Since the November 4 election, there has been plenty of work to do. The House is essentially organized and ready for 2009. The caucuses have elected leadership. Speaker Kelliher and Majority Leader Sertich were elected with unanimous support. I am delighted to serve this term as an Assistant Majority Leader. This role provides an opportunity to participate more fully in the operation and leadrship of the House of Representatives.
The House Committees are set and we will have our assignments by the month's end. Current committees are meeting. Last week I attended a meeting of the Health Care Access Commission and Ways and Means. At the end of next week, I am heading to Washington DC for a meeting of the National Council of Environmental Legislators. I am grateful for the scholarship support of this organization, making the trip possible.
Along with you, I am learning about the emerging deficit in the current fiscal year and the projected deficit for 2010- 2011. The impact of the global recession and the related job loss is clear and serious. There is current information on the forecast on the State Office of Management and Budget at http://www.finance.state.mn.us/home
I will continue to post information about the upcoming session and the work underway. I want your ideas and input as we proceed- every idea is welcome. In fact, we need the creative thought and input of all of us. Minnesota needs to grow jobs, protect the most vulnerable among us and invest in those things that will strengthen our economy into the future. I have tremendous faith in our capacity to master this challenge.
I am grateful for the opportunity to represent the mighty citizens of 64A. I look forward to hearing from you.
Posted on Sunday, December 7, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Minnesota House of Representatives
Public Information Services
175 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155
2008 Minnesota House of Representatives State Fair Poll Results
Nearly 50 percent of those participating in the 2008 House of Representatives State Fair Poll support raising the state’s sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent with the money dedicated to the environment and arts. During the 12-day run of the Minnesota State Fair, 7,465 fairgoers took the poll conducted by nonpartisan House Public Information Services. It is an informal, unscientific survey on issues discussed in prior legislative sessions and may again be topics of discussion.
Nearly 50 percent of those participating in the 2008 House of Representatives State Fair Poll support raising the state’s sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent with the money dedicated to the environment and arts. Voters will be asked the dedicated funding question at the Nov. 4 election. While 42.9 percent of fair voters oppose the measure, 8 percent were undecided or had no opinion. Not voting for the question at the General Election will count as a “no” vote.
Sportsmen and environmental advocates have pushed for dedicated funding for many years, with the original plan being to dedicate a portion of the existing sales tax. In the 2007-08 biennium, the plan evolved into one that would raise the sales tax, and include funding for clean water, parks and trails, and the arts. Opponents have wanted to keep the original proposal and are opposed to the idea of constitutionally dedicated funding.
Another environmental question found that 76 percent of voters support requiring grocers and large retailers who use plastic carryout bags to make in-store bag recycling available.
With the state looking at a potential multi-billion dollar deficit next fiscal year, voters narrowly support budget cuts as opposed to tax increases, 46.5 percent to 43 percent. However, 84.6 percent of voters do not want to have clothing subject to sales tax.
Just over 7,000 votes were cast on whether law enforcement should be able to stop a motorist solely for not wearing a seat belt. By five votes, fairgoers believe they should. Thirty more people voted “yes” instead of “no” when asked if public school students should be required to recite the Pledge of Allegiance each day.
Two-thirds of polltakers said voters should be required to show a picture identification at the polls; 62.1 percent believe undergraduate students at a state college or university should have their tuition locked in so it cannot increase during a four-year period; 61 percent said the state’s nuclear power plant construction moratorium should be lifted; and 60 percent believe lawn care companies and other commercial applicators should post 48-hour advance warnings before spraying city yards or farm fields with weed killers or other pesticides.
Nearly 51 percent of polltakers say the state should set a maximum number of patients a nurse can care for during a shift, and 40.6 percent believe the state should offer an investment tax credit for bioscience business investments. However, 30.2 percent were undecided on the issue.
And, finally, 35.2 percent of polltakers said ice hockey should be designated the state sport, 6.9 percent more than fishing. But many fairgoers commented that the Legislature should not waste time on such "trivial" matters. More than 600 people did not vote on the question.
Here's a look at the questions and results. All percentages are rounded to the nearest one-tenth. Totals are for those that actually voted on the question.
1. This November, voters will be asked to vote for a three-eighths of 1 percent sales tax increase with the money dedicated for the environment and the arts. Do you support this?
Yes 49.0% (3,640)
No 42.9% (3,188)
Undecided/No Opinion 8.0% (595)
2. Should voters be required to show a picture ID before casting their ballot?
Yes 67.0% (4,986)
No 27.1% (2,017)
Undecided/No Opinion 5.8% (432)
3. A motorist can now only be cited for failure to wear a seat belt if they are stopped for another infraction. Should law enforcement be permitted to stop someone solely for not wearing a seat belt?
Yes 47.1% (3,504)
No 47.0% (3,499)
Undecided/No Opinion 5.8% (431)
4. Should the state’s 14-year moratorium on nuclear power plant construction be lifted so new facilities can be considered to help meet the state's electricity needs?
Yes 61.0% (4,511)
No 26.4% (1,952)
Undecided/No Opinion 12.6% (935)
5. Clothing sold in the state is not subject to sales tax. Should it be?
Yes 11.6% (864)
No 84.6% (6,285)
Undecided/No Opinion 3.7% (276)
6. Should public school students be required to say the Pledge of Allegiance each day?
Yes 46.3% (3,436)
No 45.9% (3,406)
Undecided/No Opinion 7.8% (578)
7. The state is expected to face a deficit in excess of $1 billion next fiscal year. Do you generally support budget cuts as opposed to increasing certain taxes in times of economic distress?
Yes 46.5% (3,444)
No 43.0% (3,188)
Undecided/No Opinion 10.4% (773)
8. Should undergraduate students at a state college or university have their tuition locked in so that any semester during a four-year period it could not exceed the price the student was charged during their first semester?
Yes 62.1% (4,604)
No 26.7% (1,981)
Undecided/No Opinion 11.1% (826)
9. Should grocers and large retailers who use plastic carryout bags be required to make in-store bag recycling available?
Yes 76.0% (5,635)
No 19.7% (1,462)
Undecided/No Opinion 4.3% (323)
10. Hospitals are permitted to set staffing levels for registered nurses. Should the Legislature set a maximum number of patients a nurse can care for during a shift?
Yes 50.8% (3,770)
No 36.8% (2,725)
Undecided/No Opinion 12.4% (918)
11. Should a 25-percent investment tax credit be made available for investments in qualifying new bioscience business ventures?
Yes 40.6% (2,999)
No 29.0% (2,145)
Undecided/No Opinion 30.3% (2,243)
12. Should lawn care companies and other commercial applicators be required to post 48-hour advance warnings before spraying city yards or farm fields with weed killers or other pesticides?
