It’s been a busy couple weeks here in Saint Paul. Here are some updates from the Capitol:
MRAC Big Check Event
Earlier this month, I had the chance to attend the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council (MRAC) “Big Check” event. The MRAC distributes grants to applicants across the Twin Cities to arts organizations and/or arts projects. The funding comes from the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment fund which was passed by voters in 2008.
The MRAC received 840 applications, and awarded 419 grants to various groups. One of the groups receiving a grant was Orono Community Education, which will be performing “Giraffes Can’t Dance—a book comes to life.” The group will have their showcase event in Maple Plain in May. For more information on Orono Community Education, please visit their website: https://ssl.dwebsite.com/secure2/ce_isd278/php/public.php
I was pleased to cast an affirmative vote while in session at the legislature to approve tax conformity changes that will provide middle-class tax relief to over 250,000 Minnesotans around the state. The Tax Conformity bill passed with wide bi-partisan support, and will help make sure Minnesotans are not forced to amend their tax returns as they begin to file their taxes for the 2012 tax year.
Last Tuesday, the legislature welcomed two new members to Saint Paul. Rep. Tama Theis from St. Cloud, and Rep. Clark Johnson from North Mankato won their respective special elections earlier this month, filling vacancies left by retiring members Steve Gottwalt and Terry Morrow.
Next week, I will be mailing out my 2013 legislative survey. Citizen input is crucial for legislators so we can best represent the views and opinions of our district, and I look forward to seeing the results and your comments. If you do not receive a copy, and would like a copy mailed to you, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 651-296-9188.
The survey will also be available on my House website in the coming weeks, and I will be sure to email you a link once it is live.
It was great to welcome students from Mound Westonka High School to the Capitol for a tour. I was proud of the students’ interest in our state government and their involvement during a discussion while in the Supreme Court chamber. Among many things discussed, in particular we talked about an inscription in stone above the door exiting the Supreme Court which reads; "Here is where the law ends and tyranny begins" and what that statement means.
Next week, the legislature is expected to debate and vote on the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange (HIX) bill. This bill has been making its way through the committee process at a breakneck pace, and will come to the House floor for final debate and potential passage on Monday. Regrettably, there is still much work to be done on this bill in committee(s) before it should be sent to the floor, but the majority is committed to presenting a bill to the Governor before March 31st without many details being resolved. In many committee hearings, members, citizens and organizations have expressed many concerns including; lack of oversight and transparency, a flawed appellate process concerning HIX board decisions, increased overall cost, a 3.5% tax imposed on premiums, subsidized incentives, lack of tort reform, cost shifting, reimbursement rates, use of so called "navigators", impacts on providers, patients and the private health care market. I expect a spirited and very long debate on Monday, including many offered amendments in order to improve this bill.
If you have any input on the Health Insurance Exchange you would like to share before Monday, I welcome your thoughts via email at Rep.Jerry.Hertaus@house.mn or by phone at 651-296-9188.
Have a great rest of your week,
State Representative, District 33A