Missed opportunities in 2017 should set the stage for 2018 legislative session
One thing we know about this year’s legislative session is that there were several significant and historic investments in a few key areas. Lakeville’s elected representatives Jon Koznick, Roz Peterson, and Dan Hall should be commended for their work in pushing the state in a direction to help our community move forward. A few highlights include:
1. The largest tax relief package in nearly 20 years.
· 72,000 seniors will no longer pay income tax on social security benefits.
· Families making $50,000 will see $1,200 toward child care expenses. Josi and I know first-hand how expensive daycare has become and as costs continue to rise, relief is long overdue.
· 240,000 farmers will see property tax relief — which is good for the farmer and good for anyone who buys Minnesota grown products
2. The most robust investment in transportation in state history
· $316 million in road funding over the next two years. We know in Lakeville how important our roads are for continued development and this will help our city move forward
· Funding for the Orange Line Bus Rapid Transit Line (BRT) was included in the bonding bill. This bus line, with strong support from the City Council, will be a dedicated lane offering expedited bus service on 35W. The initial phase will have a stop in Burnsville and I will continue to advocate for its completion to Lakeville.
3. Key reforms in how education will be delivered to our students
· The K12 bill offered a $1.3b increase in funding to classrooms
· Overhauled the teacher license system to get more teachers in the classroom as a looming shortage is felt especially in greater Minnesota
Now that the budget is set for the next two years, here a few key policy areas the legislature should focus on for 2018. These are not the only things of a pressing matter, but should be at the top of the list.
Met Council Reform
Reforming the Met Council has broad bipartisan support at the legislature, but any changes to its structure this year were stymied in end of session negotiations. As former Senator Dave Thompson used to say, the Met Council was formed to help navigate buses and flushes. The current form has gotten away from that model and a new structure would be helpful to ease the burden on local governments and residents. Thankfully, Lakeville is lucky to have Wendy Wulff as our member on the Council. Wendy is a former Lakeville City Council member and has a deep understanding of our issues. There needs to be more members like Wendy — which is why the process for how council members are appointed should be changed.
Solitary Confinement reform
If you haven’t yet read the in-depth look at solitary confinement procedures in our prisons from the Star Tribune, I highly recommend looking at the report from Andy Mannix. State Rep. Nick Zerwas is leading the way to change how inmates are treated and I think his plan should get a second look in 2018.
Moving the state’s primary election day to June is a no-brainer. Again, this provision has broad bipartisan support and would help increase voter turnout from our current August primary. A June primary also helps our candidates build better campaigns by adding a longer runway to get out the vote before the November election.
The Minnesota Sports Facility Authority (MSFA) is wrought with controversy after several reports of staff, members, and political insiders misusing taxpayer resources at U.S Bank Stadium. The Star Tribune, among others, dug deep into the corruption. A bill to restructure the membership as well as other operations of the Authority made its way through the legislature but was stalled. We expect more from government and preferential treatment for insiders is very troubling. This should be a top priority in the next session.
Before joining the Lakeville City Council, I was unaware about how quickly the mental health crisis was growing in our city. Our police department and officers deserve a lot of credit for their ability to deescalate situations that in other cities have led to serious injury. The model adopted by the LPD should be piloted in other cities and be a focus of policymakers in St. Paul.
How many times have you thought, do I really need to stand in line at the DMV to get this permit or license renewed? Right now, the DMV allows you to renew your tabs online, but that’s about it. Other changes or renewals must be done in person. The DMV isn’t alone in much needed reform and how to rethink how government is delivered to taxpayers.
In Lakeville, we are on the verge of launching a technology task force to find out how we can be better for residents with online services. The state ought to undertake a similar approach and streamline its online operations.