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Minnesota Legislature

Legislative News and Views - Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn (DFL)

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Legislative Update - June 5, 2019

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Dear Neighbors,

I’m happy to report that the House and Senate have passed our state budget and Governor Walz signed it into law on Friday!

If you’d like to hear more about what was accomplished this year and share your ideas for the future, please join Rep. Kelly Moller, Sen. Jason Isaacson, and me this Saturday for a town hall meeting. We’ll meet at the Shoreview Library from 10:30 AM to 12 PM. I hope to see you there!

E-12 and Higher Education

The E-12 education section is one of the highlights of the budget. Schools in our area and across Minnesota will receive more per-pupil funding. Over the next two years, the total increase in funding will be $7,692,822 for Mounds View Public Schools, $5,342,440 for Roseville Area Schools, and $8,958,307 for White Bear Lake Area Schools. We address the rapidly increasing cost of special education services to help schools meet the needs of all their students. We will also preserve access to voluntary pre-kindergarten for 4,000 of our youngest learners.

Unfortunately the final higher education budget doesn’t contain the tuition freeze that was approved as part of the House budget. However, the final bill does invest in the University of Minnesota and Minnesota State Colleges and Universities and provide new resources for students, including mental health services. Students who are enrolled in the state grant program will receive more financial assistance, and others will become eligible for the first time. The budget also invests in counseling to help 775,000 Minnesotans with student debt pay off their loans.

Health and Human Services

One of our top priorities was preserving health care access for 1.2 million Minnesotans. We secured ongoing funding for the Health Care Access Fund so that the people who rely on it won’t have to worry about losing their coverage in the future.

I’m proud that two of my bills were signed into law as part of the health and human services budget. One bill establishes a Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Prevention Program (HF 479). The program will take a public health approach to preventing violence, by providing grants to community-driven initiatives that protect Minnesotans from experiencing domestic violence and sexual assault in the first place. My other bill allows tribal public health departments access to birth data in order to provide more equitable services to new moms and babies (HF 1503).

Taxes

Our final tax bill cuts income tax rates for the first time in two decades. By doubling the standard deduction, the bill cuts taxes for many low- and middle-income Minnesotans and makes the filing process easier. It also increases local government aid and county program aid, helping local governments hold down property taxes while investing in their communities, and expands tax credits for working families and small businesses. I promised to advocate for federal tax conformity after it failed last session, and I’m glad that this plan puts Minnesota into almost full conformity.

My bill to allow the City of Roseville to access previously collected Tax Increment Financing (TIF) funds (HF 1550) was also included in the final tax bill. This will allow Roseville to move forward with environmental remediation to allow for further development near 35W and County Road C.

Environment and Natural Resources

As a member of the Environment and Natural Resources Conference Committee, I worked hard on this area of the budget with colleagues from the House and Senate. As I mentioned in my latest e-update, which is available here, several of my bills were included in the end product. If you’d like to read more about the comprehensive plan to combat the outbreak of chronic wasting disease, an MPR article about it is available here.

The budget addresses other long-term environmental issues as well. It provides funding to help communities manage emerald ash borer and stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. Other provisions will give Minnesotans more access to the great outdoors and protect and restore our natural resources. Unfortunately, the bipartisan ban on the carcinogenic chemical TCE that I co-authored (HF 2276) won’t become law this year. MinnPost published an article detailing how opposition from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce derailed the bill after it passed the House with a 120-7 vote. You can read it here. I’m disappointed that others didn’t put the health of Minnesotans first, but I’ll continue to fight for this bill next year.

Jobs and Energy

In this budget, we enacted the strongest wage theft prevention and enforcement laws in the nation. These laws will ensure that Minnesotans receive an hour’s pay for an hour’s work and hold employers accountable when they take advantage of their workers. Unfortunately, the Senate was unwilling to move forward on addressing climate change and renewable energy this session.

State Government

As a member of the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee and the Government Operations Committee, I’m very proud of this budget. Though Senate Republicans delayed for months, we authorized using $6.6 million in federal funding to protect Minnesota elections from hackers, foreign governments, and other bad actors. This money will be used to protect private voter data and improve cybersecurity. The budget also funds programs to address veteran homelessness and help veterans find careers.

My bill to establish a Veterans Suicide Awareness Day was also included in this budget bill. HF 586 passed the House as a stand-alone bill earlier this session, but the Senate never took it up for a vote. I am pleased that we will be able to bring more attention to this important issue.

Public Safety

The public safety budget includes several measures that will prevent gender-based violence. Though Senate Republicans blocked our efforts to update Minnesota’s sexual harassment standards, a working group will be created to figure out what’s working and what’s not in current sexual conduct laws. The budget also establishes a task force to address the ongoing epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Agriculture and Housing

This budget supports our farmers and agricultural economy, improves food access across the state, and helps Minnesotans find safe, affordable housing. It will provide Minnesota farmers with mental health resources and emergency financial assistance to help respond to severe winter weather. Other programs aim to ensure that students have a stable home and fresh, healthy meals.

Thank you for allowing me to serve our community at the Capitol. Please feel free to share your input on the budget and other issues that are important to you. I hope to see you at the Town Hall event this coming Saturday!

Sincerely,

Jamie