State employee contracts done, pension bill yet to be completed

Published 11:57 am Saturday, March 31, 2018

The second committee deadline has come. By this time, committees in the House and Senate must take action on policy bills that met the first deadline in the other body. Here are some updates from the Capitol:

State employee contracts and pensions

This week in the House, I was happy to vote with the vast majority of my colleagues (93-33) to approve contracts for state employees, sending the bill to Gov. Dayton’s desk where he signed it immediately. These labor management agreements earned strong bipartisan support and will go into effect for the 30,000 state employees who provide services that make Minnesota a great place to live.

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We still have to approve a bill which will secure pensions for 500,000 dedicated state employees while also providing a $6 billion reduction in current and future costs by lowering state, school district, county, and city liabilities. The Senate has already voted in support of this bill so I’m hoping we will take it up in the House soon.

Addressing the child care shortage

According to the Center for Rural Policy (CRP), the number of in-home child care providers is continuing its years-long decline. While statewide numbers for new or expanding child care centers appear to show progress, those positive effects aren’t distributed evenly, meaning the shortage in Greater Minnesota continues to worsen.

I have signed on to multiple pieces of legislation to begin tackling this problem. Two of the bills would provide funding to the Department of Employment and Economic Development for grants aimed at increasing the number of child care providers and funding the planning, training, and education necessary to expand access.

A third bill uses bonding and general fund money to provide grants to local governments and nonprofits in Greater Minnesota to help cover up to 50 percent of the costs to build or upgrade child care facilities. Another bill would create a new tax classification for in-home day care facilities.

In CRP’s most recent update on child care in Minnesota, significant startup costs and a lack of aid in navigating the regulatory process are identified as key barriers to expanding access for families in our state. These measures would make a significant impact in addressing those issues, allowing parents to continue working, confident their children are receiving quality care close to home.

Protecting Pre-K Funding

In the last year, 59 school districts and charter schools across the state received one-time state funding to offer pre-kindergarten programs to local four-year-olds. Both Austin ($341,911) and Lyle ($107,734) public schools received this funding.

Unfortunately, the one-time funding is due to expire next year, meaning dozens of area four-year-olds will lose access to a program that gets our youngest learners off on the right foot in school and in their lives. I support the Governor’s proposal to make this program permanent so these opportunities remain available for our children without placing the burden on our school districts.


Constituents who visited the Capitol this week included advocates for AARP and nursing homes; all support legislation addressing elder abuse and mistreatment. University students came to St. Paul to show support for the bonding bill and to request supplemental dollars for the state college and university system.

Committee hearings

On Tuesday, bills I have authored for increased funding for mental health counseling (HF 2896) and legal assistance for farmers (HF 3515) were heard in the Ag Finance Committee. Farmers are facing very stressful times and being able to provide access to emotional, financial, and legal support is a way to try to reduce their level of stress.

Easter/Passover break

The legislature will be on Easter/Passover break from March 30 until April 9. After April 9, we’re expected to conclude work on capital investment (bonding), tax conformity, and supplemental budget bills.

If you have any ideas or input on legislative matters, please feel free to contact me at the Capitol.