Some updates from this week in Saint Paul:
City of Isle Bridge Replacement Bill
Thanks to Linda Burch-Dahlen, Isle City council member, and Tim Korby, engineer for the City of Isle for coming to Saint Paul to testify at the hearing held on HF1530, a bill to provide funding for replacement of the Malone Island Bridge in Isle using dollars from the clean water section of the Legacy Act.
Given the deteriorating condition of the bridge I have made it one of my top priorities this session; I've chief authored four bills to secure funding to replace the bridge that would draw from four different funding sources. It's vitally important for the City of Isle and Lake Mille Lacs that the bridge be torn down and replaced as it would be devastating for the lake's ecosystem if the current structurally deficient bridge were to collapse into the water.
Democrats Release Budget Targets
This week House and Senate Democrat leaders unveiled their budget targets, the starting point for negotiations as they work with the Governor to assemble the 2014-2015 biennium.
To my surprise, House and Senate Democrats seem to be attempting to one-up the Governor to see who can raise taxes the most. The Governor's most recent proposal raises $1.8 billion dollars in taxes, with the House targets asking for an astonishing $2.4 billion dollar tax increase.
As I've said before, these tax hikes would wreak havoc on our steadily-recovering economy. They're irresponsible and risk a significant step backward for our state's economic outlook.
Bullying Bill Misses the Mark
I recently submitted a column to our local papers voicing my concerns about HF826, the Safe and Supportive Schools act. While the bill has a worthy goal, the one-size-fits-all approach is not the right direction for our schools.
In its current form the bill has no funding mechanism to pay for the training and additional staff expenses that would be incurred by school districts. The proposal requires every school district person –employee or volunteer who has regular student contact - to undergo bullying, intimidation, harassment and cyber-bullying prevention training according to the definitions set down in the proposal. That one day of training will cost $16 million dollars statewide.
Moreover, the bill requires a staff contact to receive and report bullying and other acts spelled out in the law and to file the complaints with the Minnesota Department of Education who will then analyze and produce one-size-fits-all recommendations to use moving forward.
As you know, it is not uncommon for schools, especially those in Greater Minnesota, to be understaffed and stretched thin. These unfunded mandates would mean that schools will have either to hire an additional staff member—at a cost of over $10 million statewide—to handle the complaints, or to request that an existing staff member take on an additional workload to comply with state law.
We need to allow schools flexibility to develop policies that work best for each individual district to prevent bullying in schools, rather than forcing each to adopt a one-size-fits-all approach. Is it realistic to think that a state bureaucracy can handle an issue better than a local district? I don't think so.
We cannot legislate away bullying, intimidation, harassment or cyber-bullying, but we can reduce these behaviors in our schools if parents, teachers, coaches, school administrators and other staff and volunteers model the values needed to build the character of our children and facilitate an atmosphere of respect and inclusion.
Have a great weekend,
State Representative, District 15A