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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Sondra Erickson (R)

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Tuesday, April 4, 2006
With the traditional Easter/Passover break later this week, I offer this review on the first half of the 2006 legislative session. We shortened the length of this year’s session in an attempt to bring a sense of urgency to our work and that change has been effective. In five weeks we have passed bills on many of the high priority issues such as eminent domain, illegal immigration and bonding. In regard to bonding, the House capital investment bill contains two projects that I authored - one for District 16A and one with statewide impact. The first project is for $260,000 to build a Soo Line trail bridge over Highway 169 in Onamia. The second is $2 million to the Department of Education for new library buildings or for improving handicap accessibility in existing libraries around the state. We plan to vote on the bonding bill April 12 and send it to conference committee to work out differences with the Senate. The House also passed a bill I authored to help townships, allowing them to piggy-back with counties on certain road construction projects. This would save time and money when township road projects adjoin county road projects. Other bills that are moving through the committee process include the following: Debt equalization - provides property tax relief for school districts; Teacher Quality - allows qualified teachers to receive licenses in additional subject areas if they pass a content knowledge test; adds technology as a required college subject for teacher training; creates a report card for college teacher preparatory programs to monitor the quality of the college programs in which our teachers are enrolled to become licensed; Gambling - allows charitable gambling outlets to add video pull-tab machines, generating about $400 million for dedicated projects such as road and bridge improvement, charities, and payments to the bars and bowling alleys that contract to sponsor charitable gambling, the lottery will create the games at no cost to the business and regulate them as games of chance so that every transaction and payout is tracked; Veterans - MinnesotaCare is the only state program that counts Veterans Administration benefits as income for a recipient’s spouse. Because VA benefits can be used for no other purpose than health care and any unspent dollars must be returned, my bill excludes VA benefits from income eligibility requirements for a veteran’s spouse who applies for MinnesotaCare. The second half of the session will be devoted to passing a small supplemental budget package that will likely include some form of property tax relief. The House wants a property tax relief package that benefits individuals who pay property taxes as opposed to other property tax plans that benefit governments. We will also push to remove the marriage penalty from the Minnesota income tax and oppose the Senate bill that removes the penalty by increasing other income taxes. Other issues will probably come up as we get closer to the May 22 adjournment date. At this halfway point, I need your input on the issues I have mentioned here and issues of importance to you. I welcome your emails at and your phone calls at my toll-free office number, 1-800-709-0578. I would also like to thank those of you who came to a coffee chat with Senator Wergin and me and everyone who completed my legislative survey. Your input is invaluable and I appreciate every one of your responses.
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