Yes 60.0% (4,445)
No 29.3% (2,177)
Undecided/No Opinion 10.7% (797)
13. What should be the state sport?
Fishing 28.3% (1,931)
Football 4.6% (316)
Golf 2.2% (150)
Hunting 3.6% (245)
Ice hockey 35.2% (2,403)
Water skiing 3.2% (218)
Other 22.9% (1,564)
Posted on Wednesday, September 3, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Life moves quickly, especially in the summer. Here are updates from the past couple of weeks.
National Night Out
It was great to be out in our neighborhoods last night on National Night Out. National Night Out is a many years old event sponsored by law enforcement entities across the county. Last night I joined Officer Eric Johnson, St. Paul Police, for a ride along. I learned a lot about the demands of community policing in the 3 hours we spent together. Thanks to everyone who welcomed us to their block party. The lemonade was great!
Rock Tenn Community Advisory Panel
On August 4, the Rock Tenn Advisory Council (RCAP) received fuel source recommendations from the St. Paul Port Authority. The Port Authority offered 3 priorities for RCAP’s consideration. None of the 3 proposals include RDF (refuse derived fuel). The top choice is the use of biomass and anaerobic digestion (AD) to create gas for fuel. The proposal represents a "first in the nation" use of AD at this scale, creates a valuable rural urban partnership and would contribute to the state's goal of renewable energy and to the reduction of greenhouse gases.
RCAP will respond to the proposal at its next meeting on August 18, 2008. You can review the proposal at www.rtadvisory.org . The proposal goes from the RCAP to district councils and the St. Paul City Council. The work of the parties; RCAP, the Port Authority, Rock Tenn and the many stakeholders involved has yielded a proposal that could very well keep Rock Tenn in the recycling business, keep good jobs in St. Paul, maintain the public’s health and provide leadership on energy – and it is sorely needed. Congrats on the work to date. It is a demonstration of what is possible! WOW
Proposed Regulation to Diminish Reproductive Health
In 2007, the legislature adopted and the governor signed into law a requirement that hospitals provide emergency contraception in the emergency room to rape survivors to help prevent a pregnancy after a violent attack. The legislation had multiple hearings and the language, skillfully finessed, earned near unanimous support.
The Bush Administration has proposed a new regulation which could nullify this law in Minnesota by allowing health providers and systems to deny emergency contraception to victims of sexual assault. The proposed regulation also confuses contraception to prevent pregnancy and abortion to end a pregnancy, likely resulting in an increase in unplanned pregnancies. Finally, the proposal seeks to change the definition of conception from the standard medical definition of implantation to fertilization. This is a definition based in ideology and not in science. Over the next months, there will be opportunity to comment on the proposal and I will provide comment to the Administration. As I get more information, I will share it here.
My trip to Virginia and the Emerging Political Leaders conference was stellar!
Posted on Wednesday, August 6, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Next week I am heading to Virginia for a week of study at the University of Virginia. I am delighted to be among 50 legislators in the nation to participate in the 2008 Program for Emerging Political Leaders at the University of Virginia. In the spring, Speaker Kelliher nominated me for this honor. Read more at: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/members/pressreleasels85.asp?district=64A&pressid=3639&party=1
Over the past month I have been reading the materials in preparation including Plato’s Republic, The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan,Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat 3.0, Joseph Ellis’ American Creation and Crucibles of Leadership by Robert Thomas.
My first term as the representative from our district is best described as live action learning. I am excited to take all that I have learned and experienced to a classroom with legislators from other parts of the country. I know this will be a valuable experience and one that will help me stretch and grow my perspectives, thinking and abilities. I look forward to sharing what I learn back here at home.
Posted on Saturday, July 12, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
I wanted to share with you an opportunity to shape our economic future.
July 7, 2008
SAINT PAUL-The Secretary of State's Office today released the monthly notice of vacancies that have occurred in multi-member state agencies, pursuant to Minnesota Statutes, Section 15.0597, subdivision 4 (see the list of current vacancies below).
You may now apply online at: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/survey/user_survey.asp?nSurvey=111.
Application forms may also be found at http://www.sos.state.mn.us/docs/oa_application.pdf, or may be obtained from the Office of the Secretary of State, Open Appointments, 180 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155-1299, or in person at Room 180 of the State Office Building.
GREEN JOBS TASK FORCE
DEPT OF COMMERCE; 85 E. 7th Place, #500
ST. PAUL, MN 55101 651-296-9325
LAWS 2008, CH. 356
Appointing: Governor and Legislature
Compensation: $55 per diem plus expenses
One (1) - Public member representing the manufacturing industry, appointed by the Governor;
One (1) - Public member representing a statewide organization dedicated to commerce, appointed by the Governor;
One (1) - Public member representing the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute, appointed by the Governor;
Four (4) - Public Members, appointed by the Senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration, including:
(1) from a Local Economic Development Authority from the Metropolitan Area;
(1) from a Statewide organization dedicated to furthering the Green economy;
(1) from a firm currently engaged in green manufacturing; and
(1) local workforce development representative from an area thathas experienced significant manufacturing job loss;
Four (4) - Public Members appointed by the Speaker of the House, including:
(1) representing Labor;
(1) representing a statewide environmental organization;
(1) representing financial institutions or venture capital; and
(1) from a local economic development authority from Greater Minnesota.
Report to the Governor and Legislature by January 15, 2009 a statewide action plan to optimize the growth of the green economy. The plan must include necessary draft legislation and budget requests and may include administrative actions of governmental entities, collaborative actions, and actions of individuals and individual organizations. The plan must be based on an analysis that includes a market analysis of the business opportunities and needs created by laws including local, state, national, and international markets; an analysis of the labor force needs related to the market analysis opportunities including educational, training, and retraining needs; and an inventory of the current labor and business assets available to respond to the opportunities and labor needs.
Membership includes three members of the Minnesota House of Representatives, including one member of the minority party appointed by the Speaker of the House; three members of the Senate, including one member of the minority party appointed by the Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration; seven representatives from state agencies and institutions appointed by the Governor, including one member each from the Office of Energy Security, Department of Employment and Economic Development, Job Skills Partnership Board, University of Minnesota, Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, Pollution Control Agency, and Department of Natural Resources; three public members appointed by the Governor, including one member representing each of the following categories: the manufacturing industry, a statewide organization dedicated to commerce, and the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute; four public members appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives including one member representing each of the following categories: labor, a statewide environmental organization, financial institutions or venture capital, and a local economic development authority from greater Minnesota; and four public members appointed by the Senate Subcommittee on Committees of the Committee on Rules and Administration including one member representing each of the following categories: a local economic development authority from the metropolitan area, a statewide organization dedicated to furthering the green economy, a firm currently engaged in green manufacturing, and a local workforce development representative from an area that has experienced significant manufacturing job loss.
Posted on Monday, July 7, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
The following are new laws passed during the 2008 legislative session that take effect July 1, 2008. The asterisk following the bill number denotes the language that became law and is included in case you have been following along this session. A complete summary of all laws passed by the 2008 Legislature will soon be available online from House Public Information Services at www.house.mn/hinfo/newlaws2008
Provisions taking effect in the omnibus agriculture and veterans affairs policy law include:
• availability for annual waste pesticide disposal opportunities in each county for residential end-users, as well as a designated place in each county for disposal of agricultural waste pesticides. (Art. 1, Secs. 2-7);
• encouraging Greater Minnesota counties adopting or updating comprehensive plans to consider open space goals. The initiative is entitled the President Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Bill to Preserve Agricultural, Forest, Wildlife, and Open Space Land. (Art. 1, Secs. 57-61); and
• establishment of an agricultural and open space task force to study state and local policies regarding land preservation, with a report due to the Legislature by Jan. 30, 2009. (Art. 1, Secs. 62, 66)
Supplemental appropriations and reductions
Sponsored by Rep. Lyndon Carlson (DFL-Crystal) and Sen. Richard Cohen (DFL-St. Paul), a new law resolves the state’s biennial budget deficit of about $1 billion — up from the $935 million projected in the February 2008 forecast and after new spending items are included, such as the $38 million allocated for the Interstate 35W Bridge Victim Compensation Fund.
The agreement calls for $500 million to be taken from the state’s $653 million budget reserve and nearly $360 million in cuts and non-tax revenue increases are to occur. Additionally, the omnibus tax law (HF3179) includes $109 million from closing a tax loophole some foreign-operating corporations used to bypass state tax law. The state’s $350 million cash flow account is preserved.
The Department of Agriculture will see its General Fund appropriation increased by $188,000, primarily due to a one-time $1 million allocation for grants for a new livestock investment program. The increase is offset by a one-time $310,000 reduction in ethanol producer payments for an ethanol plant that ceased operations, a general reduction of $302,000 and a $200,000 reduction for an Elk River bioenergy product. (Art. 7, Secs. 1-3)
The Commerce Department is to see an overall reduction of $4.1 million, including a $2.6 million drop for renewable hydrogen initiative grants and $1.25 million in E-85 cost-share grants. (Art. 6, Secs. 3, 4)
Early Childhood and K-12 Education
The law provides the equivalent of an additional 1 percent, or $51 per pupil unit, to the funding formula for Fiscal Year 2009.
The funding comes from a $10 million reduction in Q Comp, the pay-for-performance program some school districts are using. The General Fund is to cover the other $33 million of cost. (Art. 2, Sec. 47)
However, the law creates a process for approving new alternative compensation districts, sites and schools that had not applied as of March 20, 2008. New entitlement revenue is limited to $11.4 million in Fiscal Year 2009 and $14.3 million the following year. (Art. 2, Sec. 48)
The Education Department faces an $892,000 operating reduction in Fiscal Year 2009. (Art. 2, Sec. 41)
The state reimbursement for each half-pint of kindergarten milk not served as part of a school lunch or reimbursed under statute is increased from 14 to 20 cents. (Art. 2, Sec. 12)
Wording is changed on a ballot question to renew a school district operating referendum levy so voters better understand their vote is to extend an existing property tax referendum set to expire, rather than potentially increasing their property taxes. (Art. 2, Sec. 22)
Beginning in Fiscal Year 2009, the Department of Employment and Economic Development budget is reduced $550,000. The reduction must not result in layoffs. That same year, $400,000 is appropriated to establish the Office of Science and Technology and an equal amount is a transfer for the military reservists economic injury loan program. HIRED is to receive $120,000 to provide employee training developed with employers in specific high-demand industries, and $75,000 is for Lifetrack Resources for a pilot project in Rochester focusing on immigrant and refugee programs. All are one-time appropriations.
The Housing Finance Agency is cut $200,000 in Fiscal Year 2009, the Bureau of Mediation Services $69,000, and the Department of Labor and Industry will receive a $43,000 base reduction, which cannot be funded through a reduction in prevailing wage enforcement or by not filling department positions. (Art. 10, Secs. 4, 5, 7).
A one-time $1.3 million appropriation in Fiscal Year 2009 is to the Minnesota Film and TV Board for its job production program. (Art. 10, Sec. 6)
Total appropriations in this area are increased by $405,000. General Fund appropriations are reduced by almost $3.06 million, but spending increases are to occur in a natural resources fund, game and fish area and environmental fund. (Art. 5, Secs. 1, 2)
Overall funding to the Pollution Control Agency is reduced by $603,000. This includes a $623,000 reduction in department operations and another $20,000 appropriation from the General Fund to develop recommendations to establish a comprehensive product stewardship approach to reducing environmental and health risks posed by the use or disposal of certain products.
The Board of Water and Soil Resources is to receive a net General Fund increase of $235,000. The law includes a $450,000 increase for cost-share programs to help areas flooded in 2007 and $100,000 for the Star Lake Board, to which lake associations seeking the “Star Lake” designation would be required to submit a lake or river management plan. In addition to evaluating plans and awarding the designation to qualifying lake associations, the board is to work with associations to achieve maximum sustainability results. (Art. 5, Secs. 5, 17, 18, 26, 32)
The state budget reserve is to be reduced by $500 million. (Art. 14, Sec. 1).
Most state agencies are looking at a 4 percent budget reduction, the Legislature and constitutional offices are generally cut 3 percent. For example, the House is cut $952,000 in Fiscal Year 2009; the Senate $710,000. (Art. 13, Secs. 3-11, 21)
However, the law appropriates a pair of $40,000 grants to partially fund memorials on the Capitol Mall: one for workers and another for Hubert H. Humphrey. (Art. 13, Sec. 9)
Salary limits for the directors of the state’s three major public employee retirement systems are increased from 85 percent to 95 percent of the governor’s salary. This is the same cap in law for heads of most state agencies and departments. (Art. 13, Secs. 15, 16)
The total appropriation for the health and human services areas decreases by $84.7 million in the current biennium and nearly $190 million for the following two years.
A $50 million transfer from the Health Care Access Fund to the General Fund is included in the law. The money will be paid back when the health care reform law efficiencies save the General Fund that amount. (Art. 17, Sec. 1)
An additional 3 percent reduction on medical assistance and general assistance medical care payments for hospital outpatient services and clinic visits is imposed. The amount withheld from the medical assistance and general assistance medical care managed care capitation rate is increased by an additional 3 percent of the total capitation; this additional withhold will be returned in the following year. Mental and American Indian health service facilities are exempt. (Art. 17, Secs. 13-15)
The state’s higher education institutions receive a $21.7 million cut in the current biennium, and a $33.5 million reduction is scheduled in the following biennium. The Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system cannot raise tuition higher than what was previously planned for the 2008-09 academic year. A similar request is made to the University of Minnesota. (Art. 4, Sec. 1)
In fiscal years 2008-09, a $7.88 million trim for MnSCU is in the law and the board is directed to reallocate $9 million of its state appropriation to reduce student tuition.
Reductions cannot, however, reduce technology expenditures or grants to campuses, and must not increase any assessments to campuses. The system base is reduced by $7.7 million in fiscal years 2010 and 2011.
The law appropriates $600,000 in one-time money to expand the Power of You program (based on an equal nonstate match) and allocates $120,000 for a teachers of diverse backgrounds financial aid pilot program at Winona State and St. Cloud State universities in partnership with specified school districts. (Art. 4, Secs. 4, 8)
A $12.3 million current biennium reduction to the university is in law, as is a $17.4 million cut in the 2010-11 biennium. (Art. 4, Sec. 5)
The Fiscal Year 2009 appropriation to the Office of Higher Education is reduced by $1.38 million. The office must cancel $90,000 of a 2007 appropriation to upgrade computer software related to state grant awards. (Art. 4, Sec. 3)
Included in the law is a net $52,000 General Fund increase in Fiscal Year 2009 for the Department of Military Affairs.
It calls for $180,000 to add “state navigator” positions to coordinate state programs to help soldiers and their families during and after the reintegration process, $135,000 for bonus payments to National Guard medics who meet certain recertification requirements and $75,000 for state enhancement of the federal Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve Program. (Art. 9, Secs. 3, 7, 8)
Spouses can use up to 12 semester hours annually of a National Guard members unused tuition reimbursement benefit, if the member has completed at least eight years of service. (Art. 9, Sec. 9)
District courts are cut by $2.8 million, the Public Defense Board faces a $1.49 million cut, the Supreme Court is cut an ongoing $831,000 and the Court of Appeals cut is $250,000 ongoing. (Art. 12, Secs. 1-6)
The Department of Public Safety will see a $2.06 million reduction in Fiscal Year 2009, including nearly $1.27 million for CriMNet, a $450,000 reduction for the Financial Crimes Task Force and $250,000 in operating costs. (Art. 12, Sec. 7)
The Human Rights Department is cut $149,000 in Fiscal Year 2009. (Art. 12, Sec. 8)
Of the $2.79 million reduction to the Department of Corrections in Fiscal Year 2009, $2.1 million is in reimbursement to counties for the care and housing of short-term offenders. Sentencing to Service funding is reduced $600,000. (Art. 12, Sec. 9)
A $2 million transfer from a fire safety account to the General Fund is in the law, as is a $3 increase in the criminal and traffic offender surcharge with that money headed to the General Fund. (Art. 12, Secs. 10-12)
Of the $21.3 million decrease for transportation, the most controversial is transferring $15 million from an airport development and assistance fund to the General Fund. The provision was not in the initial House or Senate proposal. Critics noted the money was taken from the fund during the 2003 budget shortfall and it took four years to get the money back.
The law provides $6.85 million in one-time money from the Trunk Highway Fund to take advantage of federal funds for bridge construction. It also reduces Greater Minnesota transit funding by $32,000 in Fiscal Year 2009. (Art. 11, Secs. 3, 10)
Funding for the Metropolitan Council is reduced by $136,000 for transit operations in Fiscal Year 2009. (Art. 11, Sec. 4)
A $1.75 surcharge is to be imposed on each fee collected for a driver’s license, permit and identification card, vehicle registration renewal and title applications from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2012. The money is to be used for a new computer information system within the Driver and Vehicle Services Division of the Public Safety Department. (Art. 11, Secs. 6-9)
The net overall General Fund gain for the Department of Veteran Affairs is $3.8 million, including $2.5 million for state soldier’s assistance. A $500,000 appropriation is for casework services for veterans, $250,000 is for the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans to help veterans and their families affected by homelessness, $250,000 is to add veteran’s service officer coordinating positions at a Veterans Claim Office and $25,000 is a one-time appropriation to develop a pilot program for peer-to-peer counseling among combat veterans.
A $300,000 reduction for the Veterans Homes Board is in the law. The reduction is possible because of administrative efficiencies resulting from the transfer of governance from the board to the Veterans Affairs Department. (Art. 8, Secs. 1-3)
Because of uncertainty in participation numbers for the remainder of the biennium, instead of writing down appropriations, the GI Bill is converted to a forecasted program so that on June 1, 2009, the finance commissioner is to review program participation levels and adjust the appropriations at that time. A $100,000 annual cap on program management costs is established, instead of 3 percent of the annual appropriation. (Art. 8, Sec. 7)
Protection of Social Security numbers
Sponsored by Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center) and Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), consumer credit reporting agencies can continue providing credit reports to the state, and for Social Security information to be included on mortgage documents and insurance applications, but there are now added assurances the information will be protected.
The law also states that marketing is not a legitimate business purpose for the sale of Social Security numbers.
Trust fund appropriations
A new law comprises funding for more than 70 project recommendations from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.
The money comes from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, which derives funding from lottery proceeds.
By category, included is: $16.3 million for land and habitat projects; $3.5 million for water resources projects; $2.4 million for natural resources information projects; $1.1 million for environment education projects; and $155,000 for the state’s emerging issues account.
• $3.15 million for Metro Conservation Corridors Phase IV;
• $3.15 million for the Habitat Conservation Partnership Phase V;
• $1.6 million for south-central Minnesota groundwater monitoring and county geologic atlases;
• $1.5 million for state park and trail acquisitions; and
• $1.5 million to the Metropolitan Council for regional park land acquisitions.
A full list of the approved projects is available at www.lccmr.leg.mn/lccmr.htm.
Rep. Jean Wagenius (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul) are the sponsors.
Green Solutions Act of 2008
Sponsored by Rep. Kate Knuth (DFL-New Brighton) and Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul), the Green Solutions Act of 2008 requires legislative approval of any implementation of a cap-and-trade system on emissions. It also calls for studies by the Commerce Department and the Pollution Control Agency on potential impacts of cap-and-trade. The law makes a one-time appropriation of $500,000 for that effort. A third study, to be conducted by the University of Minnesota, must explore possible governance models for expending cap-and-trade revenues. A $75,000 one-time appropriation will fund the study.
All three studies are due to the Legislature by Jan. 15, 2009.
Uniformity in record-keeping
A Foreclosure Data Group discovered that it’s very difficult to find accurate data on properties in foreclosure. A new law, sponsored by Rep. Jim Davnie (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Ann Rest (DFL-New Hope), puts some of the group’s recommendations into statute.
The portion of the law, effective July 1, 2008, establishes the Electronic Real Estate Recording Commission to adopt implementation standards to facilitate the recording of real property documents electronically. Its mission is to establish consistency in standards, practices and technology used by recorders and registrars in this state with those in other jurisdictions.
Age to donate blood lowered
Sixteen-year-olds can donate blood with written permission from their parent or guardian.
Sponsored by Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Faribault) and Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL-Mankato), the change was the idea of high school student Joe Gibson, who came up with the proposal after seeing his grandfather’s energy increase after blood transfusions during cancer treatments. Gibson said he attempted to give blood at his local high school blood drive soon after, but was turned away because the current age requirement is 17.
