Monthly Archive for May, 2018

Rep Tony Jurgens Capitol Update (5/30/2018)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/30/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

There’s good news and bad news to report from St. Paul as Governor Dayton has taken action on compromise legislation approved by the Minnesota House and Senate.

Unfortunately the bad news is pretty bad. Governor Dayton vetoed two major pieces of legislation, the supplemental budget bill and a proposal that provided funding for our schools, instituted tax relief and conformed state and federal tax laws.

On the taxes side of the equation, tax conformity was critical this session because when the federal government approved new tax laws, Minnesota needed to adjust its state income tax policies in order to match up with the new guidelines. The plan also provided the first tax rate cut in 20 years, which would have benefited millions of Minnesotans. With the veto all of that is gone, plus filing your income taxes next year is expected to be more difficult, and it’s now estimated that roughly 300,000 Minnesotans will actually face tax increases because of this decision.

Schools also took a hit. Our proposal provided up to $225 million to assist school districts statewide, which resulted in well over $1 million lost for Hastings and South Washington County.

Our supplemental budget plan would have prevented a 7% cut to the Disability Waiver Rate System, which impacts people with disabilities and their caretakers. Special education and Head Start students, people in need of mental health support; opioid addiction victims; and deputy registrars whose businesses are floundering due to the MNLARS mess are among those who will also suffer from the governor’s decision. Unfortunately, my provision that addresses school lunch shaming was included in the bill the governor vetoed. This is an issue I feel very strongly about so I intend to continue working on it in the future.

The vetoes are difficult for me to comprehend, especially since the bills passed with bipartisan support and the governor couldn’t really give any significant reasons why he made the moves. Also keep in mind these bills included a number of provisions he fought for, and that the Legislature addressed, eliminated, or altered 70% of other concerns he had with our proposals. I fear these vetoes were nothing more than political gamesmanship, which is the type of action that makes most Minnesotans cringe.

On the brighter side, the governor did sign into law our capital investment proposal. This includes $178 million in asset preservation, some of which will be utilized at the Hastings Veterans Home. Also included was funding for my proposal that will help create the Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center proposal in Washington County, as well as the Dakota County SMART Center.

The governor also signed a bill that addresses the $850 million settlement between 3M and the State of Minnesota, which will help ensure the funds are used only in the East Metro in order to keep our drinking water clean.

Though this legislative session ended with some ups and downs, I’m pleased with the success stories that were brought forward during my first term as your state representative. Whether it was historic tax relief for the middle class and hundreds of millions of dollars dedicated to transportation at the state level, or protecting Highway 316 speed limits in Hastings and providing guardrails for 3M settlement dollars at the local level, we made good progress in a number of areas.

In other news, it was great to see many of you at our local Memorial Day events. I was pleased to attend the Hastings Veterans Home flag ceremony, a Memorial Day service, and a wreath ceremony in Hastings Monday morning.

As well as Cottage Grove’s Memorial Day service later that afternoon.

That was followed by a return to Hastings to greet the dozens of individuals who braved 100 degree heat to walk 28 miles from Red Wing to Hastings as part of their Memorial Day March for Them.

These events were not only terrific but touching, and it was a privilege to be in attendance. Hats off to all of the organizers who spent countless hours planning these ceremonies, reminding us that freedom isn’t free and honoring those men and women who paid the ultimate price.

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 (5/25/2018)

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Representative Keith Franke

Representative Keith Franke

By Rep. Keith Franke, 5/25/2018

Dear Neighbors,

Last Sunday, we finished up the 2018 legislative session by passing our major bills containing initiatives like tax conformity and school safety. I believe I was successfully able to advocate for our area, and help pass provisions important to local residents. Protecting our drinking water, keeping our schools safer, and increasing penalties for those who break the law behind the wheel are significant provisions I was able to push for and help get passed in the legislature. It’s unfortunate that Governor Dayton decided to veto some of our major bipartisan proposals, but I’m hoping to see some of my provisions signed into law to help our area and our state.

Local Bills

This session, I’ve been working hard on issues that impact our area. I co-authored a bill to ensure transparency regarding the $850 million 3M settlement, as well as place some needed guardrails on how this money is allocated. Our bill makes sure the funds are used in our area – where it belongs – to enhance the quality and sustainability of drinking water. This legislation passed on a wide bipartisan vote in the House, and I’m hoping to see the governor sign it into law.

I also had a local project – the Seidl’s Lake stormwater lift station – included in our bonding proposal that we passed this year. Another important part of our bonding bill is nearly $9.5 million to fund the HERO Center in Cottage Grove. My friend and colleague, Rep. Tony Jurgens, authored this bill, and I was one of the co-authors. The HERO Center would be a big addition to our area to help train first responders. I’m really hoping the governor will put aside the partisan politics and at least sign our bonding bill so we can get moving on these important projects.

