Today marks our second committee deadline for bills to receive a committee hearing in the Minnesota House. We learned this week that progress in the Minnesota House this year is at a 25-year low. Through the first ten weeks of session, the House has passed just ten bills, the fewest at this point in session since at least 1995 — as far back as records are available on the House website.
House Republicans attempted to do something about that this week, pushing for consideration of four bills that have been stalled in the House for months. The House majority opposed moving them forward at this time.
FUNDING SUMMER SCHOOL
With $2.6 billion set to arrive in Minnesota from a federal COVID-19 aid package, some of that one-time money should be used to pay for additional in-person summer school opportunities this year. The proposed legislation will do just that, defraying the costs of in-person learning, funding student mental health, as well as early learning scholarships. This is exactly what our students need at this time.
If you think about it, all or portions of two academic years have been eliminated from the lives of Minnesota children due to this pandemic. If we are going to fund summer school, we should act before April 1 so schools can begin to plan, hire teachers, and make resources available. We cannot expect to give school districts notice of summer school funding in late May and expect them to plan and prepare accordingly for their students’ needs.
We know it. Our kids are our future workforce. They’ve lost plenty over this past year. This summer school funding would have helped school districts put students back on track.
WORKER TAX RELIEF
Providing tax relief to those who received Unemployment Insurance (UI) was also brought up. It targeted those who lost their jobs last year and who are now finding they have big tax bills because the State of Minnesota wants to tax the unemployment benefits as income, leading to higher tax bills for the recipients. The bill targets those workers who were most hurt by the pandemic restrictions by excluding the first $10,200 of unemployment pay from income tax in the year 2020. The legislation conforms to what the federal government has already done, and assures that the $600 and $300 federal relief unemployment bonuses would not be taxed by Minnesota. You will recall stimulus payments are not subject to tax.
EMPLOYER TAX RELIEF
Another bill addressed impacted business owners who accepted Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and used those funds for business expenses, such as employee wages or rent. Congress ultimately forgave the loans and made them free from federal taxation. The Minnesota Senate recently approved the state PPP Tax relief proposal on a bipartisan, and veto-proof vote of 55 -12. But, like the other bills we brought forward, the House majority unanimously voted against it.
The State of Minnesota has billions of dollars to allocate, whether through surplus or federal relief. It should not be taking a cut of the federal dollars sent specifically to assist our Main Street businesses and Minnesota workers during an unprecedented pandemic.
SAFE ACCOUNT FUNDING
The SAFE Account legislation, which sets aside $35 million for mutual aid agreements for anticipated law enforcement response that respond to emergencies, was also brought forward. As stated previously, it is good public policy to have money available when local governments facing a disaster call on other communities for help, whatever that emergency may be.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
All of these proposals are common-sense, bipartisan bills but for some reason they are falling victim to political gamesmanship in the Minnesota House. Again, with our $1.6 billion surplus and $2.6 billion coming in federal aid, these problems can and should have been solved immediately. Instead, they continue to languish in the Minnesota House with no resolution in sight.
COMMUNITY CONVERSATION SUCCESS
My thanks to all who were able to register for the virtual ‘Community Conversation’ this morning. Sen. Howe, Rep. Demuth and I very much appreciated the solid attendance, and we will look to do more of these events in the future.
KEEP IN TOUCH
As always I'm continuing to support constituent needs. Feel free to contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-7808.