We had a very fast-paced week here at the Capitol. With the first deadline rapidly approaching, Senators and House members alike are working to get their bills heard in committees. I had five bills up this week and was pleased with the positive reception they received from committees.
In other news, Wednesday night, the House and Senate met for a joint gathering to select the Board of Regents. I am pleased to report that this process ran smoothly and am proud of the candidates we put forward. Thursday, the Senate heard the Health Exchange bill and after a twelve hour debate, the bill was passed. The next step will befor a House and Senate conference committee to meet and put forward the final bill.
Bills, Bills, Bills:
I had five bills go through committees this week. All are focusedon common-sense reforms and job creation.
1)SF0730: Angel Investment Tax Credit provides a financial incentive to individuals who invest in emerging technology companies. A credit of $40 million is made available to businesses that qualify for the Small Business Investment Tax Credit in 2014-2015. Eligible businesses must be headquartered in Minnesota with fewer than 25 employees and at least 51% of workers and total payroll also based in the state.
2)SF0352: Film & TV Board bill is an appropriation to attract and grow the Film industry here in Minnesota. I heard from many experts who told me that this bill is critical for the future of the state's film production industry. The benefits that this industry produces are immense and we should do what we can to attract film and TV production in Minnesota. My son is in the business in CA. I hope during the course of his career the opportunities we create with this bill lure him back.
3)SF899: Labor Market Information Publication: Joined by Amy Walstein from the Chamber of Commerce (and a Plymouth resident), I put forth a bill that would create a pilot program for MNSCU touse job market information obtained by the Department of Employment and Economic Development to design coursework and provide employment projection data for student use. This bill is an attempt to bridge the skills gap we are experiencing between our workforce needs and college graduate skill set as well as to steer our students towards programs and majors where there is employment demand. By designing courses and degree paths based on hard workforce data, we benefit our students and our businesses.
4)SF0247: Wire Transfer Fraud Protection. Many of us are aware of the popular scams wherein you are notified that you have received a large prize and that all you need to do to claim it is to wire a small amount of money. What most are unaware of is the depth and breadth of scams like these. This is a global crime ring that specifically targets the elderly. The bill I put forward establishes common sense measures that would make the wire transfer process more transparent and add safety mechanisms to catch and prevent repeated fraud. This bill is AARP’s top priority this session.
5)SF0221: Location Equity Index. This bill is an attempt to address one component in the current education formula that is particularly unfair to the districts in the metro and the large regional centers. The current formula does not take into account the Location Equity Index of differing school districts. This means that cost of living is not taken into account in the distribution of funds to school districts. As a result, many metro area school districts receive significantly less money than they should based on the cost to operate in that district. This proposal is not new and garners strong opposition from our out-state districts.
Frankly, I have come to believe that the most effective way to address the many differences and inequities is to call a virtual time out. Let the current formula hold with existing money, but treat all new and unencumbered funds as equal for each district. Rather than put new money on a complex and unequal formula just give every district the equal amount of new money- I call that a dollar equals a dollar approach. Currently each dollar yields a different amount for every district based on their unique characteristics. I would like to give a special thanks to Superintendent Dennis Peterson of the Minnetonka School District and Superintendent Kate McGuire, of the Osseo School District for taking the time to join me at the table in defense of this initiative and our schools.
Board of Regents:
If you recall from last week’s Capitol Update, I predicted (based on the results of the joint committee) that Wednesday night’s Joint meeting of the Senate and House to select the Board of Regents would involves ome fireworks. I am pleased to report that the process was smooth. The larger bodies accepted the recommendations of the Joint Higher Ed committee and put forward the candidates that were approved last week. It was an example of bipartisan cooperation that I hope will set the stage for further collaboration this session. The final Regents selected to serve on the board are a diverse and well-qualified group of individuals who I have no doubt will be instrumental in addressing theissues facing our University. Click here for information about the newregents.
Health Exchange Bill:
On Thursday, the Senate took up the Health Insurance Exchange bill on the floor. The House heard the bill earlier in the week and made some changes that I support, making it a more level playing field for the carriers to be able to participate with an equal voice in this process, as well as implementing measures to insure cost effectiveness. Our process began at 11:00 AM and went long into the night; there was no shortage of amendments. The two or three things that I have been concerned about in our bill would have been addressed by corresponding amendments. I voted for them, yet these amendments did not pass.
Because I feel so strongly about the provisions I have mentioned; the overall cost, the composition of the board and the provision that gives the board the exclusive right to accept and reject providers and products, I voted against the bill. It is never easy to vote in a different way than my caucus but I have come to learn that by using my vote to express a strong view I can best shape a discussion and that results in compromise. Representing a “swing district” is an honor and a responsibility.
I have pledged to you, whom I represent, that I will do my best to rise above partisanship and lead/serve in a manner that reflects the values and beliefs we hold in common. That is my intent. I remain hopeful, given the House position on the areas of concern, that the final bill will be something I support. I understand this is complex and I stand ready to answer your questions and hear your concerns. I have included a clip of my comments made right before the final vote for those who want more information.
Keep an eye out for the bills I have next week:
S.F. 716 – A bill related to the Hollydale Transmission Line (This bill will be heard on Tuesday, March 12 at 12:00 PM in Room 107. If you are affected by this proposed line, please consider attending this hearing to show support for this bill. Your presence makes a difference. Let my office know if you will be coming.
S.F. 730 – Angel Investment Tax Credit - Taxes
S.F. 717 – A bill related to “Party Buses”
State Senator Terri Bonoff
Representing Minnetonka, Plymouth and Woodland