From: Sen. Jeremy Miller
R - Winona
Now that the 2017 legislative session is officially in the books, legislators are adjusting to life away from the capitol. For me, this means hanging up my suit and ties in the closet and pulling out my jeans and steel-toed boots to wear at the scrap yard.
The November 2016 elections resulted in a number of changes at the Senate. Not only were there 21 brand new Democrat and Republican senators when we convened in January, but there was also a new majority. Republican leadership of the Senate meant a new committee structure, new committee chairs, and a new leadership team. The new makeup of the Senate also meant changes for me personally: I was humbled to be named both deputy majority leader and chair of the Senate Jobs and Economic Growth Committee.
Most of all, the 2017 session represented a new approach to governing. Both parties had fallen into a business-as-usual approach that led to partisan bickering rather than progress on the issues. Particularly after a disappointing end to the 2016 legislative session, the main focus for Senate Republicans was to work together with the House, governor’s office, and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to get good things done for the people of Minnesota.
And this is exactly what we did. This was one of the most productive legislative sessions in recent history. The Jobs Committee did a great job of setting aside partisanship and working together on private-public partnerships to grow jobs in every corner of the state. In addition, I was proud not only to author or work on many new laws and other initiatives that were included in our final budget, but also to be heavily involved in negotiations about the global budget picture.
Things got going quickly with some huge accomplishments early in session, and the progress didn’t slow down. Some of the major accomplishments include emergency health care relief, the stabilization of the individual health insurance market, Sunday liquor sales, and the passage of Real ID so Minnesotans can use their driver’s licenses to travel domestically or enter federal buildings and military bases.
Additionally, after many hours of hard work and discussion, Democrats, Republicans, and Governor Dayton were able to negotiate a compromise budget solution that people can be proud of.
The $46 billion, two-year bipartisan general fund budget provides funding for every area of state government, but focuses on three key issues: education funding – particularly for early childhood opportunities, long-term transportation funding, and tax relief targeted to middle income families, students, senior citizens, small businesses, and farmers, as well as a first-in-the-nation student loan tax credit. The tax bill also includes additional ongoing local aid for cities and counties, as well as income tax reciprocity for Minnesotans working in Wisconsin.
Finally, the legislature and governor agreed to a bonding bill with many important statewide projects, including a couple major projects for our region: the Lanesboro Dam and Education Village. We don’t typically do bonding bills in odd-numbered years, but this was a unique circumstance because last year’s bonding bill failed to reach the governor’s desk due to a last minute amendment.
It is difficult to recap everything we did during this historically productive session, especially in one update, so over the course of the coming weeks I will be providing additional updates with more details on the 2017 legislative session. If you would like to sign up for my legislative updates, please send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
During the interim, I will be attending several events throughout the district. If you see me at an event, the store, at the park, or anywhere else, please don’t hesitate to ask me questions or provide feedback on issues facing our state. Or you can always contact me via email at email@example.com or call my Capitol office at 651-296-5649. It’s a great honor to serve as your State Senator.