Testing the safety of residents’ drinking water (3/23/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/23/2018

Hello from the State Capitol,

Legislation I’m authoring that gives local residents more control over testing the safety of their drinking water was heard in the Minnesota House Environment Finance Committee Tuesday.

The bill allows people in Denmark Township, Cottage Grove, and other areas where water has been contaminated with perflurocarbons (PFC) to choose whether or not to have their wells tested for presence of the chemical.

As it stands today, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency decides who gets their well tested and when. What my bill does is give a little more control back to the residents who are concerned for the safety of their water. They should be allowed to make that request.

Specifically, the bill requires the PCA to test a private well for per- and poly-fluorinated chemicals (PFCs) if requested by the owner or occupier of land in the east metropolitan area (defined as the cities of Afton, Cottage Grove, Lake Elmo, Newport, Oakdale, St. Paul Park, and Woodbury, the townships of Denmark, Grey Cloud Island, and Lakeland, and other areas added by the PCA).

If the testing measures PFC contamination at or above 50 percent of the health-based advisory value or health risk limit, the PCA is required to provide additional testing. The bill would require the money for the testing to come from the remediation fund that exists due to the State’s $850 million PFC contamination settlement with 3M, not the general fund.

Under my legislation the PCA would also be required to report an annual summary of the testing results to the communities and post these results on the agency’s website, and requires the PCA to submit an annual report to the legislature as well.

The next stop for the bill in the Minnesota House has not yet been determined.

It was a good hearing with plenty of testimony from the PCA, Attorney General’s office and the Department of Health. We’re working together in a bipartisan way to address drinking water concerns in the East Metro area.

Also note that the MPCA and DNR will be having an informational meeting in Cottage Grove regarding the 3M settlement. It will be held on Tuesday, April 3 from 6:00-8:00 p.m. at Park High School, 8040 80th St. South. For more information, please click here.

Legislation I’m sponsoring that would rehabilitate and preserve the Hastings City Hall building is moving forward in the Minnesota House. On Tuesday I was joined by Hastings City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee and City Planner Justin Fortney to discuss the plan before the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee.

Last year I invited the committee to visit Hastings and learn more about the city hall building, and I think that visit greatly improved our standing with those committee members. They were able to get a first-hand look at the problems within the building and they remembered the project and its needs, which I took as a very good sign.

This bill would provide $1.5 million in bonding proceeds to repair masonry, replace dome cupola roofs and decorative metal, make HVAC improvements and work on the foundation, among other needs. If approved, the City of Hastings would match the state’s investment to help preserve the nearly 150 year-old building.

The Hastings City Hall proposal was held over for possible inclusion in the Minnesota House bonding bill, which will be brought forward later this session.

Not long ago I heard from a Cottage Grove liquor store owner who contacted me about Sunday alcohol sales. He wants to start and end his day earlier, but also wants the opportunity to sell alcohol on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve – likely his two busiest days of the year – until 10:00 p.m. if those dates fall on a Sunday.

My bill that would accomplish that was heard in the Minnesota House Commerce Committee and may be included in a comprehensive commerce bill to be unveiled later this year.

Despite the fact we were dealing with committee deadlines in the Minnesota House and many late hearings this week, I was happy I could make it to Hastings Monday to attend the Highway 316 workshop being held with MnDOT and city officials. This is an important project for the city and having worked hard to keep speed limits from increasing in the southern portion of town and prioritizing safety measures there, I’m interested to see future planning from the department.

Also this week, Mike Hedstrom from BJ Transport in Afton visited to discuss issues facing the trucking industry including driver shortage, distracted driving and driver assist technology.

On Thursday, members of the Hastings City Council and city staff came to St. Paul to discuss legislation they’re prioritizing this session. Council members Joe Balsanek and Mark Vaughan were among the visitors.

Constituent Mary Nehring visited with others to discuss ways to reduce tobacco harm.

Thursday was MCCL Student Day at the Capitol and I was visited by a group of advocates, including Elisa and Brandon from Hastings.

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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Preventing the shaming of students who lack lunch money (3/16/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/16/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

This week, the Minnesota House Education Innovation Policy Committee heard my bill that prevents the shaming of students who lack school lunch money.

