Senator Foung Hawj Legislative Update
The 2018 Legislative Session began two weeks ago on February 20, giving state lawmakers a new opportunity to improve Minnesotans’ quality of life. This is the second year of the state’s biennium, commonly referred to as the “bonding year.” There is a widespread understanding that our state is falling behind on investments to maintain and improve Minnesota’s infrastructure. Capital investment is a great way to create good jobs and improve public safety. I applaud the Governor’s recent bonding proposal, which includes $1.5 billion for projects across the state, and am hopeful that the Legislature will respond with a similarly sized proposal.
As a member of the Capitol Investment Committee, I participated in a four-week tour throughout our state and led the committee to our district on the Eastside to visit Wakan Tipi Center, Eastside Freedom Library, Battle Creek Rec Center, Humanities Center, 3rd Street Kellogg Bridge, the Sanneh Foundation and CLUES which I will be working on this year.
As many of you know, the February Forecast was released on Wednesday, February 28. I am glad we have a $329 million projected surplus for the biennium. However, we need to be cautious since the surplus reflects a few anomalies related to the federal tax bill that may not last long-term. We need to invest in the basics to make government more safe and efficient. Basics include infrastructure, education (including student support and safety), cyber-security and solving the state’s pension problem. When it comes to tax conformity, I think there should be some level of conformity, but the focus should be on working and middle-class families that were forgotten by the national legislature.
Since the tragic shooting in Parkland, Florida, my office has received a tremendous amount of feedback and suggestions on this issue. Common sense gun legislation is overdue. It is vital that we implement universal background checks to weapons purchases and close the “gun show loophole”. I believe these goals can be accomplished without infringing on our state’s proud hunting heritage, or a person’s constitutional rights.
On a final note, I want to thank the St. Paul Eastsiders who came out to our SD67 Town Hall meeting on March 1 at Metro State University. It was good to hear from area residents and discuss some of the issues that concern them such as school safety, equity resources, minimum wage increase, bonding projects for our area, early childhood education, Hmong veterans’ recognition day and sexual harassment training. We also talked about how we can continue to engage our diverse district. On top of these issues, I will also be working on legislation to support voting rights, refugee and immigrant policies, and net neutrality.
I’m excited to visit with the many groups and organizations that come to the capitol for rallies and meetings with legislators. If you are coming to the capitol, be sure to stop by my office. I am located at 3413 Minnesota Senate Building.
This column was first published in the Lille News.