By Rep. Joe McDonald
I once was told there’s no real way of anticipating what it’s like to be a legislator; you’ll just have to find out when you get there. They were right.
The acclimation process is going quite well for me at the Capitol, but I must say the amount of information we’ve been consuming is phenomenal. There are people to meet, rooms to find, times to remember and procedures to follow, not to mention an endless array of issues to study.
One thing I quickly learned is I feel right at home by focusing on the issues I care about most, the ones people sent me to the Capitol to address: helping people get back to work, sparking small businesses, and helping our government live within its means. We already have introduced two bills to make improvements in this area, a very encouraging sign for a new class of legislators bent on making a difference in Minnesota.
One bill is designed to help make the permitting process more efficient for small businesses. One of the biggest gripes against government we hear from small businesses is how cumbersome and uncertain our process is. Some of our entrepreneurs have pulled the plug on plans to set up shop or expand in Minnesota because the process has been known to take a couple years – or longer – to complete. That’s just plain unacceptable.
All we ask is for reasonable turnaround times and our new bill would institute a 150-day goal for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to issue permit decisions. The new law also would require a report on applications not meeting that goal.
The next bill pertains to the budget-setting process; it makes so much sense you can't help but wonder why it wasn’t adopted decades ago. Here’s how it works: First, we find out how much revenue we have. Then, we disperse funding, starting with our top priorities. It’s a very basic concept for small businesses and families, but somehow it’s escaped government until now.
The old way of doing things was to just spend, spend, spend and then have taxpayers cover the bill. That unsustainable process is a huge reason we face a $6.2 billion budget shortfall in the next biennium, even though revenue is expected to rise by 5 percent over that time. Taxpayers deserve accountability for how our tax dollars are spent and this bill helps provide transparency in the process.
Both of these bills must go through the committee process to be thoroughly examined before they reach the Legislature for a vote. In fact, most of our time early this session will be spent in committees. The panels I will be serving include: Health and Human Services Finance; Health and Human Services Reform; Property and Local Tax Division; and Public Safety and Crime Prevention Policy and Finance.
We will face some difficult decisions in each of those committees and I welcome your input along the way. Your thoughts, ideas and suggestions will help me do my best in serving as this area’s voice at the Capitol. You can reach me by calling (651) 296-4336 or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. I also encourage constituents to stop by my new office at 523 State Office Building to say "hi."
Rep. McDonald can be reached at the Capitol by calling 651-296-4336. He is also available by email at email@example.com. His office is located at 523 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.