This article was originally posted on
Legislative Update 6-3-2015
A lot has happened since my last update. Here is a short take on what's been going on at the Capitol and in the district.
Special Session Update
The need for a special session has grown since my last update. Governor Dayton vetoed three omnibus bills. You can read his veto messages by following these links: the environment and agriculture bill, the jobs and energy bill, and the education bill. I voted against all three bills. Still unaddressed are a bonding and legacy bill. In addition to that, we couldn't pass a tax bill and were only able to pass a transportation bill that merely maintained the status quo by "keeping the lights on."
I started the session with hopes of creating a budget that was balanced between competing priorities, including strategic investments in education and transportation, providing targeted tax relief, and replenishing Minnesota's rainy day fund. All of that progress could have been achieved because Minnesota had a projected budget surplus of nearly $2 billion dollars. It's disappointing that the 2015 legislative session ended without significant progress on the major issues we promised to work on this session.
In the end, partisan differences between the two parties brought us to where we stand today. It appears that an agreement between Governor Dayton and the Republican House Majority has been reached on education, which doesn't fund universal Pre-K, but does increase the per pupil funding formula by 2% each of the next two years. That's the minimum that many school districts are saying is necessary to maintain their current operations. Considering that we're 24% below the funding levels we were at in 2003, this is a move in the right directions.
We haven't heard whether or not any progress has been made with the environment and agriculture bill or the jobs and energy bill. Both bills rolled back decades of progress on making sure we have clean air and water and that Minnesota continued to lead the country in safe, clean and efficient energy production.
I'm hopeful that we'll see a compromise emerge during the next few days as Governor Dayton and the House Republicans negotiate a deal. We've never had a shutdown or been so far apart when our state budget has been so strong. We need to reach a deal soon because if we don't people will lose their jobs on July 1.
Visit to Sioux Trail School
I have been receiving letters from sixth grade students at Sioux Trail School on legislation that they would like to see enacted. Their main topics were: prohibiting smoking around children and in parks, helping the homeless, and lots on distracted driving behaviors. Another idea was to make it illegal to drop cigarette butts around trails and in parks. Yet another wants more containers for plastic bags available so there wouldn't be so much litter.
As a follow-up, I had the privilege of meeting with the students at their school yesterday. I asked how many of them did see people smoking in parks and I was shocked when most of the students raised their hands. I guess we still have a lot of educating to do with adults. It certainly seems like sixth graders understand the problems caused by second-hand smoke. It is impressive to receive the letters and see how aware these young people are about the environment in which they live.
MnDOT Noise Policy Approved
The Federal Highway Administration has approved the MnDOT Noise Policy for Type I Federal-Aid Projects that was submitted earlier this year. You can view the documents at this link. This is pretty timely since those driving on 35E through Eagan get to observe a noise barrier under construction on a daily basis.
I'll keep you updated as we prepare for a special session. As always, please don't hesitate to contact me with your comments or to share your concerns.