Senate Report: Legislative session is winding down with much to be done
Senate Report by Gene Dornink
Friends and neighbors,
As session comes to an end, the Legislature is working hard to reach an agreement and pass a budget. I am on both the agriculture and education conference committees, the goals of which are to reach an equitable compromise. We are close to a final policy proposal in agriculture while we are farther apart in education. The primary divide is over the role of mandates. The Senate position is against the dozens of mandates proposed by the House. Overall, these negotiations are going well, though time is a significant factor. The end of session is Monday, and we may need to come back before the budget deadline in July to wrap things up. There is a lot of work to do, and I’m honored to be a part of it.
Minnesota has a budget surplus, meaning we have extra money that has come into our state through tax revenue, federal funds and other means to ensure a quick, successful recovery. The difficult part is that Gov. Walz, with his emergency powers still in place, will be the one to decide how and where this one-time federal money will be spent. I am disappointed in some of his spending decisions and hope that moving forward he will consult the Legislature before distributing federal aid.
The Minnesota Senate approved a popular bill that would require Minnesotans to present a valid photo identification for in-person, absentee and mail-in voting. The bill also establishes a new voter identification card that would be available free of charge to individuals who lack proper identification and cannot afford it. The bill would make Minnesota the 37th state to require some form of identification to vote. I have heard some concerns about this limiting access to those in specific circumstances, unable to present an ID. In these select cases, you can sign an affidavit and your vote will be counted.
Over the course of this session, Senate Republicans have worked incredibly hard to push Gov. Walz into working with us. Well over a year after “two weeks to flatten the curve,” the governor announced restrictions will begin to lift. By May 28, all remaining restrictions, except the mask mandate, will be rescinded. This is good news, but I find it too little and way too late. We need to help Minnesota get back to work.
To help Minnesotans and ease some burden of the past year, I authored a bill that would eliminate the state taxes on PPP loans. This money helped keep businesses afloat under mandatory closures and ensured there would be jobs available at the end of this. The Senate passed PPP conformity and sent it to the House. Unfortunately, they have failed to pass this. In fact, they are pushing for more taxes. My colleagues and I in the Senate are committed to preventing new taxes or tax increases on anyone in the state. After the last year of losses and the billions of federal aid, there is no conscionable reason to do so. We have more than enough money to fund all our constitutionally required sectors and conform to the federal PPP tax policy.
If you have comments, questions or concerns regarding the Legislature, I encourage you to reach out to my office. I value hearing from my constituents and would look forward to hearing from you. You can email me at Sen.Gene.Dornink@Senate.mn or reach me by phone at 651-296-5240.
Gene Dornink, R-Hayfield, is the District 27 senator.
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