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

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February 17th Legislative Update

Friday, February 17, 2012
Dear Friends and Neighbors, Governor Dayton delivered the 2012 State of the State address earlier this week. While I appreciate the Governor’s invitation to work together this session, the speech was short on vision and new ideas. I agree with the governor that there is literally no aspect of our economy that is not dependent on a high quality workforce and that we need to close the K-12 education achievement gap (second highest in the nation). I believe that by ensuring that we have effective school leaders and effective teachers in our schools and classrooms, we will increase learning, raise achievement and give students hope. This session I have visited schools packed with students from low-income households who once were part of a classroom of low achievers, only to discover that great principals and even greater teachers can lift these children to new levels of achievement. Yes, they will continue to live in poverty but they also know that they will have a bright future if they work hard. In other action, on Thursday the House passed a major change to the teacher layoff process, a process that local school boards and teachers will design based on three criteria: licensure, performance and seniority. I wish I could have experienced this when I was in the classroom. Earlier in the week the education policy committee that I chair passed a digital learning provision that will move Minnesota into the 21st Century of technology. And, next week, I will offer an innovation idea for school districts to partner and to collaborate to provide a variety of ways to deliver education in new and better ways while creating efficiencies. I think the governor should be very proud of the progress the education reform committee is making to ensure achievement increases among our students, improved teaching and better opportunities for parent involvement. On another note, last week both chambers passed four great reform bills that were supported by Minnesota businesses as a way to improve our business climate. I was disappointed that Governor Mark Dayton vetoed these bills, the first four bills the Legislature passed this year. All four were tort reform bills which were designed to reform Minnesota’s lawsuit system and were supported by Minnesotans for Lawsuit Reform, which is comprised of 45 regional Chambers of Commerce and Trade Associations that together represent more than 58,000 employers in Minnesota. Our tort reform bills had earned bipartisan support in the House and in the Senate so I was surprised by the vetoes. So what am I to conclude about the governor? He talks about the importance of working together, but, so far the he does not seem willing to work with the legislature to pass the reforms that Minnesotans are asking for. I certainly hope he will understand the importance of our education reform bills and sign them into law for the sake of our students. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or want to share your thoughts on the legislative session. Sondra
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