I am in the process of drafting numerous pieces of legislation and this week I took the step of visiting "The Hopper" to formally introduce them as bills. I also am signing on as a co-author of other bills, including H.F. 70 to form a Task Force on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Look for more on the bills I am authoring/co-authoring in upcoming emails.
Much of Week 2 in the 2019 session has been dedicated to getting legislative committees up and running with informational hearings taking place to provide overviews of subject areas and to highlight issues that may be in store.
For instance, the Education Finance Division received an overview of student demographics and achievement data. Those subjects are fascinating to me as we take a look at things from a fiscal perspective. The statewide K-12 funding formula is vastly complex and there are significant disparities in state dollars received from one district to the next. I am looking into ways we could improve equity in education funding and will circle back on that as things develop.
I also found the first meeting of the Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division to be a productive one with presenters laying out helpful information. We heard from U of M Institute of Child Development Department Chair Megan Gunnar, PhD. She provided a detailed and informative overview of early childhood development that will be helpful as we work in this committee to find solutions for the important challenges we face. Also, I am still waiting for the third committee I serve – the Greater Minnesota Jobs and Economic Development Finance Division – to conduct its first meeting.
In other news, I participated in my first press conference as a member of the House on Tuesday. The purpose was to urge the House majority and Gov. Walz not to raise health care costs on Minnesotans by restoring the sick tax which is set to expire Jan. 1, 2020. This is a 2-percent tax in Minnesota on most patient services, from baby deliveries to chemotherapy treatments, routine doctor visits, emergency room visits and more. Restoring the tax instead of allowing it to fall off the books as scheduled would mean Minnesotans would face a $600 million increase on health care costs next year alone.
Health care is too expensive and allowing this 2-percent tax to go away would give people some much-needed breathing room. Besides, the state has a $1.5 billion surplus and the expiration of this tax has been taken into account on fiscal projections. Furthermore, insurance providers have prepared themselves as if it will be ending.
We all have been talking about wanting to make health insurance more affordable. Here’s a golden opportunity to make good on that goal with bipartisan support.
On a final note, it has been a pleasure to discuss issues with District 13A people who already have come to meet in my new legislative office. Thank you to Paynesville Schools Superintendent Matt Bullard and new board member Jake Holck (pictured above) for stopping by to talk today. Input from local citizens and officials is very important to me and I welcome your thoughts, ideas and suggestions either by using my contact information found in this email or by setting up a personal visit at the Capitol in St. Paul during the session. To book an appointment, please contact my assistant, Rachel Brehm, at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (651) 296-6937.