A welcomed and educational break back home

The legislative mid-session break last week followed the end of the Senate policy committee deadlines. As we returned this week to the Capitol, my colleagues and I are now shifting into work on the next biennial budget. I appreciated the opportunity for an extended break to return home and spend time with my family and friends, but also a chance to visit with constituents across the district. While I always enjoy having visitors from District 27 up to my office, it is often best to see things first hand and help accommodate busy schedules with meetings here at home.
Throughout the week I met with Austin City Council members and staff, representatives from the City of Albert Lea and its Economic Development Authority, Austin Area Chamber of Commerce, leadership and faculty at Riverland Community College, district nursing home workers and residents as well as employees at a district child care center. Each meeting was an opportunity to connect with residents directly and discuss the important issues being heard at the Capitol.
Last Friday, Austin City Council hosted Representative Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin) and I to discuss their priorities and perceptions of how things are looking for the city in this year’s proposals. One of the topics we spent some time on were positive changes in the Local Government Aid proposal. The initial LGA proposal would only boost aid for a short period of time and then decrease it for cities like Austin. Under the new proposal, Austin would receive steadily increasing funding for a set number of years. Increasing LGA has been a priority of ours this session and I am happy with the proposal’s changes.
In Albert Lea, I met with both city staff and business interests. We were able to have similar conversations and I heard about some unique proposals for economic development they are supporting. Keeping in good contact with our district’s local government and business leaders helps me direct our communities’ legislative priorities at the Capitol.
I visited Riverland Community College’s Austin campus to meet with current and incoming leaders. Riverland has two campuses in our district. We are fortunate to have such a strong institution in our area that not only educates our next generation of skilled workers, but is a strong partner in strengthening our greater Minnesota economy. Riverland has one bonding request for updates and rehabilitation work at the Albert Lea campus. I have introduced this bill and will be looking for a hearing on it in the next few weeks.
In addition to these meetings, I welcomed the opportunity to speak with nursing home workers and residents as well as visit a district child care center. I am pleased with the work these two centers are doing and I welcome opportunities to help them strengthen their services and resources.
As the Legislature heads into the final seven weeks of session, lawmakers will have many important decisions to make. I look forward to hearing more comments and questions from residents of District 27 as we move towards the end of the 2013 session.

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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