Dear Friends and Neighbors,
This last week the House passed bills to maintain reliable and affordable energy for our state and heard bills in the Education Innovation Policy Committee dealing with teacher safety and in finance - school choice.
Before I go into detail about the legislative items from the last week, I’d like to invite you to attend a town hall that Sen. Andrew Mathews and I are hosting on February 18th.
The meeting will begin at 12 noon at The Phoenix in Milaca (at the intersection of Hwy 23 South and Central Avenue). I hope to see you there!
The Legislature was honored to have former Rep. LeRoy Koppendrayer as a guest on the floor during the debate and passage of three energy bills yesterday.
HF113 authored by my district colleague, Jim Newberger, allows Xcel Energy to replace retiring coal-fired generators at the Sherco Power Plant in Becker, MN, with gas-fired units. The Sherco plant is the largest power plant in the Midwest and has the ability to provide power to 50% of our state.
Replacing these coal units with natural gas units will provide our state with clean, reliable baseload power that cannot be maintained through clean energy sources like solar and wind power. This bill also allows these family-sustaining jobs to remain in the Becker community.
The second bill, HF234, cuts the bureaucracy for energy co-ops in dealing with net-metering disputes. The owners/stakeholders of energy co-ops are themselves the consumer of the energy produced, and there is no stakeholder/consumer conflict of interest that needs to be moderated by the Public Utilities Commission for these energy co-ops. This bill simply allows co-op consumers to manage their own co-ops.
The final bill passed yesterday, HF235, would disband the Made in Minnesota Solar Program incentive to reinvest in reliable and cost-effective energy sources. The Made in Minnesota project incentivizes individuals and businesses to buy solar panels from a list of select Minnesota companies that often sell their panels at 32 times the going market price and, besides, the incentives are given even if these individuals and businesses are using all the energy they produce themselves.
The $15 million per year used by this program is provided by Xcel Energy rate payers, meaning that average Minnesotans are paying for a few select individuals to produce power for themselves at a very high cost. Dismantling this program will free up this $15 million to be invested in energy sources that benefit our state as a whole.
This week in the committee I chair, Education Innovation Policy Committee, we reviewed a report pertaining to teacher safety. We want our children to be safe, but we also want our teachers and staff to be safe. We have had incidents over the past few years that have been more than disturbing. This issue has come to the forefront in recent years due to videos being posted on social media that show students fighting and sometimes attacking teachers who attempt to intervene.
The report from the Student Discipline Working Group reviewed student misconduct in Minneapolis and St. Paul public schools and looked at the disciplinary issues currently facing our teachers.
Our main focus was, and remains, teacher support and setting clear expectations for our students, and I look forward to utilizing the information in this report moving forward.
(Former Rep. LeRoy Koppendrayer testified on behalf of school choice legislation, including a bill currently being carried by Rep. Jim Knoblach that Mr. Koppendrayer originally introduced in 1997 providing a tax deduction and credit for K-12 education tuition and expenses.)
Also visiting this week was Princeton’s Mark Wilhelm representing Minnesota Mutual Insurance companies and from Ogilvie Public Schools: Superintendent Kathy Belsheim, Business Manager Laurie Torgeson and board member Jeff DeYoung.
Please contact me with any questions or concerns you have as we continue with the legislative session. I enjoy hearing from our district, and your input is extremely valuable to me as I represent our community in Saint Paul.