Sen. Sparks passes major legislation with bi-partisan support
Many bills have been heard and received a vote on the Senate floor the past couple of weeks. I was happy to have strong bi-partisan support for two of the bills I am chief author of, the Agriculture Omnibus Policy bill and Unemployment Insurance Policy bill.
The Agriculture Omnibus Policy bill contains revisions to pesticide and noxious weed statutes, extensions for programs that promote agriculture business investments, agriculture education and support for farmers as well as a number of updating and technical changes.
One of the bill’s major provisions concerns the use of biofuels. This language was worked on by the Biofuels Task Force and NextGen Energy Board as well as through the legislative process to find agreement between all of the stakeholders. This proposal encourages the growth of the biofuels industry. It overcomes policy barriers to the market for non-ethanol biofuels while protecting the investments we have made in the ethanol industry. Furthermore it establishes goals to further reduce Minnesota’s reliance on fossil fuels.
The Unemployment Insurance Policy bill updates our Shared Work program. With the updates in place Minnesota will qualify for federal funding to cover the costs of this program. The other significant provision is Converting Layoffs Into Minnesota Businesses (CLIMB) program. The CLIMB program helps dislocated workers while they complete entrepreneurial training, business consulting and technical assistance in developing a new business. This is based on previous programs that proved very successful. There are federal funds available for the administrative support of this program and it is not expected to negatively impact the state unemployment and workforce training funds.
In addition to this work, the Senate has spent much of the last few weeks passing our budget bills off the Senate floor. We will now be meeting in conference committees with the House to work out the final details of these bills to send to the Governor. I have been picked to serve on the conference committee that will negotiate the Environment and Agriculture Budget and the Economic Development, Commerce and Housing Budget.
I am excited to get to work on these issues in conference because they matter to me and my district. They are issues that I have heard from you are priorities. The Economic Development, Commerce and Housing bill supports business owners and entrepreneurs, invests in measures that create jobs and supports housing for working Minnesotans. The Environment and Agriculture budget protects our natural resources and promotes rural development. The Senate is bringing proposals to conference that will have positive outcomes for Minnesota. Through the rest of this process we will continue to listen and adjust so that our final budget best addresses the needs of the State.
As always, please feel free to reach out to my office with questions as we near the end of this legislative session.