I hope all is well with you and your families!
Here is an update on what's going on in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
We have been putting in long hours, working hard to make good changes for our state.
Our top priorities are: reducing your taxes, keeping our schools safe and continuing to improve our roads and bridges.
Taxes: I have seen a big push this month to improve the tax climate for all Minnesotans. The new federal tax plan goes a long way in helping everyday Minnesotans, but we need to do more. Our tax committees have been crafting some very good bills that aim to bring even MORE tax relief to you and your families. We are hopeful that Governor Dayton will work with us on this issue.
School safety: Minnesotans from every corner of the state have been very vocal about improving the safety of our schools. I agree! After the 9/11 Attack, our nation improved the safety and security at our airports to make them safer and guard against any more terror attacks. So far, we have been very successful at this. Now it is time to do the same for our schools. We can do this, without infringing on our Second Amendment Rights.
There are many bills moving through the legislature that will make our schools safer by providing funding for safety improvements at schools, improving mental health resources and adding school resource officers. There is also a strong push that will give our school boards the ability to improve the safety thresholds in our neighborhood schools. I was proud to coauthor 2 bills that will help to do that, HF 3676 and HF 3885.
MNLARS: Simply put, it doesn't work. If you have tried to buy a car, transfer a title or renew your driver’s license, then you will know exactly what I am talking about. The computer system that is supposed to handle these tasks has become a "Black hole" that sucks in millions of dollars without shedding any light. Because of these failures, there have been major changes in the leadership of MNLARS.
Last week I voted for a bill that will hopefully turn this mess around. I share your frustrations. Last September I bought a used car and did not receive my title for it until LATE January.
Roads and Bridges continue to be a major priority for us in the legislature. A bonding bill is being drafted this session and we should have more details on that as we get closer to May. I do know that critical infrastructure, such as roads and bridges are at the top of the list of items that will be included.
Second Amendment Rights: This Spring, we have experienced a big push to infringe on our Second Amendment Rights. I do not support any bills that will attempt to do so. Earlier this month, a number of bills were introduced that would curtail our constitutional rights. These bills did not advance through the Public Safety Committee. I voted to stop the progress of these bills and will continue to defend your Second Amendment Rights.
Protesters: Earlier this month we heard a bill in committee that would increase the penalties on protesters who block major transportation systems. I am also a co-author for this bill. It's time to make our transportation systems safe.
Energy: This week we heard a bill that would allow for the construction of the Enbridge 3 pipeline. This is a critical energy supply line that will bring millions of dollars into our state and provide hundreds of much needed jobs across Northern Minnesota. We had a 5 hour hearing on this bill, where we faced a large number of very vocal opponents. I was proud to vote YES to allow for the construction of the Enbridge 3 system. The Governor and other state agencies have been blocking this for over 5 years. There have been over 38 meetings to "determine" if it is needed. Enough is enough. This bill gets the job done!
Life: As you all may know, I am Pro Life. I always have been and always will be. We have not seen any bills come forward that attack the unborn, however there is one Pro Life bill moving through the legislature that would allow for the mother to view her unborn baby, BEFORE the abortion is performed. I look forward to seeing this bill come to the floor of the Minnesota House. I will be a YES vote!
Bills I am working on:
There are several bills I am working on this session that will affect the folks in our district.
1. Township Board Pensions. Currently, if you are on a township board, you are not allowed to access your PERA retirement funds unless you quit or pass away. That needed to be fixed. I had a township board member from our district reach out to me on this issue and I am happy to have introduced legislation to address the problem.
We have many folks in their late 60's and early 70's who are faithfully serving their townships on their local boards yet, they cannot access their PERA money unless they quit or pass away. Most of these folks have from 5 to 10 thousand dollars in these accounts. This money would be very useful in making a home repair, taking a trip to visit family or paying a medical bill. I authored a bill that will allow folks to take out their PERA money without having to quit their positions. The bill PASSED in committee and is expected to be part of the Pensions Bill later this spring. I look forward to it becoming the law!
2. Sand Dunes State Forest. For the past 4 years I have been fighting for the folks who live in, and around, the SDSF. Simply put, the DNR has been pushing to clear cut up to 49% of the forest in order to create bug habitat. I had passed bills over the past 2 years to stop this from occurring. This year, I am working to pass legislation to make this last for the next decade.
3. Farmers. I have been fighting for our family farms since I was first elected in 2012. Over the years I have been able to get the DNR off of the backs of our farmers who need to irrigate. It's been an uphill climb, but we ARE making a difference. This year, I have a bill that will continue to protect our farmers from DNR over-regulation.
4. Refugees. Every year, I survey our district. Every year the issue of refugee resettlement ranks in the top 3 of local issues. Much of the feedback I have received is centered on the cost of bringing refugees to the region. It is a major unfunded mandate that our local communities have to pay for. In addition to that, these communities have very little say in the matter. I have authored a bill, HF 4122 that addresses this issue. It would allow for counties to bill sponsoring organizations for welfare costs after 6 months of the refugees resettling in the county.
5. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is a huge issue for many of our EMS and first responders in Minnesota. Yet, there is very little being done to help the men and women who serve us during our most trying times. I am working with several stake holders on this issue and hope to make some improvements in this area. As many of you know, I have worked for 30 years as a fulltime paramedic. I am no stranger to this issue.
With that, I want to wish all of you a very blessed and happy Easter / Passover Holiday.