Monthly Archive for May, 2017

MN Department of Health Groundwater Update

By Rep. Tony Jurgens and Rep. Keith Franke, 5/23/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) informed us that it has issued updated health-based advisory values for two industrial chemicals present in groundwater in the East Metro area (mainly parts of Lake Elmo and Cottage Grove not served by city water). We wanted to share with you what we know at the moment, and what will be happening going forward.

Most importantly: the department tells us drinking water with PFOA or PFOS, even at levels above the updated values, does not represent an immediate health risk. The values are designed to reduce long-term health risks across the population and are based on multiple safety factors to protect the most vulnerable citizens, which makes them over-protective for most residents.

According to the health department, PFOA and PFOS are two members of a category of chemicals called perfluorochemicals (PFCs). These chemicals were used for decades in stain repellants, non-stick cookware, and other consumer and industrial products. The 3M Company disposed of PFC-containing wastes in several disposal sites in Washington County, and the chemicals subsequently moved into the groundwater across a wide area. The groundwater is used as a source of drinking water in many East Metro communities.

State of Minnesota health officials have identified about 120 private wells in the East Metro area with water that exceeds the updated values. In addition, Cottage Grove, Oakdale, and Woodbury have a number of supply wells for their public drinking water systems affected by the updated values. Local officials are in the process of determining what actions they may take in response to the updated values.

According to MDH program manager Jim Kelly, the previous guidance limited exposure to a very low level – well below the level at which most people would be expected to experience any health impacts. Recent biomonitoring data show that PFCs in East Metro residents have been dropping, and the updated values will further reduce the long-term exposure risk for people with the greatest vulnerability.

When updated values are issued, MDH and MPCA work with local systems and private well owners to determine how best to respond. This often includes additional private well sampling, providing filters for private well owners who may not have other options, and changes to community water supplies to reduce PFC levels. Simple filters that go on the kitchen tap work well to remove the chemicals from the water and reduce exposure. In some cases, using bottled water for drinking may be recommended until other remedies are in place.

The updated values are health recommendations to local officials operating public water supplies and to private well owners in the affected areas. In addition, these values are used by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and other agencies to take action that ensures that polluting entities are held accountable for clean-up and remediation of contaminated sites.

PFCs can build up in the body over time. They also can be passed on to fetuses through the placenta and to nursing infants through breast milk. This is why MDH notes that pregnant women in the affected communities and those using water from affected groundwater sources to prepare infant formula may consider using bottled water or filtration to reduce PFC exposure.

On June 7, MDH and MPCA, along with local officials, will hold a public informational meeting from 6-8 p.m. at the Cottage Grove City Hall to answer any questions residents may have, and we hope you’ll join us there.

Though the department tells us this news does not mean there is an immediate health risk, we are obviously concerned and want to help our constituents deal with this issue in any way we can. Going forward, our offices stand ready to help residents who may be impacted and to answer any questions. Please contact us at any time. To reach Rep. Franke’s office, please send an email to rep.keith.franke@house.mn or call 651-296-4342. To reach Rep. Jurgens’ office, email rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or call 651-296-3135.

MDH officials plan to speak with us tomorrow in person to give us an update. We will be sure to update you with what we learn.

Sincerely,
State Representatives Tony Jurgens and Keith Franke

Rep Tony Jurgens Capitol Update: Real ID (5/19/2017)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/19/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

Minnesotans who were concerned about their ability to board an airplane next year can now rest easier. The House and Senate approved a proposal this week that brings Minnesota into full compliance with the federal Real ID act and it was signed into law by Governor Dayton.

In 2018, Minnesotans will need to obtain Real ID-compliant identification in order to board an airplane or visit a military base, which is why this bill was critically needed. This will provide a dual track system so those who want a Real ID compliant license can get one but those who prefer the current license can choose to do that as well. Approving this legislation was one of the goals I had coming into the House this session, and I’m pleased we were able to get Real ID done and with significant bipartisan support.

An area where bipartisan support is always needed is capital investment. This is legislation that funds the construction of statewide infrastructure projects. This week, the House attempted to approve an $800 million dollar capital investment plan, which prioritized transportation infrastructure, public facilities, and asset preservation.

In the House, 81 votes are needed to approve any capital investment bill so it requires bipartisan support. Unfortunately, nearly all Democrats voted ‘no’ to kill the bill.

This was surprising since House Democrats have been clamoring for a bonding bill all year, and then they voted it down. I truly don’t know if we’ll see another proposal brought forward before session ends, which would be unfortunate.

Budget talks are once again underway with Governor Dayton. By late Monday night, the 2017 legislative session will come to an end, so I remain hopeful that the Legislature can find a compromise with Governor Dayton and we can put our next budget into place.

I’ll be sure to keep you updated on any progress made.

This week I was pleased to congratulate Cottage Grove students Meegan Frank and Anna Dale for being named Comcast Leaders and Achievers Scholarship winners.

Mitchell O’Brien from Hastings also received the award, and was joined by his parents Kari and Tim. Congratulations to all of the recipients!

Students from Grey Cloud Elementary in Cottage Grove also visited the State Capitol on Friday. It’s always good to see kids interested in state government.

Talk to you soon,
Tony

State Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Rep Keith Franke Capitol Update: One week away (5/12/2017)

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Representative Keith Franke

Representative Keith Franke

By Rep. Keith Franke, 5/12/2017

Dear Neighbors,

We’re just over a week away from the close of the 2017 session, and we’re still making progress to our end goal of crafting a responsible budget for Minnesota. Just this week, we passed some of our compromise budget bills, including a $1.1 billion tax relief bill that targets working families, senior citizens, recent college grads and more. There’s still lots of work left before the end of session, but I’m pleased to see some of these top priorities coming together.

