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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sandy Layman (R)

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News From Representative Layman 4-27-2018

Friday, April 27, 2018

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Dear Friends and Neighbors,

The pace at the Capitol has changed as we move into our final weeks and begin debating our larger bills in a variety of issue areas. This week, we unveiled our tax conformity proposal and passed legislation to improve school safety around the state. As we debate these bills, I’ll continue to keep you updated on the latest. As always, please continue to share your thoughts on the big issues facing the legislature.

Before I delve into the biggest topics of the week, I wanted to let our area know about an important event. Saturday, April 28 is National Prescription Drug Take Back Day. This is when residents can bring their unused prescriptions to a participating site (the nearest for many in our district is the Cass County or the Itasca County Sherriff’s Office), to safely dispose of these medications. This is a key tool in fighting the opioid epidemic and helping to keep dangerous drugs out of the hands of those who wish to misuse them. For more information on the event, please click here.

Tax Conformity

Because of changes to the federal tax code, we’re working on updating our laws to make it easier on tax filers next year. We introduced our proposal this week that simplifies our tax code, and, more importantly, provides middle class tax relief. Some highlights of the bill include:

  • Helping middle-class Minnesotans keep more of what they earn by cutting the second tier income tax rate from 7.05% to 6.75% by tax year 2020. This would mark the first income tax rate reduction in Minnesota since 2000.
  • Lowering taxes for people at all income levels by increasing the standard deduction from $13,000 to $14,000.
  • Protecting families by preserving a state personal and dependent exemption of $4,150.
  • Encouraging affordable homeownership by allowing a state-itemized deduction of up to $30,000 in property taxes.
  • Supporting hometown businesses and farmers by reinvesting extra revenue from corporate tax changes into Section 179 conformity and overall rate reductions.

Coming into this session, tax conformity was a priority for the legislature.

School Safety

Just yesterday, the House acted on another of our priorities by passing a solid bill that improves school safety throughout the state as part of our Education Omnibus Bill. A few of the big points of this bill include:

  • Championing a multifaceted approach to give school districts the resources and flexibility they need to address student safety and security. That includes expanding the use of long-term facilities maintenance revenue for facility security upgrades, strengthening the state’s commitment to school-linked mental health grants, supporting suicide prevention training for teachers, increasing funding for Safe Schools Revenue, and more
  • Strengthening and clarifying state law to address teacher misconduct and teacher licensure including prohibiting sexual relationships between educators and students, even if that student is 18; requiring periodic teacher background checks; and prohibiting the issuance or renewal of a teacher/administrative license or bus driver endorsement for certain felonies or gross misdemeanors involving a minor
  • Enhancing the transparency of school funding and our commitment to tackling our state’s achievement gap by doubling the number of school audits each year. These audits will discern whether or not education dollars allocated to school districts and dedicated to special education, English-learner and low-income students are reaching the students intended
  • Ensuring students are exposed to a wide variety of post-secondary options including the trades and branches of the military
  • Strengthening laws that protect kids from school lunch shaming

 Wild Rice Sulfate Standard

On Monday, another important bill to our area was debated and passed in the House. The bill, which passed on a bipartisan vote, protects Minnesota’s natural wild rice resources. It does this by doing away with the outdated, 45-year-old numeric sulfate standard that, if enforced, would cause countless, unneeded costs for waste water treatment plants. Our bill gives the state a chance to come back with a workable plan that protects wild rice and respects taxpayers.

Minnesota Telecom Alliance Day

Tuesday marked Minnesota Telecom Alliance Day at the Capitol. I was honored to serve as keynote speaker to this group as chief author of the broadband bill in the House. Increasing broadband funding and connectivity in our state is an economic development and quality of life issue for communities and families. I’m continuing to work toward increased funding in the legislature, and am encouraged we can get it done this year. For more of my thoughts on the need for broadband, you can read my commentary I wrote this week on the topic.

Local Visit          

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Truly one of my favorite parts of being a legislator is seeing student groups from our area make the trip to see the Capitol and take in the legislative process. This week I was fortunate to meet with Katherine Johnson’s 5th grade class from St. Joseph’s School in Grand Rapids. I had previously met with this group for a classroom visit in their school, so it was great to reconnect and be able to actually show them what we do in the legislature.

Please Contact Me

Again, please reach out if you’d like to share your thoughts on the legislative session. We’re just a few weeks away from wrapping up, and I always value local input as we discuss bills at the Capitol.

Have a great spring weekend!

Sandy