Editor's note: The following is reprinted, with permission, from Rep. Joyce Peppin's weekly email newsletter dated May 21. Peppin (32A) represents several communities, including Maple Grove.
With the Governor’s unfortunate veto of the tax bill, the last bills of the legislative session have been addressed. Though Governor Dayton’s action was not helpful to Minnesota’s economic future, the Legislature achieved great things over the biennium. On many occasions – often neglected by the media – legislators from both sides of the aisle came together and passed bipartisan bills for the benefit of all Minnesotans.
Below is a highlights list of legislative successes over the past two years. Although the list is not comprehensive, I hope it gives you a flavor of what the Legislature accomplished.
At the outset of the 2011 legislative session, the new Republican majority was handed a $5.1 billion deficit. We translated that into a $1.2 billion surplus by supporting the private sector economy, defeating several attempts at increasing taxes on all Minnesotans, and restraining the exponential and unchecked growth in government spending that is, at the end of the day, borne on the backs of Minnesota taxpayers and job creators. Ultimately, we supported government that has a limited role and lives within a balanced, responsible, and sustainable budget. We also:
- Reduced projected spending by $2.5 billion while protecting classroom funding.
- Eliminated red tape for Minnesota businesses, leading to 40,000+ private sector jobs since last year.
- Created a Sunset Commission to end duplicative, outdated, and unnecessary state government programs.
We understand that Minnesota children are our future workforce, all of whom – regardless of zip code – deserve a quality education. We developed reforms to improve teacher quality, raise student performance, and give parents more choices. Our ultimate goal was to ensure our students can compete in today’s global economy.
- Provided a $50 increase in per pupil funding for the biennium and an additional increase in funding for small schools.
- Provided for alternative teacher licensure to place quality, experienced teachers in the classroom. (SF40)
- Teacher candidates required to pass the Basic Skills Test before receiving licensure. This reform ensures we are hiring and placing effective teachers in our children’s classrooms. (HF1770)
- Expanded digital learning in our schools. (HF2127)
- Reformed the management of School Trust Lands in order to maximize the revenue generated for our school districts. (HF2244)
- Created a new teacher evaluation system based on achievement. (HF945)
- Encouraged early childhood screening to detect potential eye problems. (HF300)
- High school student transition plan for higher education and employment. (HF1272)
- Expanded Post Secondary Enrollment options for 10th graders. (HF2025)
- Allow Career and Technical Education (CTE) credit to count toward high school science requirements. (HF682)
Jobs and the Economy
As the new Republican majority took control of the Legislature in 2011, we were committed to getting our economy back on track and allowing jobs to flourish in the private sector. Over the course of the biennium, we eliminated burdensome red tape, lowered taxes, and invested in private sector innovation. Since January 2011, over 40,000 jobs have been created in the private market and our unemployment rate is on the decline (and much lower than the national average). We also:
- Expedited the business permitting and environmental review process. Prior to this legislation, in some cases, Minnesota businesses and farmers had to wait up to two years to develop and expand. (HF1 and SF1567)
- Rulemaking reform that helps to alleviate the yoke of bureaucracy by requiring agencies to receive legislative approval before implementing new rules. (HF2169)
- Created a “one-stop-shop” jobs advocate to help businesses navigate the complex permit process. (HF1721)
- Voted to increase investments in Minnesota job creators and entrepreneurial innovation through an expansion of the Angel Investor Credit, attracting the research and development industry, creating an Internship Grant Program for Greater Minnesota, and incentivizing employment for unemployed or disabled veterans. (Vetoed: HF247)
Health and Human Services
We worked with stakeholders, advocates, and the Department of Health to assess the setting and scope for the delivery of state services for all Minnesotans, especially our most vulnerable citizens. Our goal was to deliver the right services to the right person at the right time, and in the most effective manner. We were able to achieve this goal while at the same time reducing HHS costs by more than $1 billion. We also:
- Created a new Healthy Minnesota Contribution Program for low-income adults without children to purchase private health care coverage. (HF25)
- Eliminated EBT fraud by ensuring that cash benefits are used by Minnesotans and in surrounding states – not throughout the country. (HF2249)
- Created independent, third party audits for our state’s HMOs, creating greater transparency and accountability of our health care spending. (HF2294)
- Supported rural health care by implementing and sustaining the Community Paramedics program. (HF2294)
- Developed several, much-needed nursing home reforms in preparation of the increased costs and growing need of care for our state’s senior citizens. (HF2294)
- Emphasized homelessness funding and coordination for programs that help Minnesotans out of poverty. (HF2294)
- Ended the regressive “sick tax” Minnesotans have paid on medical care for the past 20 years. (HF25)
- Voted to empower consumers with their health care choices and to allow Minnesota to take charge of its healthcare, instead of a federal takeover. (Vetoed: multiple bills)
Public safety is the basic foundation of government. It is our constitutional responsibility as lawmakers to promote services that protect Minnesotans. We also:
- Required community notification of sex offenders released from civil commitment in light of the first release of a high risk, likely to re-offend sex offender from the state treatment program. (HF2394)
- Passed synthetic drug legislation that adds synthetic drugs to that list of illegal substances and makes selling them a felony crime. (HF57 and HF2508)
- Changed our Safe Harbor laws to begin treating juveniles sold into prostitution and sex trafficking as victims, not criminals. (SF1)
- Helped protect vulnerable adults by increasing the penalty for neglect of a vulnerable adult to a felony. (SF1586)
Minnesota’s agricultural industry is an integral component of our state’s economy. We prioritized funding to maintain the integrity and safety of the food supply in Minnesota, and minimized reductions to programs and services that benefit farmers. We also:
- Reformed the Green Acres program to restore the program to its original intent of protecting farms from burdensome property tax increases. (SF1016)
- Prevented the overreach of Minnesota Pollution Control Authority in areas such as farm pesticide application and animal disposal. (SF1016)
Over the past two years we re-prioritized funding to fight aquatic invasive species and chronic wasting disease. We also streamlined the complex, time consuming, and burdensome permit and environmental review process that businesses have said is a roadblock to expansion and development in Minnesota. We also:
- Eliminated a duplicative step in permit process by requiring businesses to submit information once for both environmental review and permit applications. (HF1 and SF1567)
- Provided $43 million to fight against aquatic invasive species, including $7.5 million for fish barriers to stop the growth of Asian Carp in Minnesota waters. (HF2164)
- Created a framework for DNR to manage the hunting and trapping season for wolves. (HF2164)
- Tax Relief and Job Creation Act that would have helped small businesses, provided tax relief to homeowners and businesses, and incentivized investment in our state’s quality workforce. (HF247)
- Reform for our lawsuit system that often burdens our small businesses. This legislation was supported by 67,000 employers. (SF530, SF149, SF373, and SF429)
- Accelerate repaying the K-12 education shift from 2011 and the $2 billion shift left by the 2010 DFL-led Legislature. (HF2083)
- End the quality-blind Last In/First Out (LIFO) teacher tenure standard. (HF1870)
- Met Council reform. (SF2014)
- Federal shutdown contingency planning. (HF545)
- End automatic salary increases when contracts end in the public sector. Currently, government workers can continue to receive wage or salary increases or insurance contribution increases, even if their contracts have expired. (HF1974)
It is a pleasure and a privilege to serve as your State Representative in St. Paul. I appreciated hearing from many of you over the past two years, and I look forward to your calls, emails, and letters. Please feel free to contact my office at any time.
Have a great week,