COLUMNIST: Legislature success includes BCA upgrades, silica sand legislation



With the final gavel having fallen, we have ended the 2013 legislative session in St. Paul. It has been an incredibly eventful year in so many ways. It was an honor to take the oath of office and begin work as your state senator last January.

Even though I was part of the minority caucus, I was able to assist constituents with many issues. I also was able to amend a few pieces of legislation for the better, assist Southwest Transit in gaining use of shoulders on Interstate 494, and begin work on improving Highway 12 to avoid morning traffic jams.

One important success this session was investment made for vital upgrades in the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) database and instant fingerprinting systems. This two decade old system will be upgraded to provide better and more thorough support for background checks, particularly for firearms. Through the committee process, I advocated for this critical investment, which would do more to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill than any additional bans or restrictions. Thankfully, Senator Ron Latz (DFL-St. Louis Park), chair of the Judiciary Committee, listened to my concerns and found a small piece of funding which will have a huge impact on public safety in our state.

I also was deeply involved in committees that dealt with silica sand mining. We passed common-sense legislation that improved permitting regulations, added rule making and support from the Environmental Quality Board, allowed for local units of government to make decisions, and avoid punitive bans that would have devastated an industry that has existed in Minnesota for over 100 years. In the end, we protected our natural resources and allowed for growth in a business sector that will provide great jobs for Minnesotans.

But this session will be best known more for the damage that was done to Minnesota’s future. From increasing taxes on just about everything under the sun (cigarettes, sales, business, internet, digital downloads, commercial equipment repair, and income taxes) to increasing fees, this session was highlighted by an attack on wallets of hardworking Minnesotans. The DFL majority raised $2.1 billion to plug a $600 million budget deficit. Just this month we learned that current state government revenues are up $153 million. Our economy is growing, yet very fragile. This legislature failed to prioritize spending or address waste and inefficiencies in state government, a failed opportunity. Under this tax plan, every hard working taxpayer pays more, not just the rich — EVERYBODY.

But even worse was forced unionization of daycare providers. In a purely political payback move, the DFL majority used its power to carry out the Governor’s political initiative, and unions stand to collect millions of dollars in new union dues.  This effort also highlighted how one senator can make an incredible difference. This entire effort could have been halted by Sen. Terri Bonoff (DFL-Minnetonka) in the Finance Committee, but her vote allowed the bill to pass to the senate floor.

I look forward to spending the summer catching up with my family and working through the interim with district residents and city councils to make next year’s session a much improved success for Minnesota.