Late last year, news reports highlighted a school in Stewartville where students with negative school lunch balances had their meals tossed in the garbage, which is unacceptable. Since that report, I’ve heard from parents and others in other school districts in the metro area with similar experiences of having a child’s lunch dumped because their lunch account lacked sufficient funding. Since 2014, a law was put on the books to prevent exactly this sort of action, yet it happens anyway.

In order to help strengthen the current law, my proposal would require the Minnesota Department of Education to review its lunch policies and require individual school districts to put its lunch funding policy on its website, otherwise funding would be withheld.

I’ll soon be amending some new language onto this bill in order to increase its likelihood of House approval. It doesn’t go as far as I’d like, but it does seem to align with what other stakeholders and the Department of Education would like to see accomplished.

With all the attention we give to kids who bully and demean others, it is embarrassing that some adults in a lunchroom think it’s perfectly fine to embarrass a child with no lunch money. There is no scenario where lunchroom shaming should be allowed.

On March 14, Governor Dayton gave his final State of the State address. I was pleased to be joined by Hastings High School World History and Civics teacher Derek Fairbanks, and am hopeful he will be able to share his experience with his students.

Governor Dayton has done a number of things over the years that I don’t agree with. But I think he’s a good man and I certainly respect the office he’s served for the past eight years.

Earlier this week I was pleased to be able to finish my legislative work on time in order to attend the Nininger Township annual meeting. It’s always good to hear local township perspectives and priorities.

Soil and Water Conservation District representatives from both Washington County and Dakota County visited this week to discuss conservation funding.

The Minnesota Golf Course Superintendents Association also dropped by recently to discuss environmental progress that is being made in their industry to reduce water and fertilizer usage. Constituent Steve Willock was part of the group that visited.

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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Minnesota’s $850 million settlement with 3M (3/9/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/9/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

State lawmakers have been investigating the State of Minnesota’s $850 million settlement with 3M regarding water contaminated with perflurocarbons (PFC) in the East Metro in order to learn more about the agreement.

Recently the Minnesota House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the topic, and after listening to the MPCA’s discussion with the committee, I have a few concerns.

The settlement outlines three priorities: clean drinking water, natural resources protection, and ensuring that any unused funds be placed in a state account where they can be used on other clean water projects across the state.

Issue 1: the agreement designates a fund where 3M settlement money will go and right now that fund doesn’t exist. By session’s end, the Legislature will need to create that fund and then delegate the authority as to how it will be spent, otherwise the MPCA may not have that authorization as required by our Constitution. By contrast, the MPCA seems to think the settlement has been written so that legislative involvement is not needed. We recently dropped the bill to create the account.

Issue 2: the MPCA views its “administrative fees” as a justified expense for 3M settlement dollars, and the agency plans on taking a chunk of this funding for its purposes. Considering the Legislature very generously funds the MPCA every biennium, I find this problematic.

Issue 3: the potential of MPCA using this money for anything other than East Metro clean water needs.

Let’s be clear – PFC’s in our groundwater will never go away. They will still be present after we’re all long gone, and because of this our water will never be perfect. The filtering systems our communities need to install will need replacing in 20 to 30 years, and this funding has to be used – and available – for this purpose.

I’m sorry, but I have a problem with some bureaucrats 20 years from now deciding that this settlement money should be used elsewhere in Minnesota.

In the House, we are consulting our legal staff to determine how to ensure this money is used locally without violating the settlement agreement. At the very least, we have to create a 3M settlement account. We also need to determine if the MPCA can charge back administrative fees, and if so, ensure that the amount is very limited. I also think we should require MPCA to report to the Legislature annually on its spending.

I don’t want the MPCA or someone else ever making the call that our water is acceptable so a new way can be found to spend this 3M settlement. This money exists because our water was polluted; that means every nickel of the 3M settlement must be spent to mitigate contaminated water in the affected areas of Demark Township, Cottage Grove, and other communities and I’m working hard to ensure our laws reflect that.

HERO CENTER

My legislation that would help construct the Health and Emergency Response Occupations (HERO) Center in Washington County is moving forward in the Minnesota House, as capital investment committee members debated the proposal this week.

The proposal would allocate $9.7 million in state bonding proceeds towards the construction of the HERO Center. The rest of the cost would be paid for by the cities of Cottage Grove and Woodbury. The HERO Center would also include a gun range which would be open to the public.

