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Capitol Update 14 - 2013

Capitol Update 14 - 2013

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Published by Terri Bonoff
With just over a month remaining in the 2013 Legislative Session, the Senate has been taking up some controversial issues on the floor this week.
With just over a month remaining in the 2013 Legislative Session, the Senate has been taking up some controversial issues on the floor this week.

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Published by: Terri Bonoff on Apr 19, 2013
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04/19/2013

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Capitol Update 14
4/19/2013
I cannot help but begin this Update with words of sorrow and prayer for our fellow Bostonians.Let us join together in an expression of comfort, rejection of hatred and violence, and prayer for peace.May the victims and their families feel our united spirit as we stand in strong opposition to the forces of evil, and for peace and freedom everywhere. In addition, we offer words of prayer for the victims of thehorrific tragedy in Texas. Amid these events, we in St. Paul continue our work.With just over a month remaining in the 2013 Legislative Session, the Senate has been taking upsome controversial issues on the floor this week. The Omnibus bills that I have been writing about forthe past two Updates were on the floor, and while there is much to be proud of, I think there are alsomany questions on the public’s mind as to what we voted on and why. Omnibus bills are unique in thatthey contain many other bills within them and these bills can be seemingly unrelated. This feature putsus Senators in tough positions. We may support certain provisions of the bill, but be against otherprovisions. We must then make a value choice as to how to vote on the total package. I struggled withthis issue this week and hope that you will allow me the opportunity to share my thinking and ask foryours on a few of my tough votes.
Please take the time to complete the survey at the end of the Update.
(VIDEO) Weekly update from SenatorBonoff.
 
S.F. 1589: State Department and Veterans Omnibus bill
This Omnibus bill, which was on the floor on Tuesday, contains many important measures thatfund our state’s Veteran programs. However, this bill also contained the much debated salary payincrease for public officials, as well as significant increases in funding for some departments (i.e.upgrades in technology) that while sorely needed, are tough to swallow in such fragile economic times.The pay increases are important to consider in a broader context. The Legislative and Cabinet levelincreases do not go into effect until 2015. There are many reasons why these increases are good policy.One of the reasons (and the most important in my mind) is that in order to attract the best and brightestto hold public office, we must offer a salary that allows the members to make ends meet. Each personserving makes significant personal sacrifice and does so willingly for the privilege of serving. As it stands,Legislators make around 30K a year. This salary limits the pool of qualified candidates, who may be ableto make 3-4 times that amount in the private sector. The result is that our legislative bodies are filledwith many retirees and those who have family circumstances that allow them to flexibly deal with thissalary or young people without familial obligations. I believe that we must offer a salary that can attractcitizens from a diverse set of backgrounds to serve in public office to better reflect the needs of theaverage Minnesotan. This increase makes holding office and providing for a family a real option formany who would have otherwise not considered the position. I do support this policy and believe it isoverdue; however, I understand the concern with regard to timing. With our economy creeping out of arecession and our state budget finally looking manageable, I believe the citizens of Minnesota view thisas a concerning move on behalf of the Legislature. I share that concern and take some comfort inknowing that it does not go into effect until 2015. If oureconomy declines, we can revisit this policy. The same goes forthe other increases to this area of our budget – it’s not that themonies or programs that it will fund are bad, it’s that we are at acritical juncture in our economic recovery and we have theopportunity to plan for the future by being frugal with ourinvestments.The question then becomes do I vote against an entireOmnibus budget bill that provides base funding for many vitalstate programs because I do not support some of the provisions,or do I support the many quality policy points and investmentsat the risk of being misunderstood by the public? On Tuesday, Ichose the latter. The reason I did so is that I believe that thisissue has not yet come to a close. I do support some of theincreases, and yet, not all. I believe the bill can still be craftedinto something that Minnesotan’s will be proud to support.
Senator Bonoff on the Senate floor
 
S.F. 1236: Higher Education/Workforce Development Omnibus:
I will not spend much time describing the bill, but I did want to give an update on the Senatefloor session in which this bill was heard. SF 1236 was on the floor this past Wednesday, and passed withstrong, bi-partisan support (46-18) and now moves to conference committee. There were moreamendments than we had anticipated, but I was pleased with most and accepted several Republicanamendments that I believe make the Omnibus a better bill. I look forward to working with my Housecounterparts to put forth a final bill that will make Higher Education in Minnesota affordable andaccessible for our students, as well as provide for tomorrow’s workforce.
S.F. 1607:
 
Environment, Agriculture, and Jobs Omnibus:
 
This bill was up on the Senate floor Friday afternoon and passed onto conferencecommittee. Within the Omnibus, was one of my bills, S.F. 352 (the “Snowbate” bill), whichoffers a tax incentive to Film and T.V. production companies that choose to film in Minnesota.We are all aware of films like Fargo, Grumpy Old Men, and even the Mighty Ducks franchise.What many are unaware of is exactly how much economic revenue these films generated forMinnesota. Minnesota was actually the first state to offer incentives for filming in-state, butsince our initial investment, we have fallen behind most every state. We are missing out onopportunities to not only put ourselves on the map, but also to create significant economicopportunities for small town businesses that will support production needs. Every $1.00invested in Snowbate returns $6.00 in Minnesota economic activity. While I did havereservations on the total spending target of the Omnibus bill, I believe this project is well worththe money we have allocated for it.Another key provision in this bill relates to the workforce development efforts ourHigher Education committee tackled. This section calls for a labor market analysis, a studyregarding post-secondary offerings in light of market demands, and a pilot project that utilizesour workforce center career professionals to augment career counseling in High School. I haveviewed all policy this session through the lens of promoting economic stability and growth,preparing our workforce of tomorrow and providing for the most vulnerable among us.I had strong concerns in the bill with regard to one provision that would have extendedunemployment benefits for workers in a lockout for an additional two years. There was anamendment to delete this and it passed by a narrow margin. Deleting this, combined with theinclusion of the pro-jobs initiatives made this an easy vote.

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