It’s been another busy week in St. Paul as we debated eight omnibus finance bills.
Here’s a brief recap of some of the bills that were voted on this week.
On Monday, the House voted on and approved both the Higher Education and K-12 Education omnibus bills.
The Higher Education bill included some great policies, but unfortunately, it underfunded mental health services for students as well as a new initiative for Aspiring Teachers of Color.
This bill also misses the opportunity to reign in runaway administrative costs (roughly 1/3 of their total budget) at the University of Minnesota, and instead grows bureaucracy by giving the Office of Higher Education a larger increase than they asked for.
For those reasons and some more, I voted “no” on the bill. I am hopeful that the bill comes back from conference committee much improved and that I can support it on final passage in May.
The K-12 Education bill disappointingly gave bureaucrats a 10% funding increase. It also failed to include a plan to get all students back into classrooms for in-person learning, even though it has been proven safe time and time again.
Other issues I had with the bill included changes to our tiered licensure system that would make it harder for good teachers to stay in classrooms and advance their licensure and restoration of the Last In, First Out system that values seniority over effectiveness when evaluating teachers during layoffs. This will hurt teachers of color the most because they account for roughly 20% of tier 1 and tier 2 teachers.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, we debated and voted on both the Jobs/Economic Development and the Commerce/Energy omnibus bills.
I voted “no” on both bills.
Instead of helping small businesses and job creators that have struggled from forced closures, Democrats’ Jobs/Economic Development bill would implement burdensome regulations that will make it much more difficult for Minnesota businesses to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We should be helping businesses by passing Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) relief, not imposing new mandates.
The Commerce/Energy bill will make health care and energy bills more expensive for Minnesota families. It fails to extend Minnesota’s nation-leading, bipartisan reinsurance program and imposes more costly mandates and prescriptive bureaucracy while limiting our energy options. This bill lacked any kind of common sense and is trying to do what California is doing, and I for one do not want to have any blackouts in January and February.
The Public Safety/Judiciary bill was debated, voted on, and passed Wednesday.
Yet again, I voted “no” on this bill.
My opposition to this bill was based on the reality that this legislation runs counter to public safety, is hostile to law enforcement, and will inhibit the recruitment and retention of peace officers statewide. All of this while letting criminals off with lighter sentences than what courts have imposed and hiding their records from the public.
We tried to add several pro 2nd amendment amendments to the bill and the DFL ruled them all out of order. Instead of taking votes on these amendments, DFLers abused the rules of the House to make sure they did not have to take tough votes. I had never seen this during my time at the legislature.
This bill would be a step backward and make our communities less safe.
We voted on the Taxes bill on Thursday. This bill raises taxes by more than $1 billion over the next two years at a time when Minnesota has a $4 billion budget surplus.
It also fails to fully exempt Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by capping relief at $350,000. This means that many businesses will still be taxed on forgiven PPP loans that were used to pay employees and keep their doors open during a difficult year. We offered a stand-alone bill to get PPP loan forgiveness weeks ago for our businesses, but this bill has been held hostage in the Tax Omnibus.
This is unacceptable and a large part of the reason why I voted “no” on this bill.
Minnesotans deserve better.
If you have questions on any of these bills or on a bill that was approved this week that I didn’t specifically discuss in this newsletter, please let me know!
It would be great to chat with you.
I can be reached by phone at 651-296-8237 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great weekend,