Gene Dornink: Short-call substitute teacher bill would create 3-year pilot

Published 6:30 am Saturday, March 6, 2021

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Friends and neighbors,

It has been another fast-paced, busy week at the Capitol as your legislator with committee meetings, bill hearings, and I’ve had quite a few chances to chat with constituents from home about the issues that matter to you.

This year, I am focused on ensuring a high quality of life for Minnesotans, especially our children when it comes to their education. I had the privilege of meeting with some of our district’s superintendents. We discussed what the process of moving forward for our students will look like. They are extremely committed to bringing kids back into the classroom safely and quickly to resume their learning and make up for all of the lost time in the past year.

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In order to make the most of our education system, I introduced a bill (S.F. 819) that will increase short-call substitute teachers and make it easier for them to fill in for other teachers. This bill creates a 3-year pilot program, allowing local school leaders to hire qualified, quality individuals. This bill has strong support from local superintendents and educators throughout the state. The most important thing is to put teachers in front of students, inside the classroom, and allow them to engage with their peers while they receive their quality education. This is a common-sense change that could create positive change in school districts across the state.

Another bit of legislation I am passionate about, and talked about a lot when you elected me, is putting term limits in place. I believe that Minnesota deserves legislators that relate to the people they represent instead of turning into career politicians who can sometimes be swayed by outside sources. I am co-authoring a bill that will put a cap on serving for over 20 years in the Legislature. This would be a constitutional amendment that would go into effect following the 2022 elections.

I have also been focusing on funding programs that will encourage growth within the agricultural sectors of Minnesota. Among these bills, funding will be added for town roads and bridges, small cities assistance, farm advocate services, and Minnesota County Fairs. These are all integral parts of our communities and with hearing from constituents on what issues stand out, I am proud to be pushing for their adoption in the Legislature. One important bill I have focuses on mental health services for farmers, ranchers, and others in the agricultural community. This will include a 24-hour hotline, stigma reduction, and educational offerings. In the past few years, it has come to light just how drastically mental health impacts our agriculture and farming communities and this is a good step to bridging the gap of services for these important community members.

Locally, Mower County’s board voted unanimously to oppose the California Car Emission Standards, which were adopted by Gov. Walz in December. The Minnesota Senate has been very vocal about how Minnesota does not need to conform to California because it will be more expensive and less effective in our state. We have generally been moving towards cleaner cars and energy at our own pace, fitting our own needs as they arise, and this is an unnecessary burden to place on Minnesotans. I am pleased to see our community joining in on this fight. Together we can make the changes we need.

In COVID-related news for businesses, the Senate is pushing for Minnesota to conform to the federal taxation guidelines for PPP loans. These were forgivable loans given to small businesses under the guise that it would help them make ends meet and keep their employees on the payroll, without state or federal taxes being applied. Now business owners throughout the state are on the hook for these high taxes that were not intended for them. At the federal level, they are doing it right and have taken away the tax. Minnesotans are already taxed enough, taxing them on this is unconscionable after the year they have had. I remain hopeful that we can move quickly to conform to the federal guidelines and save Minnesota businesses along the way.

It is an honor to serve at the Capitol and be the voice of the incredible people in District 27. We have a unique community with individualized needs, so please do not hesitate to reach out to me with your opinions or concerns. I would love to hear from you – send an email to Sen.Gene.Dornink@Senate.MN or call at 651-296-5240.