A weekly message from your Senator

Dear Constituents and Friends,

We are closer to the last day of session on May 22nd. This week the Senate passed several conference committee reports:

H.F. 895/S.F. 780 Omnibus agriculture and housing appropriations bill

H.F. 888/S.F. 723 Omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill

H.F. 890/S.F. 718 Omnibus education finance bill

H.F. 691/S.F. 605 Omnibus state government appropriations bill; omnibus veterans and military affairs appropriations bill

H.F. 945/S.F. 800 Omnibus health human services bill

Below are the veto messages on why each of them were vetoed.

Governor Dayton’s veto letter for the omnibus agriculture finance bill.

Governor Dayton’s veto letter for the omnibus environment and natural resources finance bill.

Governor Dayton’s veto letter for the omnibus E-12 education finance bill.

Governor Dayton’s veto letter for the omnibus state government, military and veterans affairs finance bill.

Governor Dayton’s veto letter for the omnibus health and human services finance bill.

H.F. 1451/S.F. 1124 Omnibus lands bill also passed this week and was signed into law. This bill modifies requirements for exchanging road easements and for leasing forest lands providing for public or private sale of certain consolidated conservation land.

We are still at impasse over the size and priorities of the state budget so we expect negotiations to resume and continue for the duration of the session. 

I am hopeful we are able to find middle ground on important legislation and funding of the government to avoid a possible shutdown and get our work done on time. You can count on my advocacy to be prudent in our spending without jeopardizing the gains we have made in education and the well being of all Minnesotans during the past several years.




Met Council restructuring bill passes the Senate

A bill seeking to restructure the Metropolitan Council was passed off the Senate floor Monday evening, with a 34-32 party-line vote. If signed, the bill as amended would make significant changes to the composition of the Met Council, bringing the number of serving individuals to 28 members, up from its current number of 17.

In addition to the membership increase is a complete revamp of the council’s membership composition. Rather than being comprised solely of gubernatorial appointments, the new council would include one locally elected official appointed by a municipal committee of each Met Council district; one county commissioner from each of the 7 metropolitan counties – Anoka, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Scott, and Washington; the commissioner of transportation or a designee; three members appointed by the commissioner to represent non-motorized transportation, freight transportation, and public transit; and a gubernatorially appointed chair.

Supporters of the legislation contend the changes will bring accountability to the council, as its current composition of gubernatorial appointees has regional taxation authority without being elected by the regions’ residents. Opponents argue having elected officials on the Met Council would bring with it several conflicts of interest, as they would be acting in incompatible positions as both the regulator and as the regulated. The bill has been sent to the House, where it was referred to Ways and Means. The language for this bill is also included in the transportation finance conference committee report (SF 1490/HF 1866).

Minnesota values early childhood education 

Early learning teachers from around Minnesota this week discussed the value of pre-K and the problems posed to their districts by the proposed  education plan. Despite a $1.65 billion surplus, the bill proposed by the majority is cutting voluntary, public pre-K funding across the state. Governor Dayton has called for a $175 million increase in funding.

Chris Messer is a kindergarten teacher in Barnesville, and past president of the Minnesota Kindergarten Association. Barnesville offers half-day pre-K for $100 a month for two days a week and $145 a month for three, in addition to what families already pay for daycare. Messer advocated for more pre-K investment, not less.

She argues that universal pre-K would remove discriminating tuition costs and free up district resources for more staff. She adds that the benefits of a quality pre-K experience need to be made available to all Minnesota students.

Kimberly Antonsen is a preschool teacher in the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth school district. Thanks to voluntary pre-K funding, they added a new preschool classroom and teacher and now provide all-day, everyday preschool to 51 children. Cuts to pre-K funding would threaten this success.

She told the audience, “In our rural area, it’s necessary to have all-day pre-K because most families do not work nearby.”

The teachers were joined by some legislators who agreed early childhood education benefits kids—particularly in Greater Minnesota— and that with a budget surplus, cuts to pre-K and early learning are the wrong choice.

100-mile trek for higher education

Minnesota legislators stood in unity with Minnesota State University students on their 100-mile walk from Minnesota State Mankato to the Capitol to raise awareness of the need for affordable higher education.

The Minnesota State student walkers say lawmakers need to realize the impact their decisions make on higher education affordability and access – and the future of Minnesota. According to the group, the average student debt in Minnesota is nearly $32,000, the fifth highest in the nation. In addition, students have yearly increases in tuition and budget cuts on their minds. This week they walked the walk to talk about it.

The students, who represent Mankato, Moorhead, Bemidji, Winona, and St. Cloud, left Minnesota State Mankato on Sunday morning and walked for four days to reach the State Capitol on Wednesday. Legislators walked with the students for the last leg of their journey in solidarity for increased higher education funding.

Click here for pictures of the event.

DFL women meet with Gov. Dayton to talk about issues important to women

More than 30 DFL women legislators met with Governor Mark Dayton and Lieutenant Governor Tina Smith to talk about three important women’s issues in the closing days of the legislative session: protecting minimum wage and paid family leave by vetoing the preemption bill, keeping the Office of the Economic Status of Women funded, and protecting our clean and fair elections by opposing the elimination of the public finance program.

For far too many women, the challenge of making ends meet and caring for their families is a daily struggle. Despite trying to make progress on important economic security issues, women too frequently continue to earn less than men, face consequences because of caregiving responsibilities, and lack access to workplace.