Click here to read what legislative leaders have to say about the upcoming session.
by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter
Area lawmakers will be working on legislation dealing with a variety of areas in the upcoming session, which opens this week.
Sen. David Brown, R-Becker, talks of pursuing flat tax and education legislation.
In the flat tax bill, Brown proposes a seven percent flat income tax on income over $30,000 — earnings lower would not be taxed.
Brown offers the flat tax bill as a conversation-starter.
His education bill would prohibit the use of education funding shifts as a budgeting tool.
“In my mind, we didn’t balance the budget,” Brown said of last session and budget gimmicks.
Rep. Peggy Scott, R-Andover, looks to pursuing perceived reforms to the Metropolitan Council. She describes the Met Council as staff-driven organization with an act-first-and-explain-later mentality.
“There’s a lack of accountability,” she said.
She hears complaints from local governments and private businesses about the council, said Scott.
“It tells me there’s a problem,” she said.
Scott will also pursue legislation dealing with the custodial rights of parents of children born outside of marriage.
Scott is interested in ensuring the rights of fathers.
“We’ve been terrible to the children with the current (custodial) system,” she said.
House Health and Human Services (HHS) Finance Committee Chairman Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said his committee would be engaging in “clean up work” relating to HHS budget.
They’re still looking for ways to save money, Abeler explained. “I’m trying to avoid any more (budget) cuts,” he said.
On the issue of the Met Council, Abeler — noting that former Anoka lawmaker Charlie Weaver was a driving force behind the creation of the council — said it would make more sense to him to make the council a state agency rather than tinker with council membership.
Abeler agrees with some of the concerns. When inexperienced people sit on the Met Council, the agency is really staff-driven, Abeler explained. But he questions whether any governor would accept the potential loss of the power that might come with Met Council reform.
Governors name Met Council members.
“Pawlenty liked it,” he said. “(Democratic Gov. Mark) Dayton likes it,” said Abeler of having the power.
House Education Reform Committee Chairwoman Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, proposes an aggressive agenda for her committee.
The committee will be looking at the so-called “Last In, First Out” layoff rule which requires school districts to terminate recent hires over older teachers in times of layoffs.
Critics argue such an approach is “quality blind.”
Erickson’s committee will also consider innovative delivery of education.
She seeks to establish multiple long-term school district pilot projects in which educators can try new things.
“The sky is the limit,” said Erickson of what might be attempted.
Dayton is reform-minded in terms of education, she explained. “The governor and I work very well together,” said Erickson. “He really does engage well with (Senate Education Committee Chairwoman) Senator (Gen) Olson and I,” she said.
Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, is currently examining the impact of state’s renewable energy standards on energy costs. She indicated legislation could emerge.