Tony’s Legislative Update (3/10/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/10/2017

Hello from St. Paul,

Following a disappointing meeting with the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) to address speed limit increases in the City of Hastings, I drafted legislation that would require MnDOT to maintain a 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to just north of Tuttle Drive.

MnDOT wants to raise speed limits in five different areas of Hastings this spring, and I have received numerous complaints from residents regarding the five-mile per-hour increase along Highway 316. After meeting with the department it was clear MnDOT wasn’t willing to wait, so I decided to try a different course of action.

A MnDOT representative visited my office on March 7 to discuss its decision. MnDOT indicated that the stretch of Highway 316 from Highway 61 to Tuttle Drive is scheduled to be resurfaced in 2021, and noted that might be the time to address safety concerns in this area, which could include anything from a traffic light, roundabout, or other improvement the department deems necessary.

I asked if the department could simply hold off on increasing the speed limit in this area until 2021 and was told that was not an option. I also asked if radar speed indicator signs in this area could help. MnDOT told me that studies show while the signs are initially effective, ultimately motorists grow accustomed to seeing them and return to faster driving.

I told MnDOT I appreciated the department’s willingness to move from its initial change of 45 to 40 miles per hour, but it still did not adequately address residents’ safety concerns.

In response, I drafted a bill that would maintain the 35 mile per hour speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to Tuttle Drive. It also required MnDOT to conduct a safety study in that area and report its findings and recommendations to the Legislature.

MnDOT said it has already conducted a study along Highway 316, but it was a speed study to determine how fast people are driving. It has not taken into account the lack of a shoulder in some of the residential areas, lack of turning lanes, and lack of a sidewalk and crosswalk. Area residents don’t want to know how fast people are driving, they want to know they’re going to be safe.

The bill was heard before the Minnesota House Transportation and Regional Governance Policy Committee on March 8. During the hearing, testimony in favor of the legislation was given by Hastings residents Owen Hecht, Dave Rother, and Susan Tate who live in the impacted area. Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Hastings City Council members Joe Balsanek, Trevor Lund and Tina Folch were also in attendance to support the bill.

Mayor Paul Hicks also sent a letter of support that was distributed to committee members.

The bill was ultimately approved by a unanimous vote and now heads to the Minnesota Transportation Finance Committee for further debate.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

I was also pleased to meet with several area residents this week. Hastings constituent Katy Lindberg was here for Insurance Day at the Capitol.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

Members of the Minnesota Farm Bureau in Dakota County also stopped by to visit about their legislative issues.

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

This morning I was able to present St. Elizabeth Ann Seton teacher Kathy Gleich with a House resolution in honor of her being named Hastings Chamber of Commerce Educator of the Year. Congratulations!

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (3/3/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/3/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

State lawmakers received some good news recently as we learned Minnesota is facing another positive economic forecast.

Our fiscal experts say our state now has a $1.65 billion budget surplus. This is $250 million more than was expected from our previous budget forecast that was released near the end of 2016.

Going inside the numbers, tax revenues are forecast to be $321 million more than the November estimate. Nearly 81 percent ($274 million) of the increased tax revenues are from individual income earners. But that revenue growth is offset by $156 million more in spending than projected. That includes $95 million in E-12 education and $73 million in health care, due to more people using these services.

An improved U.S. economic outlook and positive numbers for key economic data points such as personal income growth, employment, and consumer spending also contributed to the additional surplus revenue.

In addition to the current surplus for Fiscal Year 2018-19, our economists are projecting a $2.1 billion surplus for the 2020-2021 biennium.

I was pleasantly surprised to see these figures. With this sizable surplus, some will inevitably call for more spending within state government. While its true that we do have some projects that need to be funded this year, particularly when it comes to roads and bridges, I think it’s important that we don’t spend it all and be fiscally responsible.

To me, when you continue to have repeated budget surplus projections it’s a sign that you’ve taken too much money from the taxpayers. I’d like to see us focus on tax relief for the middle class and give the people who created the surplus a financial break.

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

Last week I was able to participate in the Hastings Tourism event at City Hall and join other area lawmakers for a tour of Flint Hills Resources. Thank you for the invitations!

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

In St. Paul, I visited with Hastings resident Jamie Tharp with Pulte Homes representing the Builders Association of America.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

I also visited with Afton residents Joan and Richard Meierotto and Kimberly Scott.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Latasha Schipper, Richard Welshons & David Welshons of DCA Title in Hastings stopped by on behalf of the Minnesota Land Title Association.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

Cindy Toppin with Safe Passage Minnesota visited in order to advocate for children to reach their full potential.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

This week also marked Minnesota Building Trades Day at the Capitol, and I’d like thank local carpenters, laborers, and electricians for stopping in.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (2/24/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/24/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

Want to buy a case of beer or a bottle of wine on Sundays in Hastings or Cottage Grove? If so, you’ll be pleased to learn that the Minnesota House has approved legislation allowing Sunday liquor sales.

