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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: March 24, 2017

Evaluating the GOP Transportation Budget

Senate Republicans released their budget targets a week ago – which means everyone from the press to DFL senators and the public took time to pour over the numbers throughout the week.

The most startling observation comes from the transport budget, where a provision was included that barred any locality from funding a light rail project without legislative approval. The budget also completely removes any state investment in ongoing LRT costs. These provisons would effectively kill all light rail routes for as long as the GOP controls a single chamber in the legislature. Even if we could begin construction on Southwest LRT before enactment, localities could spend their own money on staffing and maintenance even if they could afford it. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: March 24, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

This week at the Legislature, we are seeing a shift from examining individual bills in committee, toward broader budget proposals. Here is an update from the Capitol.

Veterans Division

Some of the most important and bipartisan work done at the Legislature is the work done to make Minnesota a better home for veterans. Because of this, serving on the Veterans Affairs Division has been both an honor and a pleasure.  I learned of a major success story in our state which is how effective Minnesota has been in ending homelessness for veterans. We have not eliminated all homelessness, but Minnesota is among the leaders in the nation for meeting this goal. Two priorities that remain are addressing the unique mental health challenges of veterans and meeting the needs of the ever growing aging population. Many of the 42 bills we heard and advanced this session addressed these priorities. My thanks to Chair Bob Dettmer and our DFL lead Paul Rosenthal for their work and leadership. (more…)

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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: March 17, 2017

Bill to Cut School Funding Based on MCA Participation Continues to Move Forward

Early Friday, the Senate Education Finance Committee heard a bill that will cut state funding to local school districts depending on how many of their students take the MCA. The bill was prompted by a massive number of student opt-outs, which is completely legal under state law. The intention of the bill is to get more students to take standardized tests so that we as a state can collect more data.

However, the bill has two major flaws. First, it can only serve to hinder student performance, giving no additional aid and only acting to punish local control. The second major problem is that this is not likely to actually serve its intended purpose. Most students are not aware of K-12 funding mechanisms, and will not be inspired to take standardized tests simply because their school would receive less funding.

I strongly opposed this bill in the Education Policy Committee last week, and I will oppose it again if it included as a provision in this year’s education budget.


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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: March 17, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

This week marks the halfway point of the legislative session. With the second policy bill deadline coming today, much of the focus now will turn to the state budget. Before we consider these “omnibus bills” – large packages of various legislation in a subject area – parameters must be set for each of them. Today, Gov. Dayton announced his revised two-year budget recommendations and the Senate majority announced its “budget targets” for each subject area. Likely next week, House leaders will follow with theirs.

Going forward, I will be committed to the same priorities that I have been all session. I think everything we do should be done with the objective of improving opportunity for every Minnesotan, including working families, entrepreneurs, seniors, and students. (more…)

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Rep. Laurie Pryor Update: March 9, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

Tuesday, I presented a bill in front of a House Committee for the first time. The Higher Education and Career Readiness Finance and Policy Committee considered my proposal to expand student loan refinancing opportunities in Minnesota.

In 2016, Minnesota launched the SELF Refi program to afford Minnesotans the opportunity to refinance their loans and lower their monthly payments. Currently, the SELF Refi program has several restrictions, including a minimum credit score and debt to income requirements which have limited the number of Minnesotans able to take advantage of the program. My bill would adjust some of these restrictions, opening the door to more individuals to receive relief from student debt burdens. (more…)

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Sen. Steve Cwodzinski Update: March 3, 2017

Feds State That Southwest Light Rail Funds Cannot Be Diverted to Roads and Bridges

This week, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) denied Republican legislators request to divert federal funds intended for the Southwest Light Rail line to road and bridge projects. An FTA representative stated: “By law, funding may be used only on major transit capital projects. It may not be used for roads, bridges, or other transportation projects.” 

Our community needs a 21st Century transportation system, and this announcement is just another signal that construction needs to move forward. Beyond being an efficient transportation option and relieving traffic congestion around the West metro area, the Light Rail expansion will attract new businesses and create jobs.  (more…)

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Rep. Pryor Update: March 2, 2017

Rep. Laurie Pryor (48A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who attended our Town Hall Listening Session on Saturday. We had an overflow crowd and Sen. Cwodzinski and I were both thrilled with the tremendous turnout. We’re honored to represent such an engaged community; you can read about it in the Eden Prairie News.

I continue to meet with constituents here at the Capitol, as well. In the past week, I’ve met with folks including students from the University of Minnesota, students from Eden Prairie High School, and the Hopkins School District’s Legislative Action Coalition.

(more…)

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Feds: Southwest light-rail funds cannot be diverted to roads, bridges

The following article by Janet Moore was posted on the Star Tribune website March 1, 2017:

Republican legislators introduced a measure at the State Capitol last week asking the U.S. Department of Transportation to funnel $929 million intended for the Southwest light-rail line to a “block grant that can be used for other transportation projects” in Minnesota. (more…)

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Sen. Cwodzinski Update: February 24, 2017

Week of February 19 – 25

Preventing Gun Violence

Yesterday, on February 23, a group of legislators including Jeff Hayden and Ron Latz joined with several police chiefs, the Hennepin County Attorney, respected gun violence prevention advocates, and families affected by gun violence to announced the introduction of three bills to address our growing problem of gun violence.

The first bill, The Taylor Hayden Gun Violence Prevention Act, is designed to reduce the number of injuries and deaths of innocent victims of gun violence. Through a competitive bidding process, the legislation appropriates $400,000 to community organizations with expertise in gun violence prevention. This bill is in honor of Senator Jeff Hayden’s late sister, Taylor, who was killed last August by a bullet intended for someone else, and who would have turned 26 this week.

The second bill would allow law enforcement and family members to petition the courts to prohibit people from possessing a gun if they pose a significant danger to themselves or others. I am a co-author on this common-sense legislation and will do my utmost to see it passed. (more…)

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