As of Tuesday, the 2014 legislative session is officially underway. It's good to be back in St. Paul as we get to work tackling the long list of issues ahead of us before the constitutionally-mandated May 19 adjournment date. Here are some updates from the first week of the 2014 session:
The first week of the 2014 legislative session is in the books.
It has been good returning to the Capitol to address important issues. This is scheduled to be a relatively shorts session in a non-budget year, but we still face a number of key decisions.
Here is a snapshot of this week’s headlines:
We're just a few days away from the start of session, so I wanted to send along one last interim update on the community events I've been able to attend over the past couple of weeks, and give you a preview of issues I'll be working on this session.
Earlier this month, Minnesotans gathered for their respective precinct caucuses, the first step in the 2014 election process. I wanted to thank those of you who took time out of your busy lives to get involved--regardless of party--in your local caucus. The world belongs to those who show up, and I appreciate your commitment and dedication to the political process in shaping the future of your respective political party and the state as a whole.
AMSD Legislative Preview
On Friday, February 7th, I attended the Association of Metropolitan School Districts' (AMSD) 2014 Legislative Preview event. In attendance were a number of local school officials and other elected officials to hear from the AMSD about their legislative priorities for 2014. We also heard from Minnesota's Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius.
This was the first of several pre-session events I attended in the last few weeks. I also attended an Education Summit on February 6th put on by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce where we heard from a number of speakers about education reform and ways we can tackle our state's unacceptable achievement gap. That weekend, I got the chance to attend a joint event on February 8th put on by the Minnesota Agricultural Education Leadership Council, the Minnesota Association of Agricultural Educators, and the Minnesota FFA for their legislative breakfast. There we heard about some of the unique issues facing Minnesota's agriculture industry, and the educators who work in the field of agricultural education. On Monday, Februray 10th, I attended the Legislative Institute on Child Development Research and Policy, where we heard from leading experts about child development and ways to increase learning and achievement for our youngest learners.
It's that time of year again! Precinct Caucuses are the event that officially kicks off the political season. A precinct caucus is a meeting organized by Minnesota's political parties where citizens can engage each other in a conversation about which candidates to support in the next general election and what public policy positions should be adopted as part of the party platform.
Attend your precinct caucuses to have a voice in who should be on the ballot as the endorsed candidates. You can even signup to be a delegate to the convention and actually vote on who gets the party endorsement. As a delegate you also have the chance to vote on what is and what is not included in the party platform, which defines what the party believes in.
The SD57 Precinct Caucuses will be held on Tuesday, February 4th, 2014 at 7:00 PM. They will be held at Eastview High School, located at 6200 140th Street West, Apple Valley, MN (map).
One thing you can do to make this event easier for you is to verify which precinct you are located in. Even if you've looked it up in the past, you'll want to do it again as Minnesota has recently redrawn the precinct boundary lines. You can look up which precinct you are in here.
If you have any questions, let us know!
The legislature has reinstated the PCR program, so take advantage of it while you can!
What is the PCR program?
The Political Contribution Refund (PCR) program, allows individuals to donate up to $50 per person, or $100 for married couples, to a candidate or party of their choice and apply for a refund of their contribution from the state. The program is available to all individuals eligible to vote in Minnesota and they may file one refund application per year. Contributions to all parties and/or candidates that agree to abide by spending limits are eligible.
Quite simply, it's essentially like making a short term loan to the political party/candidate of your choice and the state will pay you back.
Donations to which candidates are eligible?
Donations to the following are eligible for refund:
Donations to the following are NOT eligible for refund:
Sounds great! How do I participate?
To receive a refund, a contributor must:
So if you'd like to donate to SD57, you can donate here and we'll send you a receipt. You fill out the form and attach the receipt and mail it to the address above. In a few weeks, the state will send you a check for your contribution amount up to $50 per individual.
The Senate District 57 Republicans will be hosting a "Meet The Candidates" event in a "speed dating" format so you can get to know the next Governor of Minnesota! You and a few other fellow Republicans will sit at each table and each candidate will move from table to table getting to know you and answering your questions in a small group setting.
We tried this for the first time four years ago and it was a great success. Both attendees and the candidates liked being able to converse and ask questions in such a small group setting. So we're trying it again this year!
It will be held on January 11th from 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM, with doors opening at 6:00 PM. It will be held at:
Admission costs $20, which also gets you Pizza and pop. Alternately, attendees can make a $50 donation through the (Political Contribution Refund) PCR program, which allows you to make a donation to a political party which will then be refunded by the state.
Due to space limitations only the first 100 attendees will be admitted. To reserve your spot, please RSVP!
Today the legislature voted to provide $4.5 million dollars in disaster relief funding for 18 counties across the state of Minnesota during a one-day special session. It was great to see my colleagues and for all of us to come together in a bipartisan fashion to support much-needed relief for the areas impacted by the severe storms in June 2013 that caused widespread damage across Minnesota.
The House voted 127-1, with all Republicans voting in support of the measure. The Senate passed the bill unanimously 59-0. The Governor is expected to sign the bill in the coming days. While I was disappointed that we missed an opportunity to fix the tax mistakes impacting Minnesota businesses and families, I look forward to making that a priority when the legislature reconvenes in 2014.
Here are some additional updates from the past couple of weeks:
As many of you know, yesterday was Night to Unite (formerly National Night Out), a night where communities around Minnesota and across the country gather to greet their neighbors for block parties. The event is used primarily to strengthen neighborhood relationships, and encourage drug and crime prevention awareness.
Strong relationships in our neighborhoods and communities are one of the best tools against crime. Many law enforcement organizations participate in Night to Unite as a way to promote tips on how to make your neighborhood safer.
Thanks to everyone in Rosemount and Apple Valley for the kind reception -- I had hoped to make it to more gatherings, but the severe weather cut the evening's festivities short.
I also met with Dakota County Regional Chamber President Vicki Stute on Monday. Much of our conversation was on the new warehousing tax that was passed last session, and how it's already costing Minnesota jobs and growth opportunities for existing companies. We agreed that we need to be taking steps to make Minnesota's business climate more attractive so we can create jobs, rather than encouraging them to go elsewhere.
Apple Valley, Rosemount, Coates unlikely to see property tax relief
I've received a number of questions this summer about property taxes. There has been a lot of talk this summer about property taxes, and with it comes some confusion about what it would mean for our area. Despite claims that property taxes are going down, it's unlikely that homeowners in Apple Valley, Rosemount, and Coates are going to see any relief on their property tax statements.
The DFL majority is claiming that increasing government aid to local cities and counties qualifies as property tax relief. In a sense, they are right. Many communities around Minnesota receive local government aid (LGA), and could use those increased payments to lower their overall levy.
Unfortunately, our communities do not receive LGA. That means that there's no new government money coming in that would allow the cities of Apple Valley, Rosemount, and Coates to lower their property tax levies.
In fact, it was decided at Monday night's school board meeting that the Apple Valley-Eagan-Rosemount school district will be asking taxpayers for $10 million dollars per year -- which works out to about $184 dollars for the owner of a $225,000 home, the average for the school district.
Have a great rest of your week,
State Representative, District 57B
I wanted to share with you some updates from this past week, and a look at the week ahead.
Monday evening marked the end of the 2013 Legislative Session. The final weekend of session was marked by many late nights which were necessary to pass the bills that now have either been signed or are still awaiting the Governor's signature for the 2014-2015 biennium budget.
Next week I plan to send out a session wrap-up detailing our work this session here at the legislature. In the meantime, here are some highlights from the last weekend: