Busy week for lawmaking and constituent visits

Friday marks an important deadline for Minnesota legislators. Bills must have made it through all relevant policy committees in either the House or the Senate in order to still be considered this session. The following Friday, March 22, is the second deadline. At that time all legislation must have been vetted by relevant policy committees in both the House and Senate in order to be considered viable. Bills that have not met these criteria are done for the year. These deadlines ensure we keep moving bills forward.
As with any deadline, the days leading up to ours have been incredibly busy. Committees work long hours to process bills, and lawmakers are busy voting on and presenting legislation. In between hearings though, we make time to meet with constituents and other visitors at the Capitol. This week, many constituents stopped by the office.
I met with members of the Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce to discuss their priorities this session. A large group of Izaak Walton League members made their yearly trip to the Capitol to talk about legislation they are supporting. We also welcomed representatives from the Freeborn County Mental Health center, veterans from American Legion Post 317 in Emmons, parents and school children. These meetings and others throughout the week were a nice break from committee. The opportunity to meet with people from District 27 is always a good reminder of what the region’s priorities are and how I can incorporate them into my work.
Speaking of legislation affecting our communities, the Governor’s agriculture budget and policy recommendations for the 2014-15 biennium were presented in the committee I chair this week. A program that has and will receive a lot of discussion is the Agricultural Growth, Research and Innovation Program (AGRI). Farmers, agricultural businesses and entrepreneurs with new business or market plans, diversification or expansion goals are targeted for AGRI program assistance.
In our rural communities, agriculture activities drive our economy. Stable funding in this area helps expand production, processing, and marketing of Minnesota food, feed, fiber and fuel. This expansion ultimately creates more agriculture jobs and businesses.
Looking at the Governor’s recommendations overall, I am optimistic about what AGRI can do to strengthen our economy and grow jobs in District 27. When the Senate’s budget targets are released next week, we will have a better idea of the funds available to Minnesota’s agriculture industry. As this budget discussion unfolds, I am committed to policies that strengthen rural development and keep our communities’ priorities in mind.
Like always, please feel free to contact me with questions or concerns about my activities at the Capitol. Although its crunch time for lawmakers, I am always happy to meet and talk with visitors to my office.
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Senator Dan Sparks
Dan Sparks represents District 27, which includes all or portions of Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Mower, and Steele counties in the southeastern part of the state.

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