It was great to have the Delano Tigers boys basketball team in the House this week as we recognized the players and coaches for winning the state championship last month. Above and below are photos of their visit to the House chamber and you can click here for a brief video of me reading a proclamation honoring the team.
It was good to see that common sense prevailed at the Capitol this week after a state board stirred up controversy in Greater Minnesota by proposing an extremely excessive fine schedule for non-compliance with buffer law.
The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources’ proposal would have fined landowners out of compliance with Minnesota’s riparian buffer law by up to $500 per linear foot. This could have resulted in thousands of dollars in fines for farmers who are even a few feet out of compliance across their entire property.
Fortunately, a House committee on agriculture called an emergency hearing on Thursday to give this issue a thorough examination. By the time the meeting took place, BWSR had received so much negative feedback for its proposal that it already had started backpedaling. House members were very direct in their questioning Thursday in order to learn more and BWSR officials openly acknowledged their egregious mistake and said they are retracting their proposal.
Going forward on this issue, the biggest questions that need to be answered surround who has jurisdiction on enforcement. This will be no easy issue to sort out, but we need to know how much control counties and watersheds have in implementation and enforcement. At least common sense was upheld this week and we can put those outrageous fines to rest.
On another subject, work on a supplemental budget continues in the House. While the most significant budget work takes place in odd-numbered years, tweaks or updates often are completed in even years such as this.
On Thursday, the House announced some figures for budget adjustments geared toward building on the historic accomplishments of last year’s session. First of all, we are looking to simplify Minnesota’s tax code in order to fully benefit from recent federal tax reform and provide additional tax relief to middle-class Minnesotans. Other priorities include fixing roads and bridges and improving student safety. Also, savings are found through efficiencies in state government spending. It also is important to note that House Republicans are looking to return $75 million of unspent funds from the 2017 Premium Rebate Program to the budget reserve. On the other hand, the governor proposes spending those tax dollars.
Look for more news from St. Paul soon. And, as always, your feedback is welcome.