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Minnesota Legislature

Governor Tim Walz Announces Proposed Budget Revisions

As a result of the February state budget forecast projecting slower economic growth, Governor Tim Walz announced Friday, March 22, revisions to his budget proposal for the 2020-21 biennium.

In making adjustments to the latest forecast, the Walz administration proposed spending reductions of $131 million dollars across state agencies, tax adjustments that would save $65 million dollars, and a return of the $142 million dollars left unspent in the reinsurance fund to the general fund. Governor Walz has also proposed $37 million dollars in new investments, including 25 million dollars more for higher education and another $1.1 million dollars to the Minnesota Licensing and Registration System.

Preparing for Flood Relief; Simpler School Ratings; Helping Hometown Heroes

As winter turns to spring, the risk of flooding due to the massive snow pack is concerning. On this week's program, Senator Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, talks with Capitol Report moderator Shannon Loehrke about the problems his community will face as flood waters rise and the state action needed to support recovery efforts.

The work of firefighters puts them at greater risk of certain health conditions. Senator Steve Cwodzinski. DFL-Eden Prairie, joins Shannon to explain his proposal to help the hometown heroes address health and stress issues related to their profession. Also on the program, Senator Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, talks about his bills to create a simpler school rating system and to establish tax credits for donations to k-12 scholarship programs.

Helping Minnesota's Deputy Registrars

Since the troubled rollout of the state's Minnesota Licensing and Registration System (MNLARS), deputy registrars--private businesses contracted to handle state transactions--have faced financial hardship due to loss revenue resulting from difficulties in successfully completing license and tab renewals. Following their approval of a bill funding ongoing fixes with MNLARS software, the Minnesota Senate approved a bill Thursday, March 21, that would allocate $13 million dollars for reimbursement to the small operators.

Sponsored by Senator John Jasinski, R-Faibault, the bill would distribute 10 percent of the money equally among all Deputy Registrars. Another 45 percent would be allocated proportionally based on the number of transactions conducted April 1, 2017 through December 31, 2018. That time frame followed the troubled release of MNLARS new software system. The final amount would be allocated proportionally based on transactions conducted July 1, 2014 through June 30, 2017, which is before the implementation of the new software.

In other action, the Senate approved a bill allocating $10 million dollars from the general fund to the disaster contingency account. The action reflects the anticipated hardship communities will face due to Spring flooding.

Protecting Vulnerable Adults

The Senate Family Care and Aging Committee gave its approval to two bills Wednesday, March 20, intended to protect Minnesota's vulnerable adults. Sponsored by committee chair Karin Housley, R-St.Marys Point, SF 931 would increase support for the Office of Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, and SF 8 establishes a variety of measures adding protections for residents in elderly care facilities.

Specifically, SF 8, referred to as the Vulnerable Adult Protection Act, establishes licensing standards for assisted living facilities that would include survey, staffing and facility requirements. It also strengthens oversight of the Office of Health Facility Complaints and allows the use of electronic video systems to aid families in monitoring the care of their relatives. SF 931 increases funding to allow the hiring of additional senior citizen advocates.

Establishing the Opportunity Scholarship Program

Individuals and corporations donating to a nonprofit organization that offers scholarships to students who want to attend schools of their choice--public, charter or private--would receive a tax credit, under a bill presented to the Senate Tax Committee Tuesday, March 19.

Sponsored by Tax Chair Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, the bill would allow contributions to be eligible for a 70 percent tax credit, and it requires organizations receiving the grant to be approved by the Department of Revenue. The income of families allowed to receive scholarships could not exceed twice the amount of Reduced Priced Lunch eligibility.

Hometown Heroes Assistance Program

Minnesota firefighters gathered with Minnesota lawmakers Tuesday, March 19, to promote a bill designed to help Minnesota's firefighters address health care problems--cancer, heart troubles and emotional trauma.

According to George Esbenson of the Minnesota Firefighter Initiative (MnFIRE), Minnesota ranks 45th our of 50 states in fire service investment. Sponsored by Senator Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie, and Representatie Cheryl Youakim, DFL-Hopkins, the measure would create a grant program to provide $30,000 per cancer or cardiac diagnosis and establish an Employee Assistance Program to address emotional trauma.