Guest view: 2012 Legislative session beginsSen. Tony Lourey looks ahead to the 2012 Legislative session and back to the shutdown last summer.
By: Sen. Tony Lourey, Pine Journal
This week marks the beginning of the 2012 Legislative Session. As we return to the State Capitol, I am hopeful this session will be more civilized than the last. We, as legislators, can and should work together to do what is best for our state.
After last session ended in political stalemate and a state government shutdown over how to solve the state’s budget deficit, I have serious concerns about the legislative process moving into this session. The way the legislature was run last session was disgraceful – Republicans chose to circumvent the political process and restrict public testimony. Minnesotans deserve better.
The final compromise of the state shutdown last year was all done behind closed doors, with no input from citizens on how the proposed budget cuts would affect them. Many of the details of the budget agreement were not known until long after the agreement was signed into law – case in point, the elimination of the homestead credit. Families and small business owners across the state will pay the price for this short-sighted cut in higher property taxes. Minnesotans deserve better and I am committed to restoring civility to the legislative process this session and attempting to fix some of these most egregious errors.
As this is the second year of the biennium, we will be focused on passing a bonding bill and other policy issues. Last week Gov. Dayton released a $775 million capital investment proposal to create jobs through investments in infrastructure, the state’s colleges and universities and other regional economic projects. I support this proposal, and now is an ideal time to bond and build. The economic downturn has meant significant savings to taxpayers on things like building materials and labor, and this is a great opportunity to create much-needed jobs while investing in our state’s infrastructure for future generations.
I would also like to see legislation passed this session to create a Minnesota Health Care Exchange – a marketplace for individuals and businesses to compare, choose, and buy affordable health insurance. As part of the Federal Affordable Care Act, Minnesota must have a plan in place to operate a health insurance exchange by 2013, and if we don’t, the federal government will put one together that might not consider Minnesota’s unique health care systems. A health care exchange will allow us to easily compare options based on cost, quality and consumer satisfaction, and it will foster fair and equitable competition to encourage insurers and providers to focus more on value and affordability.
Last year, legislation was passed that placed such significant restrictions on the sale of trees from our state nurseries that the DNR will be forced to close General Andrews in Willow River. Trees and the timber industry are such a vital part of our environment and our economy that this action will have ramifications for generations to come. This is another issue I will work to rectify this session.
Another issue on everyone’s minds this session is a new stadium for the Vikings. Other than various ideas and proposals for stadium sites, no specific legislation has been introduced yet and there remains no agreed-upon location or funding source. That makes passing a bill in an election year, with widespread opposition to public financing for a stadium, seem unlikely.
Another distinctive factor of this session is that it’s a redistricting year. The new legislative maps will be announced next month, so we do not yet know the shape of our new districts or who we will be running against in the fall. For this reason, legislative leaders have indicted they would like a short session and to adjourn by Easter.
As always, I’m looking forward to getting to work and representing you at the Capitol this session. I will continue to work hard and listen to your concerns and do what’s best for our district. And, for the sake of what most Minnesotans want and expect of their legislators, I am hopeful that the same partisan divisiveness we saw last summer won’t play out again this session.
Senator Tony Lourey can be contacted at 651-296-0293, email@example.com, or 125 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.
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