Week Seven: Feb. 17, 2017

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  • From introducing shrimp farming in Minnesota to assisting small family farms to rallying to prevent wage theft – the Minnesota Senate dealt with a vast array of issues this week.

    The shrimp industry is considering entering the Minnesota market, and asked for financial assistance in a Senate hearing this week. More traditional family farms were also on the mind this week. Several bills were passed in committees that address making financial advice and assistance easier to access for struggling family farms.

    The high-profile issue of preemption received another hearing this week in which passionate opponents of the bill made their voices heard. Despite their moving testimony against squashing local control, the bill continues to move forward.

    Legislators also voted to allow Xcel Energy to move forward with building a new natural gas power plant in Sherburne County. The issue is slightly politically charged, as the bill also allows Xcel to move forward with the construction of the plant without having to get a ‘certificate of need’ from the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

    A series of rallies and protests took place in the Capitol rotunda throughout the week, reminding legislators of how the Capitol serves as a great place for citizens to voice their concerns. On Thursday, immigrants took part in a ‘Day without Immigrants’ boycott and walked off the job, rallying at the Capitol in a show of solidarity and a solid stance against President Trump’s ban on immigration.

    The February forecast is scheduled to be announced by Minnesota Management and Budget on Tuesday, Feb. 28. This is an important day for legislators, as it will help guide budget-making for the next two-year biennium.

    This Week In the Senate

    Preemption bill moves closer to passage
    Opponents of a bill that will strip away the power of local governments to pass progressive labor benefit policies filled the Minnesota Senate Building again this week.

    REAL ID update
    REAL ID was heard in the State Government Finance and Policy and Elections Committee.

    PSEO bill changed after push back from schools
    A major change to Minnesota Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) law was drastically amended after schools voiced serious concerns that the change would send Minnesota tax dollars to our border state institutions.

    Agriculture safety, research, assistance bills heard in committee
    Several bills were heard this week that are vital to agriculture.

    Bonding bill snarled in transit
    The Bonding Bill was heard in the Transportation and Public Safety Committee this week.

    Minnesota Democrats hold wage theft rally
    Minnesota workers cheered on Lt. Governor Tina Smith and other legislators at a wage theft rally in the Capitol Rotunda this week.

    Bills to strengthen Minnesota’s direct care workforce and promote independent living heard in Human Services Reform
    Minnesota is facing a workforce shortage crisis for direct support professionals who provide care for people with disabilities.

    Ignition interlock reforms move forward
    The Senate heard a bill aimed at stopping the Department of Public Safety (DPS) from tracking ignition interlock users’ locations.

    Committee considers statewide business property tax reductions
    The Senate Tax Committee considered five similar bills on Thursday aimed at the same goal: reducing the statewide business property tax charged to commercial-industrial and seasonal recreation (cabin) property in Minnesota.

    Bill aims to support local car-sharing options
    As the number of Minnesotans who do not own vehicles – either for financial reasons or by choice – increases, the popularity of car-sharing services providing short-term car rental options increases.

    ATV funds will help build Voyageur trail system
    The Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division heard a bill this week that appropriates $150,000 from the state’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV) account for a grant to the City of Orr to begin developing a plan for connecting ATV trails in the Cook/Orr/Echo Lake area of the state.

    Wetlands bill advances
    The Transportation Policy and Budget Division approved a bill on Wednesday to set certain temporary conditions for local government road wetland replacement until adequate wetland banks can be established in all wetland bank service areas across Minnesota.

    Immigrants are important to the social and economic fabric of America
    On Feb. 16, 2017 thousands of immigrants across the state and the nation joined in solidarity for “A Day Without Immigrants” strike.

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