Sen. Bruce Anderson's Column
Thu, 07/03/2014 - 11:00pm admin
A number of new laws went into effect July 1. The House of Representatives has a handy tool to help you sort through this list. You can visit that site here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/newlaws2014-0.asp
While the list of new laws is too comprehensive to detail here, I wanted to share with you some bigger changes that took effect July 1:
General Fund Spending Increases
As of July 1, the State of Minnesota will start spending more money in most areas of the budget. Health and Human Services, the largest area of the budget, will cost more than $750 million over the next three years. This includes the important 5% funding increase for community-based service providers and nursing homes, which I strongly supported. Agriculture and environmental programs will get $10.5 million more, Higher Education will get $22 million more, K-12 Education will get $54 million more, and Transportation will get $15 million more.
For a detailed breakdown of these budget increases, please visit this site: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hinfo/newlawsart2014-0.asp?yearid= 2014&storyid=185
There are a number of worthy programs getting more money: Nursing home and community-based care providers are getting their long overdue rate increase, and the per-pupil education formula will increase. However, other areas were grossly underfunded in exchange for wasteful spending, and the 12 percent budget increase is simply unsustainable.
In 2011, Republicans made the tough choices and turned the biggest deficit in state history into a surplus. Now, with four straight months of disastrous revenue updates, we’re watching the DFL reverse our progress by spending $90 million for an opulent new Senate Office Building, throwing away more money on light rail and trains that most people don’t use, and passing billions in new tax increases. If this trend continues, Minnesota’s budget will soon be back in a deficit. The Democrats’ extreme budget is simply harmful to Minnesota families.
Women’s Economic Security Act
The Women’s Economic Security Act, commonly known as the WESA bill, makes a number of changes to employment provisions relating to women. The bill expands parental leave from six weeks to 12 weeks; provides unemployment and sick and family leave benefits for sexual assault victims; sets up grants for women in non-traditional jobs to help them become entrepreneurs; and requires that average compensation for female employees is not constituently below that of their male counterparts in each job category. The bill is House File 2536.
I am a strong supporter of women and families, but I am concerned about the unintended consequences of this bill. It will cause more harm than good by making it too expensive and difficult for small businesses to employ women. It simply creates too many barriers and obstacles to their success. I believe we should make it easier for businesses to hire women and pay them competitive wages by easing restrictions and regulations.
Steve’s Law was named for a young man who died of a heroin overdose in 2011. As of July 1, people who seek medical assistance for someone that is believed to be experiencing a drug overdose will receive some criminal immunity. If acting in good faith, neither the person who seeks the medical assistance nor the victim of the overdose will be arrested, charged, prosecuted, or have their property subject to civil forfeiture.
This bill passed both bodies of the legislature unanimously. While we can all agree we need to discourage people from using drugs, we also should encourage them to seek help should something go wrong. There have been too many unnecessary deaths due to individuals being afraid of prosecution; this bill will help reduce those deaths in the future.
Electronic Cigarette Regulations
A number of changes were made to laws restricting the use of electronic cigarettes. Effective July 1, e-cigarettes will be banned in daycares, hospitals, clinics, government buildings, Minnesota state colleges, and the University of Minnesota. This ban does not include bars and restaurants, and gives private business owners the authority to set their own rules regarding electronic cigarette use in their facilities.
The impact of electronic cigarettes on the health of others is still being researched, but we should do whatever we can to protect our children and our vulnerable neighbors from any potential harmful effects they may produce. It was just as important to me that we exclude private businesses from any changes made to regulations regarding electronic cigarettes, which is why I’m pleased that establishments like bars and restaurants were excluded from these changes.
Appropriations will be made available as of July 1 for a number of environmental projects funded with proceeds from the Minnesota Lottery. These projects are divided into a number of categories: land acquisition for habitat and recreation; water resour-ces; foundational natural resource data; environmental education; methods to protect and restore land, water, and habitat; air quality, climate change, and renewable energy; invasive species; and administration.
We can all agree that our natural resources are one of our state’s treasures. Like you, there are few things I find more relaxing than getting outdoors and enjoying our lakes and forests. But we also have a responsibility to spend your tax dollars as efficiently and effectively as possible. This bill doesn’t do that; it spends too much money and doesn’t contain any reform.
4th of July
This Friday was the Fourth of July, marking the 238th anniversary of our nation’s independence. It was a great opportunity to head to the lake, have your neighbors over for a barbecue, or watched one of the many fireworks displays around the state.
But the Fourth of July is about more than just enjoying the benefits of summer with friends and family. We should not forget the true purpose of the holiday: to commemorate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the birth of our country.
Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: these are the virtues our forefathers risked everything for, the virtues our parents and grandparents fought to defend, and the virtues that we will to pass on to our children.
Without their valor our nation may be just another failed idea. For their sacrifice, we owe them all a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid.
I believe strongly in constituent services so please contact me with questions or comments or if you need any assistance on a state government issue.
Sen. Bruce Anderson
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
St. Paul, MN 55155