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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Duane Quam (R)

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News from Rep. Quam (2-27-15)

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hello from the State Capitol,

As February comes to a close, I thought that I would update you on some of my bills.

Strengthening Ag and Technical Courses in our Schools

On Wednesday, House File 475, was heard before the Agriculture Policy Committee. This bill is to make it easier for local school districts to arrange with local agriculture businesses to have community experts assist with FFA and instruction of agricultural education courses.

Schools, especially those in Greater Minnesota, have a difficult time finding licensed educators for agricultural courses. This bill makes an effort to save these Ag programs and ensure that our students have the opportunity to participate in FFA programs and learn more about agriculture.

I recently introduced another bill that works to strengthen and maintain career and technical education programs in our schools. This bill allows funding for qualifying schools to employ community experts to teach career and technical courses in our schools. Classes such as shop and other mechanical and vocational courses would be more readily accessible for our students.

Property Tax Relief for Retirees

On Wednesday, I introduced House File 1212. This bill would exempt retired persons, 65 and older, from having to pay rent to government, in the form property taxes, for their modest home. (At or below the median average value of homes in their area.) The other part of the bill tries to tie the assessed value of agricultural property to what it can produce in income. A farmer may be rich if he sells his land, but then he would not be a farmer. If we value Minnesota owned and run family farms, we need to ensure that we do not tax them out of farming. This bill is not 'The Solution, just a simplistic starting point in the discussion and process of fixing a complex property tax system.

Data Privacy and Body Cameras

Another important issue that has been subject to vigorous debate this session is the idea of requiring police officers to wear body cameras. There is much debate concerning storage and privacy issues regarding the body camera data. The debate will be long and complex.

HF 999 would set the base premise that, except for data classified as active criminal investigative, body camera data collected in a location, where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy, under the constitution, will be non-public. This data will remain classified unless a court orders differently for a specific portion.

It is reasonable, if police departments end up moving forward with body cameras, for citizens to have an expectation that video footage of themselves and family members will be private, and not have to worry about the potential of it being posted online or in a news story.

Expanding Employment Opportunities for Those with Disabilities

I would also like to thank officials from the Department of Human Services who visited my office this week to discuss my bills that are aimed at improving the lives of those with disabilities.

HF 361 creates a pilot program to encourage individuals with disabilities to gain employment. Currently, a person with disabilities is discouraged from working and becoming independent, since earning a dollar over a preset limit will cause them to lose a support program or pay a large fee. I'm attempting to establish a bridge to freedom and employment opportunities for persons with disabilities. Instead of not working more hours or accepting a raise, from fear of penalties, they would split the extra income with a sliding fee copay. Thus allowing a person to gain employment and work towards independence.

HF 116 requires the commissioner of employment and economic development, in cooperation with the commissioner of human services, to reevaluate employment assistance services to individuals suffering from a traumatic brain injury, taking into account the recent progress in techniques and assistive technology.

Staying in Touch

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you ever have questions, concerns, or comments on any number of issues related to the legislature. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-9236 or via email at