Historical society funding
Cities with a population of more than 100,000 will have the same opportunity as smaller cities to allocate property tax revenue to county historical societies.
Sponsored by Rep. Andy Welti (DFL-Plainview) and Sen. Ann Lynch (DFL-Rochester), an appropriation of up to 0.02418 percent of taxable market value could be available to a society affiliated with, and approved by, the Minnesota Historical Society.
Protection from civil proceedings
Sponsored by Rep. Al Juhnke (DFL-Willmar) and Sen. Jim Vickerman (DFL-Tracy), the omnibus agriculture and veterans affairs policy law contains provisions related to the military and veterans affairs. Under certain circumstances, at least a 60-day protection from civil court proceedings is provided for reservist-owned businesses while the person is deployed. A qualified service member who is granted a stay in the action may request from the court an additional stay, which the court may grant if the service member can show that
military requirements affect the member's ability to appear. If the court refuses to grant an additional stay, the court must provide information enabling the service member to acquire qualified legal counsel. (Art. 2, Sec. 6)
World War II service medals
A special World War II service medal will be available to qualifying veterans. The commissioner of veterans affairs will establish the criteria necessary to obtain a medal and its cost. By July 1, 2008, the commissioner must notify veterans organizations with World War II veterans about the medal’s availability. These organizations may collect and contribute money on behalf of their surviving individual members who meet the service criteria. (Art. 2, Sec. 28)
Pensions provisions modified
Changes for public employee retirees are included in the omnibus pensions law. The law contains various effective dates, but many provisions relating to phased retirement or rehiring take effect July 1, 2008. For instance, if a person is under age 62, an offer of renewal and any related verbal offer or agreement must not be made until at least 30 days after termination of the person's previous postretirement option employment.
The law, sponsored by Rep. Mary Murphy (DFL-Hermantown) and Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), also lays out provisions dealing with teacher annuities, phased-in retirement and return to work agreements.
Pool drain cover safety
The Abigail Taylor Pool Safety Act requires that owners of public pools must provide information to the Health Department about their pools and the drain covers in order to renew or receive a license to operate.
Sponsored by Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Mpls) and Sen. Geoff Michel (R-Edina), according to the law, the drain covers must meet industry standards, be properly installed and not be broken or loose.
Orders for protection time lengthened
An Order for Protection can be issued for up to 50 years.
Sponsored by Rep. Larry Hosch (DFL-St. Joseph) and Sen. Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud), the new law provides the option for a longer term if the respondent has violated a previous order on two or more occasions, or if there have been two or more orders issued against the respondent.
The law also allows the person named in the order to request the order be vacated or modified if it has been in effect for five years and not been violated.
Local option transportation taxes
Counties in the Twin Cities metropolitan area are already permitted to impose a 0.25 percent transportation sales tax without referendum and a $20 excise tax on vehicles sold at retail.
As part of the transportation finance law, sponsored by Rep. Bernie Lieder (DFL-Crookston) and Sen. Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing), counties outside the metropolitan area, or counties working together under a joint powers agreement, can impose a sales tax of up to 0.5 percent and a $20 excise tax on vehicles sold at retail. But unlike the metropolitan area, the money can be raised only if approved by a voter referendum, and can only be used for a specific project. The tax expires once the project is completed. (Art. 4, Sec. 3)
Posted on Sunday, June 29, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
BALANCED BUDGET, HEALTH CARE REFORM, EDUCATION FUNDING, AND PROPERTY TAY RELIEF
Two weeks ago, the Minnesota Legislature concluded a successful 2008 session. I want to begin by thanking the mighty citizens of district 64 A. Your engagement, perspective and commitment to Minnesota are delightful. I remain grateful for the opportunity to serve and represent our part of the state.
Nearly two years ago, House DFLers offered their Stick-to-the-Basics agenda to Minnesotans. It was a pledge to take our state in a new direction and focus on the bread and butter issues affecting families across our state. As this legislative session comes to a close, we can point to remarkable progress on each of our agenda items. This session we adopted a budget-balancing bill that closes tax loopholes for foreign-operating companies, and provided needed funding for public schools and nursing homes. In addition, the legislature passed a significant health care reform bill, help with property taxes and an increase in aid to St. Paul.
Here are some of the highlights from the past two years:
Excellent Education: Increased funding for our schools, increased special education funding and improved accountability.
Health Care: Expanded access to affordable health care to 112,000 Minnesotans and passed reform legislation to slow the growth of health care costs, improve care for the chronically ill and invest in the health of Minnesotans.
Environment and Energy: Adopted a nation leading renewable energy standard and a Cap and Trade policy framework.
Transportation: Adopted the state's first comprehensive transportation plan in twenty years along with funding the Central Corridor.
Lower College Tuition: Provided higher education funding to end double digit tuition increases.
My Legislative Report will be mailed soon and I look forward to visiting through the interim. You can always reach me through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 651.296.8799. Though the session is ended, the work continues. I will continue to share my efforts with you on this blog. Till our paths cross, have a beautiful summer.
Be mighty for our future,
Posted on Sunday, June 1, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
The 2008 session started in February and we are two weeks from the end of session. The final weeks are always interesting, newsworthy and productive. It is in the final weeks of session that the major issues are resolved, the pressure of the calendar compelling resolution.
We have spent most of today's floor session working on HF 3149, the tax bill. In addition to addressing property taxes, the bill proposes increases in Local Government Aid, County Aid and Town Aid. It increases accountability for the JOBZ program and prohibits new businesses from entering JOBZ after June 2008. A provision I have carried for the past two year to fund Ramsey County's Environmental Response Fund (ERF) is in the tax bill. If signed into law, it will provide ongoing funding to clean up blighted land and property.
Much of the work of the last weeks happens in conference committee, as House and Senate provisions are reconciled. The balance of our time is spent on the floor, moving bills and conference reports. The budget negotiations are well underway. Much of the final week's progress hinges on the quality and outcome of the negotiations. In the balance hang Central Corridor, health care reform and a budget deal. The work is important.
Thanks for your continued contact and advocacy. Keep it up, mighty citizens. Your perspectives shape our work and the future for Minnesota.
Posted on Monday, May 5, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
As early as next week, we will be debating a property tax proposal on the House floor. With most homeowners being squeezed by skyrocketing property taxes, I thought it would be a good idea to discuss the proposal as well as remind folks of the property tax refund options currently available.
Since 2002, Minnesota property taxes have increased over $2.7 billion dollars, an 81%increase for Minnesota homeowners. These increases have hit lower and middle-class homeowners the hardest, making our tax system more regressive.
The current House property tax proposal aims to base property taxes on the "ability to pay," targeting relief to homeowners that need it most – seniors, families, and farmers.
