buildings, school districts or counties that do not have any existing grants to provide training on evidence-based practices to improve mental health. The 2017 K-12 Education bill also included $2.45 million for mental health innovation grants for intermediate schools aimed at improving mental health outcomes for children.
The Legislature is looking at a variety of aspects in order to answer the question as to what’s best for protecting our children. This subject is likely to continue throughout the current legislative session and beyond, so look for more as things develop. One thing I know for certain is that, for better or worse, most everything starts at home. We all can do a better job as God-fearing Christian families to make sure our own house is in order as we work on other solutions.
On another subject, Minnesota Management and Budget recently issued the state’s February economic forecast. It shows a $329 million revenue surplus for the biennium ending in June of 2019, a $518 million improvement since November. That is the largest three-month turnaround in 20 years and the estimate for the 2020-21 biennium shows even larger gains with a $650 million increase.
Budget decisions we made last year, especially with the historic tax relief, are helping to boost our economy. Discussions already are underway at the Capitol to identify the best uses for the surplus funds. Our growing economy sets the table for another highly successful session as we look to build on the momentum.
As always, your input is welcome on these and other issues we face as a state. I will keep you posted as developments occur in St. Paul.