Before we get into legislative business, I want to say congratulations to the Paynesville Area High School baseball team for taking third place in the state tournament with a 6-0 win over St. Peter last week. Nice job, Bulldogs!
Was happy to attend the recent Trailer Safety Week event at Midsota Trailer Mfg. in Avon.
As for my work in the House: As rewarding as it is to work on issues at the Capitol, nothing beats spending time sharing thoughts, concerns and ideas with people right back here at home. Now that the Legislature has adjourned for the year, my calendar has been chock-full of local meetings, events, celebrations … an endless series of occasions to meet face to face with area residents.
From an American Legion Boys State training session to a Sauk River of Chain of Lakes meeting, Trailer Safety Week festivities, a local trap-shooting competition, a St. Cloud Times session wrap-up, a Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District tour, an oral health care forum, the Paynesville Town and Country Days parade, the Miss Paynesville pageant and a St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce recap of the legislative session. Let’s just say it’s been a busy, highly productive time.
Enjoyed a recent SWCD tour to see local conservation projects.
The Stearns County SWCD tour was among the more informative recent events. We visited seven area sites – four stops and three other drive-bys – to see some of the conservation work that is happening in our area. We visited a farm near Richmond where work is being done to control runoff, saw a restoration program in the Sauk River Watershed District, visited a streambank stabilization site in Stearns County Mississippi River Park, checked out the Cold Spring wellhead protection plan and more.
With our region’s rich history in ag and vast number of waterways, you could say we live at the literal intersection of land and water management. It was an amazing experience to see the amount of collaboration between local landowners and state and federal agencies to protect our land and water quality. This work is truly impressive and extra kudos to area farmers who are actively working to ensure these crucial natural resources are sustainable for generations to come!
I also enjoyed hearing from business leaders from throughout the area at the recent St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce event to reflect on the 2019 legislative session. The discussion covered the region well, from relief that we prevented a 20-cent increase to the gas tax to mixed feelings over the fact a tax on health care was extended.
It was my preference to allow that 2-percent tax on health care to expire as scheduled this year, but the governor and the House majority kept it on the books. Since that is the case, my position now is to make sure we are making the most of those dollars, as with any other tax revenue.
For example, health care taxes collected on dental procedures should be directed toward dental work. This is a point I made that was received well by health professionals at the Chamber event and also at a recent oral health care forum in St. Paul.
Millions and millions of dollars are being spent on emergency medical procedures that may have been preventable with better oral care. Better maintenance of teeth and gums – from birth to seniors – can mitigate a host of health issues, including cardiovascular disease.
My work on the House’s Early Childhood Finance and Policy Division has helped me gain some insight on this matter and I look forward to continuing efforts to make improvements in this area. Again, if the health care tax is going to remain on the books, let’s find ways of delivering support for health/dental care with it instead of using these dollars as a slush fund for totally unrelated spending as has happened in the past.
Thanks to all those who continue corresponding with me during the legislative interim. The House may not be in session, but prep work already is taking place to hit the ground running in 2020. Your input always is welcome!