The plan would cut homeowner's property taxes by an expected 5.7% in 2009 by combining the state's existing property tax refund program into a more progressive system. It creates a Homestead Credit State Refund that provides permanent relief to any homeowners whose property taxes exceed 2% of their income, especially aiding those on fixed incomes. 95% of Minnesotans would be eligible for the credit.
This legislation will move through Ways and Means yet this week and then to the floor. It will be the subject of a thorough debate. Many in our district are struggling with property tax increases. Efforts to address this last session were thwarted. I am hopeful that this legislation will become law.
It is important to know that there are current options for you. You may already qualify for existing property tax refund:
Targeted Property Tax Refund - if you are a homeowner and the net property tax on your homestead increased by more than 12% and at least $100 from 2007 to 2008.
Homeowner and Property Tax Refund - if you have a household income of up to $93,480 or are a renter and have an income up to $50,430.
Senior Citizens Property Tax Deferral Program – Available for seniors to defer portions of homestead property taxes.
To apply for a property tax refund, you must complete the M1PR form. It can be found online here: www.taxes.state.mn.us/taxes/forms/m1prfillin_07.pdf
If you have additional questions:
Department of Revenue – (651) 296-3781, or email@example.com
Check status of existing refund: (651) 296-4444 or www.taxes.state.mn.us/taxes/prop_refund/index.html
Posted on Wednesday, April 30, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
On the 38th anniversary of Earth Day, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about a project underway at the House of Representatives designed to cut down on our waste.
Last summer a Task Force on Paper Waste Reduction was started to set goals for waste reduction within the Capitol and set an example for waste reduction throughout Minnesota.
Here are the goals
- Reduce overall House paper usage by 20% through various strategies of reusing, recycling, and conserving
- Increasing the Duplex Rate to 50%
- Giving paper a "second chance"
- Switch from legal to letter size paper for bills
Audits from the House found that in a 15-month session, the House purchased over 60 tons of paper, or over 12.6 million sheets. Several practical efforts are underway to bring that number down.
- Smaller amendments to bills are being printed on letter-sized paper and further transition is being considered
- Duplicating Center is testing 100% recycled paper, hopefully leading to fully implemented use of 100% recycled paper
- Increased recycling bins on the House Floor, and other areas of the Capitol and State Office Building
We are already seeing gains, but this is a work in progress. We will continue to work toward conservation-minded practices that are both cost-effective and environmentally friendly here at the Capitol.
Enjoy the rest of Earth Day and the budding spring.
Posted on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Call Governor Pawlenty and Urge His Action on the Central Corridor
For years, federal, state, and local officials have worked tirelessly to move Minnesota toward a 21st Century transportation system. This hard work culminated last week when we sent the Governor a bonding bill that included $70 million in funding for the Central Corridor light-railway between St. Paul and Minneapolis. The only thing left before the project became a reality was a signature from Governor Pawlenty.
Unfortunately this Monday, the Governor chose to line-item veto the Central Corridor from the Bonding bill. The Governor has both the authority and the responsibility to apply his perspective to the work of the legislature and one tool is the veto. But the veto of this project took the Bonding bill well below the $825 million dollars the Governor set as his stated limit. The Governor's veto pen brought a vision for a better, safer, Minnesota transportation system to a screeching halt.
It's difficult to understand the Governor’s action. He asked local leaders to trim the project and they did. He was in favor of the proposal less than two months ago when he included the project in his own bonding proposal. He championed the need to address global warming by reducing greenhouse gases, and the Central Corridor was by all accounts, our best single chance to reduce those gases.
The Governor's decision to veto Central Corridor is disappointing for several reasons, but perhaps most significantly, the Governor jeopardized hundreds of millions of federal dollars with his veto. Building light-rail is expensive, and several major regions are competing for scarce federal dollars. By pulling the rug out at the last minute, those funds are now likely to go elsewhere and the corridor will go to the back of the line for future funding.
The Central Corridor project is vital to the long-term development of Minnesota's changing transportation system. It is critical to our efforts to reduce greenhouse gases. Governor Pawlenty is the one person who can move Central Corridor forward and he has put on the brakes.
If it is important to you, I encourage you to call Governor Pawlenty (651-296-3391) and ask him to put Central Corridor back on track.
Posted on Tuesday, April 8, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
As you are likely aware, Minnesota faces a $935 million state budget deficit. We are working at the Capitol to reach agreement on a plan to balance the budget. The Governor has offered his budget-balancing proposal and the House has developed its proposal. The House is working into the night on this bill and the many amendments. We began today's session at 10 in the morning and at 1 in the morning, we are still at it.
There are some areas of agreement between the Governor and the House as well as key differences. I'm glad the Governor is finally on board with a plan to close corporate tax loopholes for companies that shield profits overseas. However, I am disappointed the Governor again plans to make deep cuts that profoundly affect our most vulnerable citizens. The Governor would cut $31 million from nursing homes and long-term care workers, over $50 million from the University of Minnesota and MNSCU schools (could lead to higher tuition), and uses $250 from the Health Care Access Fund, which provides health care for hard-working Minnesotans who do not have health care access.
The House budget proposal takes a more balanced, responsible approach. In our proposal K-12 education and nursing homes would get a needed funding increases through existing revenue, so other programs aren’t cut as a result. Instead of cutting the Health Care Access Fund, our proposal used part of our state's $1 billion budget reserve to fill the gap. Our budget fix includes cuts, but they are largely directed toward state agencies and the state legislature.
The Governor's plan could have serious negative long-term implications because its isn't responsible, or even effective, to only "cut" our way out of a budget deficit. In 2003, the last time we had a deficit, the Governor cut schools, health care, and nursing homes. Five years later we have skyrocketing property taxes, under funded nursing homes, and college tuition that is twice the national average.
The 2003 budget cuts asked lower and middle-class Minnesotans to shoulder too large a burden. A 2007 Department of Finance Tax Incidence Study concluded that in total taxes (income, property, sales, etc.) lower and middle-class Minnesotans now pay a larger percentage of their income than the wealthiest 1%, those making over $350,000 a year. You can look at that study here: http://www.taxes.state.mn.us/legal_policy/research_reports/content/incidence.shtml
We need significant tax reform that more fairly asks all Minnesotans to pay their fair share.
We are constitutionally mandated at the state legislature to balance our budget by the end of this session. This is a good thing. It means we cannot run up years of budget deficits that must be paid off by future generations. But the way we balance our budget does have a profound effect in the long-term economic health of our state.
Our House budget proposal responsibly contemplates both the short and long term implications for the future.
Posted on Friday, April 4, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
The urgent need for major health care reform was reinforced today by the news that three working-age Minnesotans die per week because they don't have health insurance according to a recently released Families USA study.
The study, Dying for Coverage in Minnesota, details that working-age people without health insurance have shorter life expectancies than working-age people with health insurance. Those without life insurance are diagnosed with serious medical condition when the problem has severely advanced. For example, uninsured women are far more likely to be diagnosed with advanced stage breast cancer than women with insurance.
