Sen. Gene Dornink: Number of items to work on in new session

Published 5:46 pm Friday, January 28, 2022

Friends and neighbors,

As we head into the 2022 legislative session, we have a historic government budget surplus. Meanwhile Minnesotans are facing the rising cost of inflation, shortfalls in our children’s education, and many other hardships as we recover from the pandemic. This year, I am focused on helping Minnesotans make everyday life more affordable, enhancing community safety, and empowering parents with resources to help guide their children’s education.

Minnesotans have worked hard for their money, and they deserve to keep it in their pockets. I will prioritize meaningful tax relief that helps support your family budgets. Specifically, last session, I introduced a bill that would remove all taxes on social security and other retirement incomes. Minnesota is 1 of 13 states that still tax social security. Our neighbors on fixed incomes deserve to have more money going directly to them to help combat the rising costs of essential everyday items. I will also advocate for repaying the state’s unemployment insurance debt instead of placing that burden on our small businesses, who did everything they could to keep their employees on the payroll while navigating government shutdowns.

I continuously hear from superintendents and educators that they need help finding staff and filling vacancies. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there had been a shortage of substitute teachers in our schools. Now, with quarantines and other health-related absences, shortages are more prevalent and problematic and have altered the ability of our schools to offer in-person learning.

Last session, I introduced legislation that allowed school districts to employ a person who meets the professional requirements as “short-call substitute teachers.” This bill passed the Senate 36-29 as a standalone bill and part of the Omnibus Education bill, but the democrat-controlled House would not accept it. This legislation would temporarily allow a person with an associate degree, a professional certification, or five years of relevant work experience along with a background check to fill the gaps in our schools. I will continue to fight hard for this legislation to ensure our children have teachers in the classroom.

The Minnesota legislature operates in two-year cycles. The first year is often a budget year and the second year is often passing bonds for critical infrastructure and community projects. Along with many other core infrastructure projects that are vital to our community, the cities of Austin and Albert Lea are requesting money for improvements to their wastewater treatment facilities, the Shell Rock River Watershed District is looking to finish the sediment removal and cleanup of Fountain Lake, and Hormel is requesting funds for a new bioimaging center. All these projects, and more, will invest in our community, bring jobs, and enhance tourism.

Addressing the teacher shortage and capital investment projects are just a few of the things I will be working on this year. Our goal will be making everyday life more affordable, enhancing community safety, and empowering parents with resources to guide their children’s education.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me. I want to hear your thoughts and your priorities for this upcoming year! Feel free to email me at sen.gene.dornink@senate.mn or give me a call at 651-296-5240.