Above, Sen. Dahms and I enjoyed meeting with new Southwest Minnesota State University President Dr. Kumara Jayasuriya at the Capitol in St. Paul on Wednesday, the same day he was named to the position. Dr. Jayasuriya will begin serving as SMSU’s 10th president when his appointment officially takes effect this July 1. Good luck in your new endeavor, Dr. Jayasuriya. Note: Photo by Senate Media Services.
Below, I enjoyed meeting with numerous members from TeenPact Leadership Schools, including some from our area. TeenPact is geared toward “training youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, defend the Christian faith, and engage their culture.” The students I met were impressive and it is fun to see such highly engaged youth with bright futures ahead of them.
Another busy week at the Capitol is coming to a close and bills I am working on continue in the committee process. I am waiting on a hearing for H.F. 1984, a bill I have authored to extend a moratorium on new rules for mowing trunk highway ditches. I also have introduced H.F. 2584 to expand work licenses to operate a motor vehicle, making “farm permits” available to 15-year-olds who do not live on a farm but work at one. The intent is to assist FFA students and others who are interested in farming.
In other news:
Mining project receives final permit
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has issued PolyMet the final permit necessary for the proposed NorthMet copper-nickel mining project to begin in Hoyt Lakes. This is an exciting opportunity to grow jobs and boost the economy as we bring a new era of mining technology to our state, allowing us to harvest precious metals while also protecting the environment. This project has been subject to diligent examination and cautious consideration and it is good to see that, in the end, the right decision has been made and I look forward to seeing the wide range of benefits this will bring our state.
Child care fraud update
In last week’s update, I mentioned a non-partisan report had been issued confirming that a substantial amount of fraud is taking place in the Child Care Assistant Program. It also noted the Department of Human Services has been lax in its oversight of this program.
This week, Inspector General Carolyn Ham was placed on administrative leave in the wake of the audit. Investigators said they believed Ham was trying to discredit their work and, at a House hearing, Ham refused to say she trusted her own CCAP investigators
Placing Ham on leave was a good first step, but this needs to be followed by legislative action to tighten up this program so the assistance can be delivered to the families it is intended to help. Two bills crafted by House Republicans are moving through the committee process, including one which creates an independent Office of the Inspector General to prevent history from repeating itself. Another bill requires child care providers receiving CCAP payments to keep daily attendance records at the site where services are delivered.
As for work on the House floor this week, here are three bills the full body approved with broad, bipartisan support:
The House approved a package providing with appropriations for programs and resources to combat and educate citizens about opioids. The funding for these initiatives are paid for by increased fees on opioid manufacturers and wholesalers.
The House passed a bill making it illegal to hold a cell phone or other wireless communication device while driving. Drivers would still be able to use hands-free devices.
A bill to forgive school districts for extra snow days taken during this extremely cold and snowy winter passed the House. The bill allows districts to count three canceled days in late January toward the minimum 165 classroom days required by state law. The bill also ensures hourly staff and companies that contract with districts are made whole, either via compensation or opportunities to make up for missed time.
Until next time,