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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Shane Mekeland (R)

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Legislative update & 9/11 message

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Dear Neighbor,

Today is 9/11 and count me among those who will never forget!

One way I am honoring this date in history today is by attending an educational forum to commemorate the heroism of first responders and citizens around the country. The conclusion of the event, hosted by the American Conservative Union Foundation, will feature an award presentation to Minnesota lawmakers who earned high scores from the organization for the 2019 legislative session. I am proud to have earned the ACUF’s “Award for Conservative Excellence” by ranking in the top 10 percent of all 134 House members. My score of 93 percent for the ACUF’s 2019 Minnesota House Conservative Ratings is actually tied for third best overall.

In other news:

Cities over-charging on permits

A recent press conference I participated in to address the practice of cities over-charging citizens for permits has brought some important attention to this issue. There is a lack of affordable housing in many parts of our state and this illegal practice of over-charging for permits is a contributing factor. A Star Tribune article on the matter was posted today and it includes this noteworthy quote:

“To us [the e-mail] validates our worst fears. It says to us cities are knowingly overcharging for permits,” said David Siegel, executive director of Housing First Minnesota, which published the report through its research arm. “And that’s regrettable, but it’s undeniable. And it suggests that the things we found are in fact very real.”

  • Click here for the full Star Tribune article.
  • Here is an InForum publications article from yesterday.
  • Click here for a news release I issued late last month with more on this subject.

Capital Investment stop in Becker

There was a large turnout last Friday as the House Capital Investment Committee stopped by the Sherco site in Becker to discuss plans to further develop the land and lift the local economy. The local efforts are aimed at attracting new businesses and entrepreneurs to renew economic growth and offset the financial loss from the retirement of two coal units at Sherco – major components of Becker’s tax base. While talk of a Google data facility being constructed at the site has drawn a lot of attention, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for the development that’s possible here. The Capital Investment Committee also received a good presentation regarding a proposal to upgrade Foley’s wastewater treatment system. The current facility is maxed out and cannot accommodate new residential or commercial development in Foley, stifling growth in the city.

Monticello security workers

I was pleased to see the outcome for the locked-out security supervisors at the Monticello Nuclear Power Plant who reached an agreement with security company G4S. The supervisors are back at work. Many of these workers are constituents in our district and I was pleased to meet with them personally to discuss their concerns. All of these folks who do this for a living take their hard-trained careers very seriously and I am pleased they were able to come to terms. This link has more.

House Democrats still fiddling as DHS burns

House Democrats continue refusing to hold hearings to address the utter dysfunction at the Department of Human Services (DHS). Despite the ever-growing list of agency problems, Speaker Hortman said last week she will wait until December to even consider holding hearings, and the agenda for the mini-session in early October lacks any mention of DHS or major issues such as the potential breakup of DHS that needs to be examined.

It’s hard to keep track of all that’s gone wrong at DHS in recent months. Here at issues that have arisen since House Republicans first asked for DHS hearings on July 15:

  • On July 22, the Star Tribune reported that Faye Bernstein, a lead contract specialist at DHS, claimed she had been retaliated against for raising concerns about “serious non-compliance issues” with DHS contracts.
  • On July 29, the former medical director of DHS’ Medicaid program circulated an open letter saying DHS leadership was “hostile and dismissive” towards the advice and concerns provided by himself and other medical professionals.
  • Also on July 29, former head of the DHS Office of Inspector General Carolyn Ham was transferred to the DHS Office of General Counsel, returning to work despite being under investigation for her role in failing to prevent pervasive fraud in the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP).
  • On August 1, the Pioneer Press first reported on $25.3 million in overpayments to two tribal governments for Medicaid substance abuse treatments. We have since learned that the Walz administration intends to pay back funds owed to the federal government using state tax dollars, and may attempt to recoup funds from the tribal governments to backfill state funding. According to a subsequent Pioneer Press report, Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan has stated that the Walz administration will seek to “change the law that holds tribal governments financially responsible for overpayments”.
  • On August 16, the Star Tribune reported that Mohamed Alfash, who was the equity coordinator in the DHS Office of Inspector General, was fired as a result of retaliation for concerns he raised within DHS.
  • On August 26, Deputy Commissioner Claire Wilson announced her intent to resign, just weeks after rescinding her previous resignation prior to the departure of former DHS Commissioner Tony Lourey.
  • Also on August 26, the Pioneer Press reported that DHS will be required to reimburse the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approximately $48 million for improper payments to institutions for mental diseases.



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