A link to the study can be found here: http://familiesusa.org
Right now, over 450,000 Minnesotans still do not have health insurance. And cost is at the root of the problem. We must address health care costs for everyone-- for those with coverage and for those without. We must do this for our individual financial well being and for Minnesota's economic future. Many important health care reforms are being discussed at the Capitol this session, and I am hopeful we can pass legislation that moves us toward our goal of quality health care for every Minnesotan.
Posted on Sunday, March 30, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Minnesota's foreclosure crisis continues to profoundly affect families and neighborhoods across the state. We have had record drops in home sales, steep declines in home values, and the highest level of foreclosures since the Great Depression. Last week, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke called for increased action at the federal level to respond to the crisis. We hope to address the crisis responsively at the Minnesota legislature this year as well.
The Minnesota Subprime Foreclosure Deferment Act of 2008 and other proposals before the Legislature take strong and immediate action to prevent foreclosures by encouraging lenders and borrowers to work together to restructure subprime loans.
Most homeowners want to pay their monthly mortgage, but skyrocketing payments caused by upward adjustments to interest rates have made it impossible for them to do so. Legislation has been introduced this year that would defer these huge rate increases to allow people avoid foreclosure. Homeowners who qualify will continue making payments and are required to live in their homes during the deferment period. .
Several other bills have been offered aimed at addressing our foreclosure crisis:
- HF3428 (Gunther) Modifying right of tenant to pay utility bills
- HF3474 (Hilstrom) Relating to mortgages; redemption period; providing for notice of sale
- HF3475 (Mullery) Amending provisions relating to foreclosure
- HF3477 (Gardner) Relating to manufactured housing; providing for regulation of lending practices and default; providing notices and remedies
- HF3480 (Mullery) Relating to human rights; modifying filing of claim provision
- HF3516 (Davnie) Providing for certain data practices relating to foreclosure; requiring a report
- HF3517 (Davnie) Modifying expungement and withholding of rent under certain circumstances.
If you would like know more information about these proposals, visit the House of Representatives Bill Search website to read summaries of each bill.
Our home foreclosure crisis isn’t going away anytime soon. We need sensible solutions in order to provide breathing room to homeowners, relief to lenders and stability to financial markets that are in disarray.
As these proposals move through the legislative process, please call or e-mail with any questions.
Posted on Wednesday, March 19, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
It's been a busy week at the Minnesota Legislature. March 14, the first of the 3 deadlines imposed to focus the policymaking process, has passed. By next Wednesday the 19th of March, bills must have been heard in all relevant policy committees in both the House and Senate. To meet the deadline, policy committees have been meeting into the evenings for the past couple of weeks. After the 19th, the scope of what will proceed narrows considerably. Many of the bills I am carrying have made the deadline and many will require more work before they will become law.
This week our committees started holding hearings on the Governor's supplemental budgetary recommendations. On February 28th, the Department of Finance released updated budgetary projections. As a consequence of recession in the first half of 2008 and further weakening of the U.S. economy, experts believe Minnesota will collect less tax revenue than previously anticipated in the coming fiscal year. Consequently, the Department is projecting a $935 million deficit for the current biennium and a growing deficit thereafter.
We are giving thorough and deliberate consideration to each of the Governor's proposals. Paring back spending is always difficult. I am very concerned that the Governor again proposes use of Health Care Access Funds to balance the budget. I am concerned that such a substantial proportion (56%) of the proposed cuts come from health and human services and that higer education funding is a target. I am going to work diligently to ensure cuts are made responsibly and with the least possible harm to the most vulnerable among us. Thanks to the many who have already made contact with me about the proposed budget cuts.
There are some components of the Governor's proposal that give me hope of progress. Funding for K-12 and local government aid are sheltered. Cuts to these budgets would likely result in more pressure on property taxes locally. I'm pleased to see the Governor will join the legislature in pursuing tax fairness and closing the loopholes for foreign operating corporations (FOCs). Additionally, it appears his budget would preserve some of the strides made for veterans over the past few years. We face a difficult challenge and I hope that we can build upon this common ground to restore balance to our state's finances with an eye on our shared future.
Posted on Saturday, March 15, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Earlier in the session, we sent a constituent survey (if you did not get a copy, contact me and we will send you one). Question number five asked:
"Last year the legislature enacted a nation-leading Global Warming Mitigation Act aimed at significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2015, 30% by 2025and 80% by 2050. Given the ambitious goal, do you support using a Carbon cap-and-trade system to reduce greenhouse gasses in Minnesota?"
Constituents overwhelmingly said that they did not know enough about what cap-and-trade was in order to make a confident and educated decision. So, it seemed wise to share basic information on what a cap-and-trade system is, and where Minnesota is going in terms of this idea.
Paraphrased from Wikipedia, a cap-and-trade system, or emissions trading, is an approach used to control pollution by providing economic incentives for reducing the emissions of pollutants. The government sets a limit or cap on the amount of Carbon that can be emitted. Companies or other groups are issued emission permits and are required to hold an equivalent number of allowances (or credits), which represent the right to emit a specific amount. The total amount of allowances and credits cannot exceed the cap, limiting total emissions to that level.
Companies that need to increase their emissions must buy credits from those who pollute less. The transfer of allowances is referred to as a trade. In effect, the buyer is paying a charge for polluting, while the seller is being rewarded for having reduced emissions by more than was needed. Thus, in theory, those that can easily reduce emissions most cheaply will do so, achieving the pollution reduction at the lowest possible cost to society. The full article can be viewed here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cap_and_trade
In regard to this issue, Minnesota is making progress. As the survey question implied, Minnesota's Global Warming Mitigation Act was passed in last year's session. This set impressive goals for Minnesota in reducing greenhouse emissions. Then in November, Governor Pawlenty signed the Midwestern Regional Greenhouse Gas Reduction Accord with Governors from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota, and Manitoba's Premier. According to the Governor's press release, the Accord will:
• Establish greenhouse gas reduction targets and timeframes
• Develop cap-and-trade mechanism
• Establish a system to enable tracking, management and crediting for entities that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
• Develop and implement additional steps, such as a low-carbon fuel standards and regional incentives and funding mechanisms.
The Governor's press release can be viewed here in full: http://www.governor.state.mn.us/mediacenter/pressreleases/2007/PROD008417.html
The legislature supports the governor's work toward a regional cap and trade program and Rep. Knuth has introduced a bill this session (HF 3195) to establish design principles of a cap and trade system that will benefit the public. The bill is currently in committee. The house's research on the bill can be viewed here:
I hope this information is useful. I am a co-author on Representative Knuth's bill. I hope that Minnesota will participate in the continued development of environmental policy for the nation. This legislation is an example of Minnesota's strong environmental leadership. Please feel free to contact me regarding your opinion and suggestions. As always, I look forward to hearing from you!
