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Legislative Update: 3-29-2018
Our second bill deadline is tonight at midnight and the Legislature will be adjourned next week for the Easter/Passover break, so our week has been filled with bill hearings, committee meetings, and constituent visits. Here are some updates from St. Paul:
State Employee Contracts and Pensions
On Monday, the House approved labor contracts for state employees. These were negotiated and agreed upon in 2017, but had their authorization delayed multiple times by the Republican majority. While this is no way to treat the dedicated public servants who provide the services that make Minnesota such a wonderful place to live, I'm pleased that the issue has finally been resolved.
We also have to deal with a pension bill that already passed the Senate and has Gov. Dayton's support. This bipartisan legislation will secure the pensions of 500,000 former state employees and provides a $6 billion reduction in current and future costs by lowering state, school district, county, and city liabilities.
I certainly hope the Republican majority handles this fiscally responsible bill in a timely manner and gets it to the Governor's desk.
Protecting Pre-Kindergarten Funding
Gov. Dayton urged the Legislature to protect pre-Kindergarten programs from being eliminated for 4,000 students across the state on Tuesday. Three school districts in our area have received this funding: between Burnsville Public Schools, the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan Public School District, and the West St. Paul-Mendota Heights-Eagan Public School District, more than $1.8 million in state funding was used to provide pre-K for 312 of our local four-year-olds.
If this funding isn't extended, our schools will lose this money in 2019. I support Gov. Dayton's proposal to make pre-K funding a permanent part of the state budget. Investing in our earliest learners will set them up for success in our schools and communities in the years ahead.
Energy Assistance Still Available
While the Cold Weather Rule that protects Minnesotans from natural gas or electricity shut-off ends April 15, that doesn't mean it's the end of the heating season in Minnesota. To keep the heat on through the chilly weather ahead, low-income residents who need help paying their utility bills can apply for the Energy Assistance Program and establish a payment plan with their utility.
Funds are limited and households are served on a first-come, first-served basis. If you know someone who could benefit, please share this information with them. Details are available on the Commerce Department's Energy Assistance
Please feel free to reach out to me at the Capitol with your ideas and input.