The 10 week legislative session is moving along quickly. We’re now in the third week and legislation is being introduced and heard in committees. Here are a few items I would like to update you on:
Legislative Survey and Column
I had my session preview column published in the Northfield News entitled “Focus at Capitol continues to ensure economy works for everyone.” I hope you’ll take a look at it and let me know what you think. Also, please feel free to take my legislative survey so I’ll know what you want us to focus on in Saint Paul: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Bly2016Survey
Agriculture Bills Heard in Committee
I’ve had great bipartisan reception on two agriculture bills recently. The first would help beginning farmers get started through tax credits for buying or renting farm equipment and other tax incentives. The second bill would keep Minnesota’s Organic Task Force going through 2018, instead of ending on June 30, 2016.
I’m hopeful we will see progress in agriculture to draw new farmers and to help bolster Minnesota’s growing organic farming industry.
Meeting with Constituents
A lot of you have been visiting the Capitol and sharing your priorities with me. It’s always exiting to see people come and explain why they’re passionate about issues. Below are pictures of me meeting with the prosperity for all group and people advocating for the arts.
We All Do Better
I recently wrote a new book, “We All Do Better: Economic Priorities for a Land of Opportunity.” Here is a brief excerpt from the introduction:
“In my years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, I have noticed that everyone talks about saving our middle class economy. Our actions, however, can tell a different story. We hear calls to cut education, defund health programs, let our roads fall apart, resist sustainable energy solutions, and support economic policies that have us working more for less. We are told we must go it alone, that our neighbor’s problems have nothing to do with us. We are told to ignore Paul Wellstone’s great advice: ‘We all do better when we all do better.’”
In my work as your voice at the Capitol, my continued focus this session will be on making sure the economy works for everyone, not just those who can hire someone to be at the Capitol on a daily basis.
PRE – 3
This week, lawmakers introduced a package of bills to give all children a strong start in life by making child care more affordable, supporting child care providers, expanding access to care, and increasing infant and child wellbeing. The “Pre to 3” legislative package targets investments and reforms that support children and families from prenatal to three years of age, a critical time period to ensure that children are healthy and prepared for success later in life.
The “Pre to 3” package also includes investments and reforms to support child care providers. Some of the reforms include efforts to streamline and simplify regulations for child care providers and requiring that the Department of Human Services make prompt payments to child care providers.
The “Pre to 3” package aims to increase infant and child wellbeing by increasing funding for home visiting and funding at-home infant care for new parents so more can afford to stay home with their babies. In addition, legislators would fully fund Early Head Start so at-risk children receive targeted care and services to promote healthy brain and social/emotional development
To view details of the proposal, click on the link:
Pre to 3: Investments to give all children a strong start in life
Legislation to Aid Veterans introduced
Lawmakers are proposing legislation to provide additional support for Minnesota veterans. With Minnesota experiencing a $900 million surplus, the package reinforces prioritizing care and assistance services for our veterans. Key components of the bill include:
Increases access to mental health services: Funds and allows the Soldiers’ Assistance Fund to cover court-ordered mental health and substance abuse counseling for veterans.
Financial relief while transitioning to a veteran home: Creates a tax credit for veterans who are staying in private nursing homes to help ease the financial burden while they wait for a bed in a veteran’s nursing home.
Expanding health coverage for veterans and guardsmen: Creates a feasibility study for providing health insurance to veterans and guardsmen to extend coverage beyond the health insurance programs provided by the federal VA and the Department of Defense.
Reducing domestic violence: Expands opportunities for veterans to participate in the Change Step Program for veterans who need domestic abuse counseling and education.
Ending veteran homelessness and honoring those who have served: Increases funding to address veterans homelessness and provides additional money to reimburse veterans service organizations for providing honor guards at veterans’ funerals.
Increases support for veterans who have struggled to reintegrate: Similar to drug courts, Veterans Courts provide problem-solving treatment and therapy instead of punitive court sentencing. These courts better recognize both the service and struggles many veterans experience.
The bill was introduced and was referred this week to the State Government Finance Division.
Don’t Forget your Property Tax Refund or Renter’s Credit
As a friendly reminder, don’t forget to file for your Renter’s Property Tax or Homestead Credit Refund. To see if you qualify, take a look at the Minnesota Department of Revenue’s Instruction Guide. The forms can be accessed here.
The Minnesota Department of Revenue also has information available on filing for free on their website. If you want to file yourself and wonder if you qualify for free electronic filing products or you want assistance from a free tax preparation site, visit this page.
Additionally, the IRS has free filing information available on their website. On the homepage of their website under the banner “Hot Topics” you will see a link entitled “Get Free Tax Preparation Help” or “Free File Tax Software”.
Please don’t forget to take my legislative survey at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/Bly2016Survey. As always, feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 651-296-5882