For 80 years, Minnesota has banned the sale of this legal product on Sundays, and because of it we lose an estimated $10 million in tax collections each biennium. Minnesota is currently one of 12 states with a prohibition on the sale of intoxicating beverages on Sundays, none of which border Minnesota.

Off-sale liquor sales are currently permitted between 8:00 AM and 10:00 PM Monday through Saturday. Under the House-approved bill, retailers could sell alcohol between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM on Sundays, effective July 1, 2017, but the delivery or acceptance of alcohol to an off-sale retailer on Sundays would be prohibited.

Worth noting: this bill does not require liquor stores to operate on Sundays; it simply removes the legal prohibition against doing so.

My constituent correspondence has been overwhelmingly in favor of ending the ban. I made a point of contacting all of our district’s liquor store owners as well, and slightly more favored allowing Sunday sales than not, so I certainly felt comfortable with my ‘yes’ vote.

The Sunday liquor sales bill now heads to the Minnesota Senate for further debate.

Our state’s latest budget forecast is expected to be unveiled on February 28. That will be our most up-to-date guideline on Minnesota’s expected revenue collections and expenditures, which means we will soon begin focusing on setting the state’s budget for the next two years. I’ll share more about Minnesota’s economic outlook in a future update.

Meeting with constituents is truly the most enjoyable part of my job as your state representative, and I’m pleased to have visited with many recently.

Last week I visited with the residents and staff at the Hastings Veterans Home and learned more about their legislative concerns and how I can help.

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Community Visitor Day

St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Community Visitor Day

Not long ago I also took part in St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Community Visitor Day in Hastings. Here, I’m pictured with 5th graders Madelyn Chandler and Derek Kelleher who served as my very kind hosts.

Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota at the Capitol

Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota at the Capitol

Corrie & Kyle Kropelnicki, along with their kids Kyler, Cadan & Karson visited with me in St. Paul this week taking part in Decoding Dyslexia Minnesota at the Capitol.

Minnesota’s athletic trainers also had their day at the Capitol.

Minnesota’s athletic trainers also had their day at the Capitol.

Minnesota’s athletic trainers also had their day at the Capitol, and I was pleased to sit down with Cottage Grove resident Aaron Benson.

Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day

Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day

Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day

Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day

Wednesday also marked Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day. Early that morning, I was able to meet with local drivers, aides, dispatchers and mechanics from the Hastings Bus Company in the City of Hastings and at the Denmark Township terminal to show my appreciation.

Alternative Learning Center Day at the Capitol

Alternative Learning Center Day at the Capitol

Finally, I had the pleasure of meeting with a pair of students from the St. Croix Alternative Learning Center as part of Alternative Learning Center Day at the Capitol. Afton constituent Sarah Breems and Nate Schnettler asked if they could meet with me briefly while they were here, but I asked them if they wanted to spend their entire two hours with me and I’m pleased they accepted. I was able to take them onto the House floor, have them sit in on several meetings and watch a few minutes of some committee meetings so they were able to learn more about the day-to-day happenings of a state lawmaker. I truly enjoyed it and I hope they did too.

As always, I am interested in your feedback. Please feel free to contact me by e-mail at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn or contact my office at 651-296-3135.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (2/17/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/17/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

In response to numerous resident concerns about speed limit increases in the City of Hastings, I will be scheduling a meeting with Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) officials to discuss the situation.

I have been receiving many phone calls and emails about MnDOT’s decision to increase the speed limit on Highway 316 from Highway 61 to Tuttle Drive. These same concerns were being brought to me when I was door knocking last summer. It’s a well-traveled road that’s difficult to access from a side street and in spots has no place for people to walk. Increasing the speed limit here is just asking for trouble.

The speed limits are expected to take effect this spring, and the stretch of Highway 316 I’m referencing will jump from 35 to 40 miles per hour. A number of other speed changes in Hastings and near the city limits will also take place at this time.

I’m pleased the City of Hastings has been working closely with MnDOT. Its input was critical towards maintaining the speed limit near Roadside Park along Highway 55. I also think city officials were wise to fight these changes, particularly to maintain the 35 mile an hour speed limit on that stretch of Highway 316.

At this point, I think it’s important for me to reach out to MnDOT and see if there’s anything more that can be done. Increasing the speed limit won’t increase safety in this area. In fact, I’m convinced that doing so will only make it more dangerous.

tony-jurgens-hastings-creamery

A few days ago I had the pleasure of touring the Hastings Co-Op Creamery and find out more about this unique local business.

