Thanks to the many of you that attended the town hall events that took place Saturday, February 9th in Princeton, Milaca, Ogilvie, Isle, Wahkon and Onamia. It was wonderful for Senator Brown and me to hear your feedback and concerns about the issues being discussed in Saint Paul.
Some of the most common issues discussed were
If you didn't get a chance to attend one of the town hall events, I encourage you to send me your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org. I plan to hold more town hall events in the future and will be sure to pass those dates along when they are scheduled.
Some other updates from Saint Paul:
Flat Tax Bill
On Thursday, February 14th my flat tax proposal was scheduled to receive its first committee hearing in the Tax Committee. However, I had the bill pulled from the agenda in order to revise and update the bill to accommodate changes from the recently passed federal tax conformity bill. I will be sure to keep you updated on the progress of the bill once it has been revised.
I have been and continue to be a strong proponent of the flat tax because it makes our tax code flatter, fairer, and simpler for all Minnesotans. It also would generate millions of dollars in additional tax revenue.
There's a great deal of talk about 'reforming the tax code' at the Capitol this session, yet few of the 'reforms' being proposed by the Governor and the DFL majority would have any meaningful impact on changing our complex and broken tax code. I urge Governor Dayton to take a close look at this proposal if he is serious about making fundamental and much-needed reforms to our tax code.
Transparency Amendment Voted Down
Also on Thursday, I offered an amendment on the House floor to the state employee contracts bill that would have required a report to be submitted on any change or reduction in services by state agencies.
State employees are slated to get a 2% pay increase as a part of the new contract agreement. Part of the agreement was a stipulation that the agencies would absorb the costs of the pay increases, and not increase their budget requests to the state in order to pay for them.
It would stand to reason that if an agency is absorbing millions of dollars in pay increases that they would have to adjust or reduce services in order to balance their budget. My amendment would have given the legislature and all Minnesota taxpayers a look into the exact changes that were made in order to absorb these costs. While it seemed like a common-sense measure to me, it was voted down on a party-line vote.
DFL Imposes Drastic Rule Changes
Last Monday night, a contentious floor debate took place over the rule changes proposed by the new DFL Majority. Legislators argued into the night over the changes that would require that amendments be submitted 24 hours in advance of a bill coming to the floor. While many of the rule changes are what I consider 'inside baseball,' I believe it's important that you be aware of the impact of these drastic changes.
The GOP lifted the 24 requirement in 2011 after retaking the majority. With a 24 hour rule in place, it's impossible and against the rules for new amendments to be offered from the floor during the debate. This brings Washington-style politics to Saint Paul, and is designed to limit the voices of the minority. The debates in Washington are scripted and oftentimes legislators give speeches to a largely empty room since the debate is more or less decided and set 24 hours or more in advance.
It's my belief that the 24 hour rule limits citizen input; there have been numerous times where an error has been caught, or an idea for an amendment has been sent in by a constituent watching the debate on the Internet. Last session those amendments -- good ideas from the public -- could be offered while the debate was taking place. That is no longer possible.
I'm disappointed that the DFL majority chose to push these rule changes through that limit your input and limit the input offered by the minority party.
Have a wonderful week,
State Representative, District 15A