March 17, 2017
This week, the House and Senate have been working hard hearing bills as we reached the second committee deadline; this is the second of three legislative deadlines set for bills to move forward. Now, committees will begin putting together their larger budget bills. Friday, March 31 is the third and final committee deadline.
Here is a brief look at legislative activities this week.
GIVING ALL STUDENTS THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE SUCCESSFUL
Folks who live in the Rochester area are fortunate – we have very good schools for all grade levels. Unfortunately, too many students in Minnesota are falling through the cracks. We have the worst achievement gap in the nation, and it seems like no amount of spending has had led to any improvement. I have authored a program specifically dedicated to selected students in low income families who are struggling and not likely to succeed in their current situation. It is clearly not “the solution” but would likely benefit some students.
One way of thinking outside the box is to give “high risk” kids a chance is through the Opportunity Scholarship Program. It is a program especially dedicated to selected students in low income families who are struggling and not likely to succeed in their current situation.
This week the Senate Education Finance Committee heard a bill that would provide scholarships to help low income families select a different school environment for their children. I currently chief author a similar bill.
The scholarships would be entirely privately funded, and administered by non-profits approved by the state. Every student deserves the chance to graduate. This bill does exactly what it says: it gives students a new opportunity and has proven successful in other states that implemented similar legislation.
Note: My epiphany moment on this need came a couple of years ago as I was touring the intake department at the St. Cloud State Reformatory. The weekly busload of prisoners from Hennepin County arrived. It is something I will never forget. We can do better.
DURAL TRAINING PROGRAMS TO BUILD A STRONG WORKFORCE
One big challenge facing Minnesota companies – particularly in industries like manufacturing – is an ongoing workforce shortage. There are jobs available, but those jobs often require specialized skills.
This week, the Senate Jobs Committee heard a bill I am authoring, Senate File 1846, which aims to connect these companies to potential employees with grants to the Minnesota Pipeline Project. The Pipeline project serves as a catalyst to help companies in targeted industries build apprenticeship-type programs that allow employees to “earn while they learn” these valuable skills. The bill was laid over and will be considered for the Jobs Committee budget bill.
This week, in the Committee on Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing, I presented a bill proposing to change the state statute that allocates tax-exempt bonding for housing. Each year, the state of Minnesota receives a limited amount of authority to issue tax-exempt bonds from the federal government. These bonds are mainly used to finance affordable homeownership and rental housing. The bill I presented would create a new priority structure for this program.
BRIDGES TO HEALTHCARE
In the Jobs and Economic Growth Committee, I presented a bill that would appropriate money to continue an important job training program at Hawthorn School and other locations. The bill would provide career education and job training in high-demand health care fields.
MINNESOTA PREMIUM HEALTH CARE SECURTY PLAN
The rising cost of health insurance coverage is the most frequent issue I hear about. In the past, we have offered several ideas to fix MNsure, but none of these ideas were accepted. We made a promise that, as a new majority, working on reforming the health care system in Minnesota would be our top priority.
We quickly honored that promise with our first bill, the Health Care Emergency Aid and Access Act. However, we were clear that would only be step one.
This week, we passed step two: the Minnesota Premium Security Plan. This bill creates a new reinsurance program in Minnesota to help stabilize the soaring costs on the individual market and ease some of the cost pressure on those families.
MNsure didn’t destroy our health insurance market overnight, and it won’t be rebuilt overnight either. But the first two health care bills we’ve passed are important first steps on our long road to more affordable health insurance costs. We will continue to work on more long-term reforms that provide even better competition, better access, and lower costs for Minnesota families.
MINNESOTA UNITED SOCCER STADIUM
I am excited to report that I am authoring the bill which will result in the construction of the new Major League Soccer stadium in St. Paul. Team owners will pay the $150 construction costs. My bill exempts the construction materials from sales tax and continues the property tax exemptions on the land where the stadium will be built. These exemptions are consistent with other major league sports stadiums built in Minnesota.
Interest in professional soccer is huge; 35,000 people showed up in cold, snowy weather to watch the Minnesota United FC Loons play their first game last Sunday at TCF stadium. This will be an exciting addition to Minnesota’s sports menu.
SOME VISITORS AT THE CAPITOL THIS WEEK
Minnesota Builders Association
Emergency Medical Transport Services
John Pereda, Dakota County Area Learning School
Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota
Chester Woods Trail Advocates
Emergency Medical Transport
Mental Health Day at the Capitol
David H. Senjem
3401 Minnesota Senate Building
St. Paul, MN 55155