The creamery has been in place for more than 100 years and is a fixture in the community. Thank you for allowing me to visit and learn about your operation!

tony-jurgens-and-constituents

Cottage Grove constituents Angela Schroeder, Gerald Awenti and Grace Larsen also stopped by my office as part of Nursing Association Day at the Capitol. It was good to hear their thoughts on health care – thanks for visiting and sharing your input.

As always, if you are interested in scheduling an office visit in St. Paul, please call my office at 651-296-3135 and we will put you on the calendar!

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s Legislative Update (2/10/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/10/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

As nearly everyone is aware, next year’s Super Bowl will take place in Minneapolis, and with Super Bowl 51 now in the books Minnesota is on the clock as host for Super Bowl 52.

We’re expecting this event to draw hundreds of thousands to our state next February. In an effort to promote Minnesota and our outdoor heritage, I am authoring a bill that would waive a fishing license requirement throughout Super Bowl week.

Let’s face it, people outside of the Midwest think we’re nuts to drive out on a frozen lake in the middle of winter, cut a hole in the ice and try to catch a fish. There is a strong likelihood that a team’s fans from a warm-climate state will be making their first visit to Minnesota in order to watch the game. So why not encourage them to participate in the full Minnesota experience while they’re here?

The plan is also being received warmly by people connected to the “big game.” Minnesota Vikings Executive Vice President Lester Bagley recently said “We appreciate the effort by Representative Jurgens. Ice fishing is one of the many great outdoor activities that we would love our guests from around the world to experience when they visit Minnesota for Super Bowl 52.”

My hope is this bill will entice enough Super Bowl visitors to give ice fishing a chance, and once they discover how much fun it is they will return again and again.

I introduced the bill last week in the Minnesota House, and I’m looking forward to working with resort owners, Minnesota tourism officials, the Minnesota Vikings and the National Football League on this proposal.
The Minnesota House recently approved legislation that will allocate funds for the Rural Finance Authority (RFA) loan program. The RFA partners with agricultural lenders to provide low-cost financing to farmers on terms and conditions not otherwise available from other credit sources. The RFA portion of the loan is carried at a reduced interest rate to improve the cash flow of eligible farmers.

With the RFA, borrowers make payments to repay the bonds so taxpayers aren’t on the hook; the State is just the conduit. The only way taxpayers are responsible is if there is a default, and in the life of the RFA, the default rate is nearly non-existent.

Basically, there was no money left in RFA, which is why we agreed to provide $35 million in bond proceeds to assist with RFA loans in the beginning farmer loan and seller assisted program, agricultural improvement program, debt restructuring program, and livestock expansion programs.

The legislation will now be debated in the Minnesota Senate.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s legislative update (2/2/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/2/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

Governor Dayton recently outlined his budget recommendations to the legislature, and I believe the plan is too heavy on spending and tax increases, and too light on tax relief for hardworking Minnesotans.

I’m sure his target is simply a starting point, but when you want to increase government spending by nearly ten percent and raise taxes and fees in the face of a $1.4 billion surplus, that approach is going to be met with resistance.

Governor Dayton is proposing a $45.8 billion budget over the next two-year budget cycle, which represents a roughly a ten percent increase over the $41.5 billion Fiscal Year 2016-17 budget.

Despite Minnesota’s $1.4 billion surplus, the governor is also proposing a $1.4 billion tax increase on trips to the doctor by extending the provider tax, and $1.5 billion in new taxes and fees in the next biennium alone by increasing the gas tax, tab fees, the Metro area sales tax, new license/title surcharges, and more.

The people I’ve spoken with are expecting lawmakers to rein in our spending a bit and get the money back through some meaningful tax reform to middle class taxpayers. I expect our budget to come in significantly less than what the governor proposed, but hopefully he will once again join legislative leadership in working towards a workable budget compromise.

It was good to be out and about this week in both Hastings and Cottage Grove to hear from area residents. I had a good time working at the well-attended St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church pancake breakfast that took place at the Hastings Knights of Columbus hall, and was also pleased to take part in a ribbon cutting ceremony for Burggraf’s Ace Hardware and welcome its owners to Cottage Grove.

Back in St. Paul, I also had a nice visit with Hastings resident Debbie Pickle and volunteers from the Minnesota Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities.

They had traveled to the Capitol to advocate for legislation that will help improve the lives of disabled residents across the state.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s legislative update (1/27/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/27/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

On January 26, the Minnesota House approved a compromise proposal crafted by House and Senate negotiators that addresses health care emergency aid and access.