Public Safety Provisions Vetoed

One of my priorities in the legislature is keeping Minnesotans safe. On this topic, there’s not a more important way to protect our residents than to improve school safety. This year, we passed a bill containing my provision to require and fund school districts to establish a threat assessment team, which include members in various areas of expertise relating to school safety, who must assess, intervene, and report individuals that may pose a safety risk to the school. I believe this is one piece of the puzzle in helping keep our schools safer for students, teachers, and staff.

Another bill I authored would increase penalties for distracted driving if a driver is using their cell phone and injures or kills someone. I was able to pass a modified version of this that increases the penalties for those caught texting and driving, hopefully deterring this behavior behind the wheel.

I also put some of my life experience to use in order to advocate for new ways to prevent and treat addiction. I passed one provision to combat the opioid epidemic by modifying prescribing limits. Another frees up federal grant dollars on a two-to-one match to get people assistance with recovery and addiction issues. The issue of addiction has taken on a whole new light with the recent passing of my friend and employee, and I hope we can continue to make strides in helping those struggling with this disease. If you’re interested, here’s a clip of me speaking about this devastating experience on the House floor.

The governor vetoed the bill that contained all of these safety provisions, and I’ve been having trouble understanding why. He started out with over 100 objections to our bill and we removed or modified nearly 70% of them, meeting him much further than halfway. I’m extremely disappointed to see my provisions to improve school safety, make our roads safer, and fight addiction in our state be vetoed. To me, it seems like partisan politics came before all of these issues for the governor. It’s tough to handle, but also motivates me even more to get these provisions signed into law.

Please Contact Me

Despite the recent setbacks, it’s been an incredible two sessions in St. Paul. I’m truly honored to serve our area and it’s been amazing to interact with so many residents of our district and bring your insights and opinions back to the Capitol. Though session is ending, I hope you’ll still call or email if I can ever be of assistance.

Memorial Day

It’ll be a warm Memorial Day weekend. Though it looks and feels like the official start to summer, it’s important to remember the reason behind Memorial Day. This is a time for us to honor those who’ve fought and died for our country. We owe so much to these brave men and women for sacrificing everything so we can live free.

Sincerely,

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 (5/21/2018)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/21/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

The 2018 Legislative Session has come to a close, and while the final days were hectic, we did approve a number of common sense provisions and sent them to Governor Dayton for his approval.

Locally, both legislative bodies approved a bill that ensures public transparency and guardrails for the $850 million 3M settlement. The goal of the proposal is to be sure the funds are used only in the East Metro in order to keep our drinking water clean.

Additionally, the legislation includes a provision I authored relating to testing private wells in the East Metro. Under the plan, the MPCA must develop a webpage that includes the process for public and private well perflurochemicals (PFCs) sampling in the east metro area. The webpage will include an interactive map that allows people to view locations of well advisories and areas projected to be sampled for PFCs, and contact information for the MPCA and Department of Health to answer questions on the sampling of private wells. Results must also be reported to impacted communities and the Legislature.

I’ve been working with the MPCA on the well-testing issue and am pleased we found an acceptable compromise. Transparency throughout this process is not only important to me but those who are concerned about the safety of their drinking water, and I truly believe this is a positive step forward.

In the area of taxes, we approved what would be the first income tax rate cut for Minnesotans in nearly two decades by reducing the first and second tier income tax rates. In total, the bill cuts taxes for 2.2 million Minnesotans, and 99.8% of Minnesotans – in other words, almost all of you – would see tax reductions or be held harmless by tax changes made at the federal level.

In K-12 Education, we agreed to make available up to $225 million in funding for schools across Minnesota. We also approved approximately $28 million in school safety funding that gives schools resources and flexibility to make physical safety improvements and boost efforts for student mental health. Combined with bonding dollars, House Republicans have proposed more than $50 million in this area.

Transportation infrastructure also received another funding infusion. You’ll recall last year the Legislature made the largest investment in roads and bridges in a decade, putting billions of dollars over the next ten years towards the state’s transportation needs without raising gas taxes or license tab fees.

In an effort to combat the opioid epidemic, we instituted a number of reforms that we hope will help those fighting addiction, approved several provisions that address elder abuse and will better protect our elderly and vulnerable adults, and passed a pension reform proposal for our state employees.

We approved a capital investment plan that will fund needed construction projects across Minnesota. Included in the plan was funding for my Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center proposal in Washington County, the Dakota County SMART Center, and asset preservation funding for Veterans Affairs, some of which would help local residents at the Hastings Veterans Home.

As with any negotiation, each side has to give something to get something. For instance, before we sent him our supplemental budget legislation, Governor Dayton found more than 100 items he objected to in the bills. It was important for us to show him we were acting in good faith, which is why leadership agreed to remove or modify 60 percent of those provisions. It’s also important to note these bill also contained a number of major priorities the governor insisted we include.

As I write this, I remain optimistic that the Governor will sign the legislation. These bills build off of many of last session’s successes – including middle-class tax relief and increased transportation funding. In most cases they were approved in a bipartisan fashion, which is usually a telling sign that the proposals being passed are good ones.

