I hope you enjoyed Thanksgiving and with it, some quality time gathering with loved ones and those close to you. As we head into the holiday season, which will hopefully be filled with joy, warmth, and fellowship, I wanted to update you on some of my activities in the community and at the Legislature.
Capitol Art Town Hall Meeting Dec 9
Next Wednesday, December 9th at the Minnetonka Community Center (14600 Minnetonka Blvd), the Capitol Preservation Commission Art Subcommittee will host a public meeting to discuss artwork in the Minnesota State Capitol. As you may know, the Capitol, originally opened in 1905, is currently closed to the public while it undergoes a top-to-bottom, three-year renovation, expected to wrap up in 2017. The artwork includes, among other items, portraits of former governors, statues and busts of notable Minnesotans and paintings depicting historical state events.
Over recent years, however, some concerns have been expressed about the artwork on display such as: a lack of historical accuracy of certain paintings, portraits of governors monopolizing the wall space, and very few women and minority groups being represented.
The commission’s website lists a full inventory of artwork most recently on display at the Capitol. At the site, the commission also invites Minnesotans to participate in a short survey about their priorities for the type of art they would like on display.
I’m excited Minnetonka was chosen for one of these meetings, and I hope you will join me next Wednesday so our community can provide maximum input.
The Office of Minnesota Management and Budget yesterday announced a projected $1.8 billion surplus for fiscal year 2016-17. Minnesota’s budget outlook has improved from previous estimates. up from $865 million at the end of session. $665 million is allocated to reserves and repayments, leaving an available balance of $1.206 billion for fiscal year 2016-17. I am pleased to have supported the legislation that requires the state to put one third of any surplus into budget reserves. Even with this latest infusion of cash, our budget reserves are still inadequate to deal with an economic downturn or unforeseen circumstances.
Economic reports show wage growth has slowed. The Legislature must work to raise incomes and create opportunity for all Minnesotans. Minnesota students’ college debt is among the highest in the nation, as are child care costs. We need to look at using some of this surplus to provide relief on both fronts, as well as assisting our wage earners and our seniors.
EPHS Women’s Rights Club
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit with members of the Eden Prairie High School Women’s Rights Club. This club, founded and operated by students themselves, is full of amazing young women dedicated to empowering themselves with knowledge about the issues, obstacles and opportunities women face in today’s world.
Education Innovation Policy Committee
Earlier this week I attended a meeting of the Education Innovation Policy Committee which discussed several topics. One of these was an overview of a bill proposed by Rep. Dean Urdahl, HF 1497, which would require students to pass a civics test as a prerequisite to receiving a high school diploma. This bill stems from a perception that many students lack a strong understanding of our government, which often leads to a lack of civic engagement in our society. The test would be designed similar to the one required by immigrants as part of the citizenship process. I expect this measure to come up again during the 2016 Legislative Session.
As far as student testing already taking place, we also received updates from the Minnesota Department of Education about our waiver from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), and our Multiple Measurements Rating (MMR) system which focuses on student proficiency, academic growth, and the achievement gap. With the U.S. Congress reaching the finish line on rewriting the No Child Left Behind law, these are important discussions and we will have a great deal of work to do alongside MDE to integrate to this new system.
As these and many other important topics continue to be discussed, I hope you will stay in touch with your ideas, concerns, and questions. Feel free to call or email me any time.