OPINION: Highlights of the legislative session
Tuesday, June 04, 2013 8:18 AM
Now that the 2013 legislative session has concluded, I'm happy to be home spending time with my beautiful wife, Janel, and our 15-month-old son, Drew. Janel and I are expecting identical twin boys in August, so things have been a bit chaotic.
In addition, I'm back to work full-time at Miller Scrap, our family recycling business that dates back to 1910. I left my suits and ties at the Capitol, and it feels good to be back in boots and jeans at the scrap yard.
This legislative session will undoubtedly be remembered for a few key pieces of legislation, including the legalization of same-sex marriage, childcare unionization and the passage of the largest tax bill in state history; over $2 billion in new tax increases in addition to other fees and surcharges.
The $2 billion tax increase combined with $1 billion in projected new revenue will increase government spending in the next biennium by $3 billion or 8.1 percent.
I believe the Legislature and governor should be focused on creating a more efficient, effective government, not a more expensive one.
Other highlights of this legislative session that may not be getting as much attention include funding for the Southeast Minnesota Veterans Cemetery to be located in Fillmore County, the Higher Education budget, the expansion of all-day, everyday kindergarten and the passage of Region 10 Quality Assurance legislation.
I was honored to continue working with Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, local officials and veterans organizations from Fillmore County, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs and others to secure funding to keep the Southeast Minnesota Veterans Cemetery on schedule.
Our growing population of aging veterans has created a need for additional cemetery space and the new veterans cemetery in our region means a tremendous amount to veterans and their families. I'm proud to be honoring our veterans in this way.
The Higher Education budget freezes tuition during the next two years at all Minnesota State Colleges and Universities (MnSCU) and the University of Minnesota (UofM) campuses and increases funding to the State Grant Program.
It also includes performance metrics that MnSCU and the UofM must meet before their funding is fully appropriated. Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, is to be commended for his efforts on this legislation and I was happy to serve with him on the conference committee.
A highlight of the E-12 Education budget is the investment in all-day, everyday kindergarten. While I'm an advocate for all-day kindergarten, this budget also includes the reinstatement of a statewide property tax called the General Education Levy, which I did not support.
I was happy to continue working with local disability organizations on Region 10 Quality Assurance, which works to improve services and efficiencies provided to those with developmental disabilities.
Thank you to all of the residents of Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties who wrote, called, emailed and visited during this legislative session. Your thoughts, experience and expertise is critically important in the legislative and decision making process at the Capitol.
I am honored to serve as your State Senator and hope to see you in district this interim. Please continue to call (651) 296-5649 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, if I can be helpful on any legislative issues.