In 2015, $1.45 million was secured for the project’s plan and design. With a site already selected, the lawmakers say construction could begin later this year if state bonding proceeds are secured.

Both Republican and Democratic committee members thought the presentation went well, and the fact that it’s shovel-ready always improves its chances. After nearly eight years of working on this project, the knowledge and enthusiasm shown from our local testifiers was obvious and they did a great job.

The Hero Center proposal was held over for possible inclusion in the Minnesota House Capital Investment bill, which will be brought forward later this session.

LET’S RESTOCK OUR FOOD SHELVES

March is Minnesota FoodShare Campaign month. Earlier I visited with Chris Koop and Claire Poncin from Hastings Family Service to learn how Hastings is participating in the city-wide “food fight.”

I strongly encourage you to join me in helping restock our local food shelves. To learn more about Hastings Family Service click here, Friends in Need click here, or to read more on Minnesota FoodShare’s March campaign, visit this website.

Speaking of food, I recently did an interview with Minnesota Public Radio about childhood hunger. To listen, click here.

Constituent Dr. Jeff Nelson stopped by my office a couple of days ago. Dr. Nelson is a tireless advocate for environmental and health issues.

South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus and other staff members and parents traveled to the Capitol this week to share their thoughts on school safety and education priorities with area lawmakers. I was pleased to meet with them.

Afton resident Ruth Ann Michnay also visited this week as part of CPA Day at the Capitol. Tax preparers are dealing with the new state and federal tax laws as well as waiting to see what we do for tax conformity this session.

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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The $329 million surplus (3/2/2018)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/2/2018

Hello from St. Paul,

There’s good news to report from the State Capitol, as Minnesota’s February state budget forecast shows a positive balance.

The $329 million surplus is much different than the $188 million deficit projection outlined by those same analysts in November.

Some die-hard partisans attempted to spin that November projection into a sky-is-falling economic crisis in Minnesota, which was truly short-sighted. That forecast assumed Congress would not approve a tax relief bill and would not reauthorize funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Weeks later, Congress approved both.

With this in mind, I’m expecting to see some tax relief and tax conformity proposals coming from the Minnesota House in the near future. The residents I’ve spoken with seem very pleased with the tax relief that has been given to them at the state and federal level over the past year, and I’m hopeful we now have another opportunity to let middle-class Minnesotans keep more of their earnings.

In other news, legislation has now been offered that would require the Dayton administration to find the $10 million needed to keep Minnesota’s new drivers’ licensing and registration system program afloat.

The proposal comes in the wake of a KMSP-TV investigative report that suggests the administration ignored several warning signs and rolled out the new system despite knowledge that it would not function properly.

Another bill is also being introduced that directs the Commissioner of Public Safety to study the feasibility of using a commercial vendor to “develop, deploy, and maintain” a system to replace MNLARS, instead of relying on the same government agency that has struggled to fix the problem.

On Tuesday, the Dayton administration told lawmakers that the nearly $100 million already spent on the program only created a “half-built system.” They are now requesting another $43 million in taxpayer dollars, with $10 million of that amount needed immediately in order to “prevent layoffs and canceled contracts.”

Whatever the final solution is, I know many of you continue to be frustrated by the delays and problems with vehicle title transfers and renewing your license tabs, so we will keep pushing the administration towards a solution. Stay tuned.

I had plenty of good visits in my Capitol office this week. University of Minnesota pharmacy students stopped by to share their input on legislation, including Megan from Hastings.

Constituent Mary Nehring also stopped in. She was advocating for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and discussed proposals that would help people suffering with MS gain improved access to the medications they need.

On Wednesday morning I visited the Hastings Bus Company as part of Minnesota School Bus Driver Appreciation Day in order to thank employees for their service.

I enjoyed a visit from St. Croix Valley Area Learning Center students and faculty, who joined me for a couple of hours and experienced a day in the life of a state lawmaker.

Y-Day at the Capitol gave me an opportunity to visit with folks from the Hastings YMCA. They included Youth in Government students Meghan Rowan and Hayden Schutt, along with Amy and Derrick.

It was also Minnesota Occupational Therapy Day at the Capitol recently. Jenna from Hastings was one of the occupational therapy students who stopped by.

Constituents Aaron Benson and Matthew Williams were in St. Paul to advocate for athletic trainer licensure on behalf of the Minnesota Athletic Trainers Association.

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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