Letter: A fourth-week review from the CapitolThe focus of attention at the Capitol this week was the governor’s State of the State address and reactions to it. While the speech was lean on details, he did seem to offer to change his tone and create a more positive and productive environment than his earlier harsh comments and vetoes have.
By: District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, Worthington Daily Globe
The focus of attention at the Capitol this week was the governor’s State of the State address and reactions to it. While the speech was lean on details, he did seem to offer to change his tone and create a more positive and productive environment than his earlier harsh comments and vetoes have.
A year ago during the State of the State address, Minnesota faced a $5.2 billion deficit, and today we have an $876 million surplus. That is a change of $6 billion. Today, because the Minnesota Legislature prioritized Minnesota’s needs, our state’s economy is on the mend, and our citizens are not burdened with new taxes. This allows consumers the confidence to begin spending again, small businesses to consider expansion, and larger companies to hire. We are already beginning to see results in income tax payments to the state from more people working and are looking at a nearly $1 billion budget surplus.
The Senate Republican majority has a strong pro-jobs, pro-Minnesota agenda and is not going to lose focus on the most important goals of this session. I have and will continue to update you in this newsletter update about these bills as the work their way through the legislative process. I encourage you to share this newsletter with friends as well.
Veterans jobs bills: Last week, the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee passed two bills that will increase employment opportunities for veterans in both the private and public sector. One bill strengthens re-employment protections for veterans returning from service and better enables them to get their old jobs back.
The second will give Minnesota companies the option to put in place their own veterans hiring programs where previously the federal government had prohibited favoring veterans during the hiring process. In the years since 9/11 and the war on terrorism, American veterans are currently experiencing unemployment at rates more than twice the general population, and that needs to be set right.
Environmental permitting efficiency: As mentioned in the governor’s State of the State address, accelerating Minnesota business permits is one area where lawmakers have worked well in a bipartisan manner. Last year the Legislature and Administration moved forward to decrease the time and costs of environmental review and permitting process. Now, 99 percent of priority permit applications are being completed by pollution control and natural resource regulators within 150 days.
To follow up that success, this week the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee approved SF 1567, a permitting efficiency bill supported by Minnesota businesses. As companies look to expand in this international economy, they specifically review how long it will take to obtain a permit for their expansion or building of their new facility.
Voter ID: The Senate Local Government and Elections Committee advanced a bill that would allow Minnesotans to decide whether to amend the state constitution to require voters to show identification in elections. The bill was amended in committee by the chief Senate sponsor, to allow provisional balloting, a move to preserve same-day voter registration and address concerns that opponents have raised about the risk Voter ID poses to certain groups of voters.
Despite a vocal protest at the Capitol and last year’s veto of legislation, polls indicated that more than 70 percent or more of Minnesotans want a photo ID requirement to vote. The bill continues to the State Government committee.
Next week: On Wednesday, Local Government will hear and discuss Metropolitan Council current and planned housing activities.
On Thursday, the Agriculture and Rural Economies and the Energy committees will have a joint meeting on energy issues. The focus of the meeting will be the current status and future outlook for natural gas, propane and anhydrous ammonia.
Contact me at any time with your comments about these or any other legislative issue.