The plan will offset the cost of premiums by 25 percent for qualifying enrollees who purchase health care coverage in the individual market this year. It will also bring some access, competition, and transparency to the system in numerous ways, such as allowing for-profit HMO’s to enter the marketplace, providing 120 day continuity of care for critical healthcare cases, modifying stop loss coverage to make it easier for more small businesses to offer affordable insurance to their employees, and instituting agricultural cooperative health plans, which allow organizations with member owners – such as farm cooperatives – to provide health insurance to their members.

Governor Dayton has signed the bill, which is fantastic news. Look for more health care reform proposals to move forward in the Minnesota House in the weeks ahead.

Wednesday represented American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education (ABATE) of Minnesota’s Day at the Capitol. After speaking to ABATE groups in the capitol rotunda, I was pleased to have local members of the St. Croix Valley Riders visit my office and discuss issues important to motorcyclists.

I also enjoyed visiting the IBEW Local 110 apprenticeship training center last week, and learning more about how newcomers to the electrical field are taught and prepared to enter the workforce.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Tony’s legislative update (1/16/2017)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/16/2017

Hello from the State Capitol,

There’s good news to report regarding tax relief. Governor Dayton has signed into law a House proposal I co-authored providing $21.7 million in immediate tax relief by conforming state tax provisions to that of the federal government. The bill is critical in that it will keep hardworking Minnesotans from facing higher tax bills and prevent them from complications as they file their taxes.

We’re also one step closer to beginning to address the health insurance problems that are harming countless Minnesotans across our state, as plans are moving through House committees and will soon receive debate on the House floor. The legislation provides premium relief to eligible recipients and makes improvements to current law in order to improve the health insurance market in Minnesota.

This week I also agreed to co-author legislation that seeks put more disabled and unemployed veterans back to work. The bill would provide up to $3,000 in tax relief for companies who prioritize hiring those who selflessly served our country but are now struggling to return to the workforce. To me, fighting for those who fought for our freedoms is always the right thing to do and I’m hopeful this proposal will be viewed positively by Republicans and Democrats alike.

One of the best part of this job is meeting with local residents and interested community officials. Over the past week I was able to attend a Cottage Grove City Council meeting, talk with representatives from Washington County and Cottage Grove, as well as sit down with South Washington County School District officials to discuss their legislative priorities for the upcoming session. If there is a meeting you would like me to attend, or if you would like to travel to St. Paul for an office visit, I urge you to contact me as soon as you can. Feel free to call my office at 651-296-3135 or email me at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn and we’ll be happy to work you into the schedule.

Also, you may be interested in a pair of TV interviews I participated in recently. Click here to see my discussion on “Everybody Loves Politics” on Hastings Community Television, and here to watch a segment on Almanac, which begins at roughly the 9:10 mark of the video.

Talk to you soon,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
523 State Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Saint Paul, Minnesota 55155
651-296-3135
rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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First day of legislative session is memorable

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/6/2017

The 2017 Legislative Session is underway, and it is truly an honor to be your state representative. As this is my first year as your voice at the Capitol, I was pleased to have family and friends with me on “Opening Day” at our swearing in ceremony.

Like me, many of you probably wonder what actually happens on the first day of session. To my surprise, it was actually a bit more than pomp and circumstance; we actually did accomplish some legislative business.

After all 133 members of the Minnesota House took their oath of office, we elected our House Speaker for the next two years, appointed some non-partisan House staffers to their official capacities, and established some temporary House rules.

Two days later, we hit the ground running and approved an important bill for Minnesota’s taxpayers.

The plan will provide $21.7 million in tax relief to Minnesotans. By conforming state tax rates to that of the federal government, we are not only able to lower taxes for hardworking Minnesotans but prevent them from facing tax filing complications.

Some of the measures in the bill include tax deductions for higher education expenses and teacher reimbursement expenses; loan forgiveness on home foreclosures from being taxed at the state level; excluding compensation from taxable income for those who were wrongfully incarcerated; and eliminating the need for two sets of depreciation schedules for those who purchase work equipment.

Going forward, you can also expect a robust House tax relief proposal for middle class Minnesotans to be unveiled. But for now, we have taken the first step towards allowing Minnesotans to keep more of what they earn.

Throughout this session I encourage you to contact me at any time with your questions, concerns, or comments. You can call me at 651-296-3135, drop me an email at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn, or send a letter to 523 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155.

I’d also like to invite you subscribe to my email update in order to receive more thoughts and information on happenings at the State Capitol. To sign up, visit www.house.mn/54B and click on the “Email Updates” section.

Once again, I am eager to serve as your voice at the State Capitol, and look forward to hearing your thoughts and opinions in the weeks ahead.