Greetings from the State Capitol,
The first full week of the 2015 session is officially complete. Here are a few things that took place this week that are of particular interest to Southwest Minnesota:
Senator Gary Dahms and I re-introduced Drake’s Law this past week. This bill is named in honor of Drake Bigler, the five month old son of Brad and Heather Bigler, who was tragically killed in a drunk driving accident in 2012. Drake’s father, Brad, is the head basketball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
Drake’s law will help strengthen our state’s drunk driving conviction laws by increasing the maximum sentence for criminal vehicular homicide occurring within 10 years of a previous qualifying offense. Qualifying prior DWI offenses include an aggravating factor such as injury to a person or damage to property. The maximum sentence would be increased from 10 to 15 years.
In July of 2012, a drunk driver struck the Bigler’s family van as they were making their way to the family cabin in Starbuck, MN. The driver was four times the legal limit. Brad was critically injured in the crash along with family member Sharon Schuler. His wife Heather escaped with minor injuries. Unfortunately, five month old Drake was killed in the accident.
The drunk driver, who was uninjured, was sentenced to 48 months in prison. It was his third drunk driving offense since 2000.
Drake’s Bill is important not only because it honors the life of Drake Bigler, but it also strengthens our state’s drunk driving laws for those who are repeat offenders.
Lac Qui Parle Watershed District
House file 58 is another bill that I introduced this past week that has a direct impact on Southwest Minnesota. HF 58 would appropriate funds to the Board of Water and Soil Resources for a grant to the Lac qui Parle Yellow Bank Watershed District for engineering analysis of two floodwater retention projects in section 29 of Norman Township and section 29/30 of Florida Township, Yellow Medicine County.
These projects are important to our area as they will serve to help prevent future flooding problems for Lac Qui Parle and Yellow Medicine Counties.
On Thursday, the House passed HF 6 which will bring Minnesota’s tax laws in conformity with federal changes that have occurred. This will bring Minnesotan’s additional tax refunds well in advance of January 20th, which is the date that tax filing officially begins. In total, this bill will provide $19.9 million in immediate tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans. Included in this year’s federal conformity bill are deductions for higher education tuition, educator classroom expenses and itemized mortgage insurance premiums. There are many more deductions that are available through federal conformity due to this year’s bill. Please contact your local tax accountant for any questions or assistance you may need for this year’s tax filing season.
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