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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R)

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Veterans, ditch-mowing and more

Friday, March 16, 2018

Dear Neighbor,

The achievements we have made in recent years to support our veterans are reason to be proud, so it was good to see so many of them – along with friends and family – at the Capitol to advocate for the cause on Monday, which was Veterans Day on the Hill in St. Paul.

The list of things we have accomplished even since just 2015 is long, including new laws which:

  • Exclude all military retirement pay from state income tax
  • Allow active duty military members and their families to bypass the one-year wait and immediately qualify for higher education grants and scholarships
  • Increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs and state veterans homes
  • Make it easier for veteran-owned small businesses to get state government contracts
  • Establish a Military Spouses and Families Day to honor Minnesota military families
  • Designate the Honor and Remember Flag as a symbol of the state’s commitment to fallen military members
  • Expand the Minnesota GI Bill to include apprenticeship and on-the-job training benefits

A handful of bills to help veterans other ways received committee hearings Monday. One of note would expand the property tax exclusion for surviving spouses of disabled vets.

In other news:

Reducing MNsure costs

The House is working hard to get a grip on the costs of health insurance that are a major source of strain for Minnesotans. This week, a bill was unveiled that would reduce the MNsure tax from 3.5 percent to 2 percent – saving Minnesotans an estimated $30 million. The bill also eliminates active purchasers to increase options on the MNsure exchange and seeks a waiver allowing those receiving tax credits to purchase insurance outside the MNsure exchange. We have a lot more work to do in relieving citizens who are being crushed by high premium prices, but this would help.

More on mowing

The subject of ditch mowing remains in the news with the moratorium we placed on changes in permit enforcement set to expire at the end of April. MnDOT conducted a series of meetings around the state apparently to go back and receive input from stakeholders after the department’s ham-handed attempt to change its policies on permit enforcement last year. Those meetings may have taken place, but ag groups I’m talking with still feel like the state is not listening to them on this issue, that two-class system is in place where the metro area is thrusting its agenda on people in Greater Minnesota. The people from the Twin Cities who are pushing changes that would negatively impact people throughout Greater Minnesota would not suffer those consequences themselves. It is disappointing the department is still moving forward with changes to permits and I continue to work on legislation to address these and other issues regarding ditch mowing this session.

Bills re: nitrogen

On another subject of bureaucracy run amok, the governor’s proposal to implement a new nitrogen rule by executive order made news around the state last week and this week was the subject of committees. The governor’s proposal is causing great concern in the ag community that it would be highly detrimental to fertilizer application. The best thing we can do is pump the brakes on this, give the issue thorough deliberation in the legislative process and make science-based decisions. Bills have been introduced to delay implementation and/or to require legislative approval, which also would bring much-needed oversight to this subject.

Have a good weekend and look for more as things develop.