Posted on Friday, March 7, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Comprehensive Transportation Package Will Be Debated This Thursday, 2/21
The Minnesota Legislative Auditor released a report today on the condition of Minnesota State Highways and Bridges. The report detailed a grim future for Minnesota's roads and bridges, stating that MnDOT has consistently scheduled more state highway projects than they could possibly deliver given available funding. The report also found that if Minnesota continues down this path, preservation and maintenance will eat all of the available money for transportation, leaving no funds for new projects.
To view the full report, visit: http://www.auditor.leg.state.mn.us/ped/2008/trunkhwy.htm
This report adds to the mountain of evidence that clearly shows Minnesota needs to act on a comprehensive transportation package. That is why we have been moving quickly on a balanced plan that will address the needs of our roads and bridges in both metro and rural areas. It will also invest in mass transit in the metro, a key component to the long-term transportation and environmental needs of our state.
This Thursday, we will likely take up the transportation package on the floor of both the House and Senate. I recognize that we are struggling with a sluggish economy. Adding a gas tax, for some, seems ill advised. Yet there is a large price to pay for waiting. I hope the report of the Legislative Auditor, the status of our roads and bridges and our desire for clean environment and a competitive economy will translate into action this session. We must pass this vitally important legislation for our future.
Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
The 2008 Legislature convened today and I am delighted to report that we are moving smartly and quickly at the Capitol.
This morning, DFL leaders introduced the Safe Roads and Bridges Improvement Act, the 2008 omnibus transportation funding legislation. The balanced proposal will help fix crumbling roads and bridges throughout the state, invest in mass transit, and index the gas tax for inflation so we never fall behind this far again with our transportation funding responsibility.
The bill will phase in the first gas tax increase in twenty year. Those in the lowest income bracket will get a $25 rebate to ease the burden for those earning the least. A half-cent metro-wide sales tax will add millions in needed investment for mass transit. Estimates are that over the next five years our bill will create 33,000 new jobs per year. We plan to act quickly on this legislation, that’s why it was introduced on the first day of session. I will keep you up to speed with new developments in the coming weeks.
This Thursday, the legislature intends to pass the Minnesota Legacy Act. The bill will put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot, which if passed by voters, would dedicate a portion of the state sales tax (0.375 percent) to Minnesota's environment and natural resources, parks, and the arts. Many in our district support the Minnesota Legacy Act.
With real challenges facing Minnesota, I enter this session with determination. We are going to send the Governor bills containing solutions to address soaring health care costs, underfunded transit ways and capital investment. I am optimistic that we have set the right course this session.
I encourage you to e-mail me (rep.erin.Murphy@house.mn) with input or questions you have about the Safe Roads and Bridges Improvement Act or the Minnesota Legacy Act. I love hearing from you.
Posted on Tuesday, February 12, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
Dear Mighty Citizens,
The 2008 legislative session begins on February 12th. It promises to be a fast-paced and challenging session. I wanted to share a brief preview, and also invite you to continue checking out my blog for weekly updates throughout the session.
A top priority for the legislative session will be to address Minnesota's struggling economy. Higher energy costs, mortgage foreclosures and job loss are a potent concoction and the resulting economic impact is affecting all of us. We can make both short and long-term investments that will create jobs, and strengthen Minnesota's economy for years to come.
Minnesota's unemployment rate is lagging behind national average for the first time in 30 years. We can create jobs right away through passage of a job-centered bonding bill that emphasizes projects that are ready-to-go. Our bonding bill will create 10,000 jobs, focusing on higher education facilities construction and preservation, transportation infrastructure, and clean water preservation.
We can better prepare the long-term economic health of our state through strong investment in education at every level. We can also invest in renewable energy and biosciences, establishing Minnesota as a regional center for these booming industries.
The tragic I-35W bridge collapse this summer shed light on the desperate need for a comprehensive transportation package to address our crumbling roads and bridges. I am optimistic, that with the Governor's support or not, we will pass a transportation package that can make our roads and bridges safer, alleviate traffic congestion, and bolster light-rail and mass transit. A transportation package would also create thousands of good paying construction jobs.
Reforming our broken health care system remains one my top legislative goals. Throughout the interim, I worked with the Health Care Access Committee, which held dozens of hearings and forums across the state to better enable us to make important reforms this year. Every person should have access to quality health care when they need it. I will work this year to make several reforms that can put us on the right track toward guaranteed, affordable health care for every Minnesotan and that will yield a healthier population.
Our legislative process works most effectively when we are informed and work together. On my end, I will keep you up to speed with what is going on at the Capitol with regular blog postings and e-updates throughout the session. On your end, I want to hear about your priorities and vision for our community and state. Send me an e-mail (rep.erin.Murphy@house.mn) with your comments and ideas.
I will hold three "coffee talks" in the upcoming weeks, a lunch with constituents at the Capitol and a town hall meeting with Rep. Paymar and Senator Cohen. Watch here for more information about dates and locations.
Together, we will move Minnesota forward with positive, progressive action in 2008. See you soon!
Rep. Erin Murphy
Posted on Friday, February 8, 2008 by Erin Murphy,
At the end of last session, I sent out a survey to constituents in the District 64 A to see what issues were most important in our district. The results from the survey express that lowering health care costs is the top issue for our district, and I am not surprised.
The health care system in Minnesota and the United States is obsolete. Most Minnesotans have seen their health care costs shoot through the roof over the past few years. Worse, thousands of Minnesotans still have no health care coverage whatsoever. These results further illustrate our state's need to transform the way we provide health care to Minnesotans. I believe if we take bold action we can lower health care costs for everyone and at the same time make sure every Minnesotan has health care coverage that is affordable.
Many in the district completed their survey before August 1, the day the 35W Bridge collapsed. Since then we have had a flood in south eastern Minnesota. Many in the district have experienced steep increases in property taxes. The economy in Minnesota has slowed. Making health care more affordable will help Minnesota families. Investing in Minnesota’s infrastructure will create jobs and that will help Minnesota families too. The session, just a month away, will be busy. I hope we make progress for all of us. That is my goal.
Below are the complete survey results. I welcome any questions or comments you may have.
Most Important Issues
1. Lower health care costs 26%
2. Funding for K-12 and Early childhood education 21%
3. Restore and preserve MN's environment 19%
4. Funding for transportation and transit 14%
5. Permanent property tax relief 12%
6. Reduce tuition at state colleges and universities 4%
7. Other 4%
Top Health Care Priority
1. Expand MinnesotaCare, the state health insurance plan for working Minnesotans, to ensure that the 70,000 MN children without health insurance are covered. 31%
2. Reform overall delivery system to reduce costs and assure access for everyone. 30%
3. Allow small businesses to buy into the large MinnesotaCare purchasing pool at full price in order to provide affordable coverage to their employees. 21%
4. Negotiate discounts with drug companies to provide drug discounts to the uninsured and seniors in Medicare part D. 18%
Posted on Wednesday, January 9, 2008 by Erin Murphy,