In the final days of session, it takes deft negotiation between leadership at the legislature and the Governor’s office to get things done. Each group and the individuals within each group have varying priorities and ideas and the negotiations that ensue are a key part of the democratic process. I feel strongly about vetting ideas and working with my colleagues to come to agreeable compromises. However, this legislative session has been held captive by widespread unwillingness to compromise.
I took a stand on the floor this past week. My comments were in regards to our second attempt at passing the Sunset Commission Bill. This bill had been pre-agreed to twice, yet it was still being blocked by a Senate member.
Please click here to view my comments.
Omnibus Tax Bill
Just this morning, Governor Dayton vetoed the omnibus tax bill. He did so because he was unwilling to commit to tax relief that would increase our future deficit. The Governor is not wrong on that yet I did vote for the bill. I do so in the spirit of compromise. The bill contained some very good and important provisions. The bill increased our investment in the Angel Investment Tax Credit. It eliminated the upfront exemption on Capitol Equipment and reduced business property taxes. All of these things should be part of an overall comprehensive tax reform effort. I would have preferred doing the necessary reform to pay for these first provisions but that was not in the bill. Therefore, as an act of good faith I voted for the bill to express my commitment to overall tax reform. The bill also contained tax credits for businesses to hire veterans and young adults entering the workforce.
I have been fighting for a regionally-balanced bonding bill. Unfortunately, the bonding bill expected to be heard on the Senate floor is far smaller and leaves pressing infrastructure needs in Duluth, Mankato, Rochester, St. Paul and Minneapolis with little or no investment and woefully shortchanging the University of Minnesota and other important investments in our state’s economy and future prosperity.
I will continue to work over the weekend advocating for changes to be made so that the bill represents the best we can deliver. At the end of the day it is my hope to vote for the bonding bill.
Transportation Policy Bill passes Senate
I would like to take this opportunity to give you all an update on the I-494 congestion relief project. I received a letter from Thomas K. Sorel, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) regarding the status of the project. He said that based on the strong advocacy of our legislative delegation and the Plymouth City Officials they were prepared to commit to study both a short term and a long term solution to the 494 lane congestion issue. They have already begun to study the best way to accomplish a short term fix and will start the process of studying whether to use a managed lane solution for not just this section of highway but the whole 494 corridor. (Managed lane is what the 394 MN Pass is.) While I am not satisfied with the progress I am pleased that we are finally getting the much needed attention that this issue deserves. I thank the Plymouth Mayor and City Council folks as well as the Minnetonka officials for partnering with us to make sure our voices are being heard. I also thought it was important to get this on the record so I spoke about it during the debate on the transportation bill. You can click here to watch the clip. However, the hour was late and my words are weary so listen but cut me some slack.
Below is a list of the notable provisions included the legislation:
Safe routes to school. The program would fund infrastructure improvements that would promote safe and accessible non-motorized access to schools. This legislation does not contain any funding for the project but instead only includes language. This has been a federal program but with federal dollars being limited it gives the state the ability to continue the program.
MVST and Fuel tax exemptions. Community based or medical assistance homes are exempt from the gas tax when transporting clients to day training and habilitation. Qualifying mobile medical units also get an exemption from fuel taxes and Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST).
Motorcycle road guard certificate. If training has been completed the department may issue a certificate to allow for a motorcycle road guard to direct traffic contrary to traffic control signals. The motorcycle road guard must notify the local authorities if these powers will be utilized in a local jurisdiction.
Teacher Performance vs. Seniority Lay-off Bill Vetoed
Governor Dayton has vetoed this bill. I have written about this before so it comes as no surprise to those who are for or against this that I am disappointed with this result. If I am blessed to be back next year I will reach out to both sides in an attempt to make sure we keep our very best teachers in the classroom regardless of date of hire. I will also advocate for increased compensation for our treasured teachers as my support for this bill reflects my strong appreciation for their value rather than the opposite.
Stadium vote planned for Monday in House.
After a late entry roofless Stadium proposal backed by general fund dollars was rejected by the Governor, key Legislators and the team, we are back to the original proposal. I will say that I have received hundreds and hundreds of e-mails following that proposal announcement begging me to support the original deal and to help pass the stadium bill. I understand there are those who oppose but I also want you to know I am getting swamped with strong expressions of support. Now a decision is about to be rendered on an issue that has hung over the legislative session like a purple cloud. The bill is a House file so they will debate it on Monday and then we will take it up after, providing they pass it. It is my hope that we in the Senate have our opportunity to support and pass this bill.
Related: Strib: Monday is D-Day for the stadium
Following adjournment we will send a final Capitol Update. Until then enjoy the warm weather.