It was great to host a group of 14 Minnesota Citizens for the Arts representatives at my office in St. Paul this week. Thanks for stopping by to talk about the issues!
Weather experts are predicting major flooding throughout the state this spring, yet our state’s contingency account to provide immediate assistance when natural disasters strike sits empty.
This is a problem which needs to be fixed and I have co-authored a bill to replenish this needed funding so impacted cities will be able to immediately begin recovery efforts. The proposal would transfer $20 million in 2019 and another $20 million in 2020 to Minnesota’s disaster assistance contingency account, effective the day after final enactment. That would bring this account to levels similar to recent years.
Since its creation in 2014, the account held $17.5 million in 2015 and $20.4 million in 2016, similar to what the bill I am co-authoring proposes. Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed a bill which contained funding for this account last year and its balance was drained when Minnesota responded with $11 million in relief to flooding events last year in Brainerd and Duluth.
This is not a partisan issue, it is a Minnesota issue. The people of Minnesota are counting on us to make this happen, so let’s get it done now.
In other news:
A bill I have authored would strengthen record-keeping standards with the Minnesota Child Care Assistance Program as concerns fester regarding the use of tax dollars it receives.
A report issued Wednesday by the non-partisan Office of the Legislative Auditor details widespread fraud in CCAP, which was established to help low-income families afford child care so parents are able pursue employment or further their education to land a job. The OLA’s report also indicates a lack of internal controls at the Department of Human Services makes CCAP fraud difficult to prosecute.
My bill (H.F. 1680) requires child care providers receiving CCAP payments to keep daily attendance records at the site where services are delivered. The bill says those records must be made available immediately to the county or the commissioner upon request, or the provider may be subject to an overpayment claim.
We know there has been fraud in this program. While questions remain just how deep it goes, any money that does not go to the intended purpose is robbing children and their families of assistance that could help them get a step ahead. We owe it to those people and to the taxpayers in general to closely guard this funding and anything less is unacceptable.
Broadband grant program
Efforts continue in the House to bring broadband internet service to unserved/underserved regions of our state, including parts of District 13A. The western portion of our district is particularly spotty and a bill we discussed in a committee meeting this week would put $70 million into the Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program for the 2020-21 biennium. Not only that, but we also successfully amended the bill to provide the program with an immediate $15 million infusion to make up for an appropriation made in 2018 that was not realized due to a Gov. Dayton veto.
Veterans suicide awareness
The House approved a bill this week which would designate the first Saturday of October as Veterans Suicide Awareness Day. During discussion of this bill, it was reported that veterans are 1 1/2 times more likely to die by suicide than civilians. That translates to more than 6,100 suicides per year. We can do more to support our veterans and the hope is this bill – which passed the House without opposition – can help draw attention to an issue that too often stays in the shadows, ultimately leading more veterans go get the help they need. Let’s hope this is enacted soon.
Two capital investment bills I have authored to help fund local projects had hearings this week and continue moving through the committee process. One bill provides $1.13 million to extend the State Glacial Lakes Trail from Cold Spring to Rockville, the third phase of this project. The trail currently stretches from Willmar to Cold Spring. The other capital investment bill I have authored provides $300,000 to construct a park and related facilities on the Sauk River on the southern end of St. Joseph. Both hearings were well-received and I look forward to the next phases in the process.