Jeanne Poppe: Legislature back to work after break

Published 7:33 am Monday, April 16, 2018

The Legislature is back from its Easter/Passover break, and we have picked up the pace to complete the work on bills for tax conformity and public construction (bonding). With a $329 million projected budget surplus we will also tackle supplemental finance bills. Our constitutionally required adjournment date is May 21. Here are some updates from the Capitol:

MNDNR Deer management plan

Monday marked the beginning of a month-long public input process on the DNR’s Draft White-tailed Deer Management Plan. A citizen’s advisory committee has held meetings over the past year to guide the development of this plan while the DNR will also host 35 open houses across the state seeking feedback for this plan.

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If you would like to read and comment on the draft plan, you can do both by following this link.

Budget targets

The budget targets for additional spending (or cutting) came out Thursday. These indicate what the priorities are for using the state’s resources. Quick action should be taken on several issues, like continuing to fund the RFA loan program (to make money available for farmers to borrow), mental health counseling, and funding opioid use reduction strategies. Another priority should be to improve access and affordability of health care.

Distracted driving crackdown

Running from Monday, April 9 through Sunday, April 22, more than 300 law enforcement agencies across Minnesota will be joining together to crack down on distracted driving as part of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s “Enough is Enough” campaign. Mower County deputies and Austin police officers will be taking part in the enforcement period.

It is already illegal for drivers to access the internet on a wireless device or read, write, or send text messages and emails, and bipartisan legislation introduced again this year would make talking on the phone without a hands-free device illegal as well. Similar legislation has been proposed in recent years but has not made it through the committee process.

Neither current law nor additional proposals would apply to devices that are permanently affixed to the vehicle, like global positioning and navigation systems.

Visits and events

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Corn Growers held their annual legislative reception. Thank you to them for the reception and all they do for our state.

Hopefully spring comes soon so they can get to work! I was pleased to welcome local visitors to the Capitol including the Austin Utilities General Manager, area carpenters and laborers, and the graduating class of Riverland Community College nursing students.