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State Legislature reaches second committee deadline

By Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

The 2019 Legislative session continues to pick up steam as we approach April and the final eight weeks before adjournment. Over 2,600 bills have been introduced in the Senate up to this point, and we have heard hundreds of bills in committees. The biggest task remains, and that’s creating a two-year budget.

District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin

As of Friday, March 29 we have reached the second Committee Deadline. This means that bills that have moved forward either in the House or the Senate must have been heard in the other body to move forward this year. It’s important to note that this deadline does not affect appropriation or finance bills. These bills must be heard by the third deadline on April 12, which will be here before we know it.

It’s up to my colleagues and I to craft a budget that takes a balanced approach. It’s important that we are responsible in our approach and maintain Minnesota’s fiscal stability. We must keep an eye on the future and be prepared for any potential economic downturns while supporting the values we share.

While the budget remains the biggest task, several bipartisan bills have passed off the Senate Floor. This winter brought more snow days to Minnesota than we’ve had in a long time and has put our schools in a bit of a bind when it comes to making up this time. That’s why we passed a snow day forgiveness bill, that lets local school districts decide how to approach this issue.

The bill will let school boards decide if the missed days can count as instructional days. It’s important to me that we also ensure school staff, including paras and others, don’t miss out on the pay they would have received from working on those days. While schools build in several expected snow days, this year was unprecedented. I’m glad we are moving forward on this.

The Legislature has also moved forward on an important public safety issue. With the increasing dependence on cell phones, distracted driving has risen sharply over the past few years, increasing the number of traffic fatalities and accidents on Minnesota’s roads. We have seen powerful testimony at the Capitol from families who have lost loved ones to distracted driving, and after years of work we’ve passed bipartisan legislation that bans using a cellphone while driving except through a ‘hands-free’ function. In the 16 states where laws like this are in place, accidents and deaths due to distracted driving have gone down. It’s time for Minnesota to follow suit.

These next eight weeks at the Legislature will be quite busy, but I always make time for my constituents. Please reach out to my office if you have questions, comments or concerns about action at the Capitol, or if you need help addressing any other issues.