Though session has ended, I am always available to respond to your thoughts and concerns. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or contact my office at 651-296-3135 to share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas. I look forward to hearing from you!

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 (5/11/2018)

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Representative Keith Franke

Representative Keith Franke

By Rep. Keith Franke, 5/11/2018

Dear Neighbors,

First, I want to wish all moms a very happy Mother’s Day this weekend!

We’re entering the final stretch of session, and will adjourn in just over a week. With lots still on the table, I hope you’ll contact me so we can talk about what’s on your mind. In the final few days, please stay in touch.

Bill Passes

I had another bill pass off the House floor this week. My bill, SF2578/HF3479, would make it a crime to sell the drug kratom, and a crime to possess for those under 18 years old. I’ve learned more about this substance, and although it’s currently legal, I think there’s some serious concerns. There are reports of addiction and overdose using kratom, and I don’t think kids under 18 should be using it. Thankfully, the House passed the bill on a near-unanimous vote of 123-3; the bill now returns to the Senate.

3M Issue

There’s lots of rumors and misinformation floating around regarding the 3M settlement, and what impact legislation in the House would have on the settlement in our area.

First, know that this is an issue we’ve been working on since we first learned about the possible PFC contamination. I understand that this settlement doesn’t belong to the Attorney General, the Pollution Control Agency or the DNR; it belongs to Minnesotans, especially those in our area.

With that in mind, we’re working on passing legislation to increase transparency involving settlement dollars, and hold state agencies responsible for delivering what’s promised to Minnesotans. We moved this bill in committee this week and it’s one step closer to coming to the floor.

Our bill does NOT put the settlement in jeopardy. That’s done and over with. The only way that can change is if one of the parties – like the AG or the executive branch – brings a legal action to a judge regarding the legislation. That would be an extreme disservice to Minnesotans, and would be putting politics before people.

Truthfully, I don’t see that happening. I hope there’s enough bipartisan support in the legislature where we can come together and do what’s best for our residents. These funds are an important way to make our communities whole, and we need to have proper safeguards in place to ensure state promises are delivered upon.

Local Award

Just yesterday, Rep. Tony Jurgens and I stopped by the Character Recognition Awards at the Minnesota Science Museum to congratulate Cottage Grove Middle School on being named a 2018 Emerging Minnesota School of Character by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange. Congrats to CGMS on this honor; we’re so fortunate to have great schools for kids in our area!

Please Contact Me

As I said above, I hope you’ll reach out as we’re discussing our final bills. It’s so important for me to hear your opinions, and I always value local input.

Have a great 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 (5/11/2018)

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Representative Tony Jurgens

Representative Tony Jurgens

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 5/11/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

This week the House spent the majority of its time passing a number of policy bills – most with either strong bipartisan if not unanimous support.

One of the proposals I co-authored is beneficial to those suffering from chronic diseases. The plan makes needed changes to step therapy – a policy requiring a patient to try and fail first on several medications before receiving their doctor-prescribed medication. If the doctor feels a certain prescription is going to work for the patient, this bill would prevent forcing the patient to try other medicines first. To me the plan is common sense and will keep prescription decisions between the doctors and their patients, not insurance companies.

This week the Minnesota Senate unveiled its bonding bill. Unfortunately, none of the items I’ve been lobbying for – HERO Center, SMART Center, and Hastings City Hall – are included. The House bill did include the HERO and SMART Centers, and I continue seeking other funding alternatives for Hastings City Hall.

Lawmakers also received some positive economic news this week. The Minnesota Office of Management and Budget announced that a forecast for the month of April showed incoming revenues greatly exceeded expectations by $252 million. These same folks had speculated earlier that Minnesota would only see a $329 million windfall for the rest of this fiscal year. Increased income tax collections led to the majority of the improved forecast.

Minnesota’s economy is strong and getting stronger, and it’s my belief that tax relief enacted at both the state and federal levels is making a major impact.

This week, Rep. Bob Loonan and I were asked to visit with and welcome Minnesota Commercial Real Estate professionals as part of their day at the Capitol.

I was also able to visit with Hastings teachers Betsy Carroll, Christy Warner and Spencer Johnson who were lobbying for additional spending for schools.

I was honored to address this crowd from 2nd Harvest Heartland in the Capitol rotunda today to talk about hunger in Minnesota. Their bonding request for a new food shelf distribution center is in both the House and Senate bills, and now we need to get it across the finish line.

Cottage Grove Middle School has been awarded the 2018 Emerging Minnesota School of Character by the Synergy & Leadership Exchange. Rep. Keith Franke and I were able to congratulate school officials at the Character Recognition Awards ceremony at the Science Museum this week.

This week I was also pleased to have Mackenzie Swaim from Park High School join us at the Capitol.

Mackenzie was serving as a page as part of the Minnesota House High School Page Program, and I hope she enjoyed her time in St. Paul.

If you’re looking for something to do this weekend, join me at Jessie Diggins Day in Afton! The event will give area residents a chance to celebrate her gold medal-winning performance and share their excitement.

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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