When May 23 began, District 16 Sen. Gary Dahms and District 16B Rep. Paul Torkelson had a message to share with area residents regarding the 2018 session.
A tax bill was approved that conformed with the federal tax laws as a way to prevent income tax filing issues in the future.
An omnibus budget bill was also approved that would have provided funding for school safety, transportation, protecting aging and vulnerable adults, preventing a cut to caregivers working with disabled Minnesotans and to address the growing opioid epidemic, along with much more.
A capital investment bill that provides funding for various projects, including $7 million for the reclamation of Lake Redwood, passed during the session.
Dahms and Torkelson hosted a number of town hall meetings throughout House District 16B that Wednesday.
By the afternoon the message changed.
Earlier in the day Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed both the tax and omnibus budget bills. As of the time this article was published, the bonding bill was still awaiting a decision from the governor.
Dahms said after the 2018 session came to and end May 20, the legislature was assured by the governor that he was going to take time to look at the bills before making a decision, adding they were told that would likely be at least 10 days.
“A day and a half later, he vetoed the tax and omnibus budget bills,” said Dahms.
During the discussion with residents at the Redwood Falls town hall meeting, a question about the legislative process was asked.
Why doesn’t the legislature send one bill at a time to the governor, rather than sending larger bills all at once?
Dahms said early on in the session that is what happened, as several bills were presented individually to the governor, but rather than approve them he decided to wait until all of the bills had been sent to him.
“He did not get involved in the process until Friday (May 18),” said Dahms.
Then when the omnibus budget bill was presented to him he had 67 things he wanted changed. Compromises were made, and the bill was move forward, but then, said Dahms, he had another 117 changes he wanted.
“You can’t keep moving the goal post,” said Dahms. “I would love to pass bills individually instead of presenting one large bill, but we can’t do that when we can’t get the governor’s goal posts to stand still. You can’t accommodate a moving target.”
For Torkelson one of the issues that was raised during the session was the allocation of that is known as Corridors of Commerce funding for transportation projects.
These funds, which are intended to help address the rising transportation funding issues, were allocated to projects, and Torkelson said the funding was offered to projects in the immediate area around the Twin Cities.
The rest of the state got nothing, added Torkelson.
Torkelson said he hopes the legislature will address the Corridors of Commerce legislation to make it work the way it was supposed to and provide funding more equally across the entire state.
Torkelson said a proposal to include an amendment to the state Constitution that would dedicate sales taxes collected on things like auto parts to transportation on the ballot was vetoed by the governor.
Originally, added Dahms, those tax dollars were being allocated to transportation, but when times got tougher they were added to the general fund to be used in other areas. The proposal was to just put those funds back where they started.
Also during the session, Dahms said he had his eyes opened in regards to the issue of childcare in the state. He said a hearing was held that would allow the public to testify about what is happening, and what was supposed to be about an hour and a half presentation ended up taking more than three hours.
Story after story was presented about the rules that have been handed down to those who are working in the childcare industry.
“The bureaucracy is totally out of control,” said Dahms.
During the past state administration the number of childcare providers getting out of the business was about 100 per year, said Dahms. That number has increased to 800 per year under the current administration.
Dahms attributes the major change to the failed vote to unionize childcare in the state, adding if one looks at that history they will see a dramatic increase in the number of rules placed on providers after that vote failed.
“We all want children to be in safe surroundings,” said Dahms, but he said some of the compliance issues have nothing to do with safety.
A task force has been established to further investigate the childcare concerns statewide, and Dahms is hopeful that a proposal can be implemented that will come up with reasonable rules that use common sense and help to address the growing need for childcare across Minnesota.
Dahms and Torkelson agreed they felt good about the 2018 session, adding that all changed when the governor took action to veto those bills.
What happens next is anyone’s guess.