First Bill Passes
This week, the House of Representatives passed my bill off the floor, HF2047, on a unanimous vote of 128-0. The legislation requires the Department of Health, working in conjunction with the Department of Human Services and stakeholders, to develop a comprehensive plan identifying strategies to:

  • Determine levels of testing, care, and services necessary to eliminate HIV/AIDS
  • Determine specific outcomes that must be met
  • Provide recommendations for how to leverage existing funds
  • Provide recommendations for new and enhanced interventions, and additional resources needed

I’m extremely humbled to pass my first bill with unanimous, bipartisan support. This legislation has a chance to make a difference in the lives of countless Minnesotans, and could help reduce or eliminate HIV/AIDS in our state.

Local Schools
On Wednesday, I joined St. Paul Park mayor Sandi Dingle to greet students participating in Walk and Bike to School. I was fortunate to meet with students from Pullman Elementary as they walked or rode their bikes to start the school day. It was a great visit!

Please Contact Me
As I said before, we have just a week left of session, so it’s more important than ever to reach out if you have questions on what we’re discussing. Feel free to call or email my office if you need anything.
Lastly, be sure to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to a mom in your life!

Enjoy your weekend, and Happy Mother’s Day!
Keith

State Representative Keith Franke
567 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-4342
rep.keith.franke@house.mn

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Rep Tony Jurgens Capitol Update: A busy week (5/12/2017)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/12/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

A busy week has ended at the State Capitol, as the House and Senate reached a compromise on a budget and spent the past few days approving a number of those compromise spending proposals.

To me, the highlight was our $1.15 billion tax relief proposal for middle-class Minnesotans. Some highlights:

  • Under the plan, nearly 322,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) would receive tax reductions by increasing the income limit thresholds for the taxation of social security income. For example, seniors making $50,000 would see an average tax savings of $425.
  • 65,000 students will receive an average of a $414 reduction in their taxes through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments.
  • Approximately 240,000 farmers could receive property tax relief to reduce their disproportionate share of school district debt service by reducing the burden they pay for school bond levies.
  • Families of four making $50,000 a year will receive an additional $1,200 towards their child care expenses by modifying the child and dependent care credit.
  • Every Main Street business owner will see relief by exempting the first $150,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing its automatic inflator.

We also approved a transportation bill that would dedicate more than $5 billion to our road and bridge needs without raising taxes, and a K-12 Education bill that invests more than $1 billion in new revenue into our schools. More budget proposals are expected to be brought forward Monday.

This week Col. Garlough of the Minnesota Civil Air Patrol presented me with a certificate as member of CAP Legislative Squadron.

I also took part in a groundbreaking ceremony in Cottage Grove for an all-inclusive playground at Woodridge Park.

Thursday marked Minnesota’s 159th birthday. On Statehood Day, the chandelier in the Capitol Rotunda is lit – the only time it is lit unless a governor is lying in state.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

State Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Rep Tony Jurgens Capitol Update: CTIB (5/8/2017)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/8/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

Lost in our House transportation proposal that would provide $6 billion over the next ten years to our infrastructure needs without raising taxes is a provision that would add $50 million to the budgets of both Dakota and Washington counties.

Some background: in 2008 the Legislature allowed for the creation of the Counties Transit Improvement Board (CTIB), a group of five Metro Area counties that agreed to levy a one-quarter-of-one-percent sales tax to pay for transit projects throughout the region. This occurred through a joint powers agreement between Anoka, Hennepin, Ramsey, Washington and Dakota counties to control how the body operated and how revenue is allocated.

Since then, that sales tax has been collected in all five of these counties to fund transit projects.

Last year Dakota County, recognizing that it was not getting nearly the bang for the buck it had hoped for when agreeing to partner with the other four counties – voted to withdraw from CTIB, which is a two and a half year process. Later the remaining four counties voted to dissolve CTIB completely – a process in which all five counties must agree.

Once again, Dakota County analyzed the parameters of dissolving CTIB, and felt the distribution of money was not equitable to their taxpayers, so they voted to block the dissolution.

The House transportation finance bill seeks to direct a dissolution of CTIB. Under the bill, Dakota County would receive $30 million and Washington County would receive approximately $20 million more of the sales tax they paid into CTIB than they would have under the five-county CTIB dissolution proposals, according to the latest offer.

There are a few other items of note in this legislation: a county can increase its sales tax from one-quarter-of one-percent to one-half-of-one-percent, but it first must ask the voters for permission through a referendum. The counties can also continue with the sales tax that’s in place, but they cannot use those funds for bus rapid transit or light rail unless they’ve received permission from the Legislature.

Why? Let’s say a new light rail line is constructed. Once it is in place, the state is on the hook for 50 percent of its continuing costs into perpetuity. In essence, state taxpayers are forced to spend billions and billions of dollars on its operational and maintenance costs from now until the end of time. Further, for each additional line those operating costs are continually taken out of transportation funding, leading to fewer dollars being spent on road and bridge needs in the Metro Area and throughout the state. It’s only fair that the state weighs in on these projects.

With a gain of $30 million, I’m told Dakota County commissioners support this House provision.

I know that at least one Washington County commissioner isn’t as enthusiastic, upset that the legislation would create a loss of local control.

People certainly have a right to that opinion. But you can’t argue with real dollars and lost revenue to the county. Last week I confirmed with Washington County that supporting the original CTIB dissolution over the House legislation would result in a loss of $20 million to the County.

In essence, those who don’t support this legislation would rather send $20 million to Minneapolis and St. Paul.

While I support this bill, I don’t take this legislative action lightly. A point can be made that the counties in CTIB should be allowed to dissolve in a manner they see fit. But when the taxpayers in the two counties I represent are being short changed in the agreement, then I am going to fight for them every time.

Talk to you soon,
Tony

State Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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