I always appreciate visiting with constituents (1/25/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/25/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Thousands participated in a rally outside the State Capitol on Tuesday to support the unborn, 46 years after the United States Supreme Court legalized abortions nationwide. A number of residents from our district were part of the group, and I always appreciate visiting with constituents when they visit St. Paul.

Dozens of lawmakers from both sides of the aisle attended.

According to Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), the rally is designed to commemorate the lives lost to abortion (and the women and men who have been hurt as a result) and to call for renewed respect and protection for all members of the human family, including unborn children and their mothers.

Also this week, I joined Amber from Ally Supportive Services and Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik in a point-in-time homeless count.

Many of us don’t realize we have a homeless population in Hastings. The problem isn’t nearly as serious as it would be in Minneapolis or St. Paul, but it is a problem nonetheless for those without reliable shelter – particularly when the temperatures are below freezing.

This was an eye-opening experience for me, as it would be for anyone. We visited with a number of residents, and spent almost an hour with one couple. We heard about their struggles, not only with finding housing but also in dealing with life’s struggles including mental health and addiction.

Some good news, Amber and her organization do an outstanding job not only in locating these residents throughout Dakota County but also in establishing a level of trust with them. She also tells me local police do a good job of ensuring their safety.

As a new member of the Minnesota House Housing Committee, learning more about the homeless issue and talking to those who are struggling locally was critical. Raising awareness is also important, and I look forward to working on solutions to homelessness in the very near future.

Last night, I was pleased to attend the Hastings Chamber of Commerce 2019 Annual Meeting and Awards dinner, and was happy to present Educator of the Year Kari Jaeger, Volunteer of the Year Ellie Lundquist, and Business of the Year Millner Family Chiropractic with House resolutions honoring their achievements.

On Friday, I visited with officials from Marathon Refinery in St. Paul Park, learning how the company prioritizes employee and community safety, and has ongoing, open communication and cooperation with local emergency personnel.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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About lowering health care costs (1/18/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/18/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

According to residents I heard from last fall, the top political issue in Minnesota is lowering health care costs. It’s likely to be the top political issue at the State Capitol this year as well, as it should be.

I’ve heard Gov. Pawlenty use a three legged stool analogy when describing health care, consisting of quality of care, access to care, and cost of care. We have some of the best quality of care here in Minnesota and right now, most areas of the state have access to care. The cost of care is the leg that is still out of whack. The goal for every lawmaker this session is to improve the cost of care without damaging access and quality in the process.

Two weeks into session, I can already see we’re going to have some interesting discussions.

For example, a debate has already begun regarding the provider tax. The tax, also referred to as the sick tax – is a two percent tax levied on most patient services in Minnesota, such as doctor visits. It was eliminated as part of bipartisan legislation passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed into law by Governor Dayton in 2011. On January 1, this tax on patient services will disappear.

Or maybe not. Governor Walz has already said it a “nonstarter” to end the tax, and the DFL House Health and Human Services Finance Chair said it was “essential” to restore the tax or replace its revenue, which currently helps fund programs such as MinnesotaCare. If the Legislature revisits this topic, does not allow the tax to sunset and reinstates it, the cost to patients is estimated at more than $600 million a year.

Speaking of MinnesotaCare, which is a state health insurance program available for low income residents who cannot afford MNsure, legislation has already been introduced to expand this program as a buy-in option for those on the individual market.

Proponents see this as a cure-all to Minnesota’s individual market ills. Opponents note the low reimbursement rates associated with the program would make it difficult, if not impossible, for some health care providers and hospitals to stay afloat (which would impact access to care in some parts of the state); would negatively impact the private insurance market; and take another major step towards government-run health care.

The key will be finding a solution that ensures a program remains in place to help those in need.

Finally, there is the issue of reinsurance. From 2014-2017, average rates on the individual market increased by double digits every year, including up to 67 percent for 2017. That’s why lawmakers approved a reinsurance plan two years ago. It was designed to stabilize premiums by mitigating the impact of high-risk individuals, or those who are the most sick, on the individual health insurance market.

It worked. Last year all five carriers on the individual market lowered premiums for 2019, with average rates dropping between 7.4 percent and 27.7 percent.

Despite this, reinsurance was a hot topic in many House election campaigns – mine included. Under the guidance of now-Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman, reinsurance was labeled as bad news, mischaracterized as giving insurance companies a $500 million blank check “with virtually no strings attached.”

Yet at a recent Minnesota Chamber of Commerce dinner, Hortman was asked if reinsurance should be continued. She said “yes.”

If you enjoy political drama, the possibility now exists that those who ran against reinsurance on the campaign trail could now end up voting for it. Stay tuned.

Politics and legislation aside, understand that every Republican and Democrat at the State Capitol wants to improve your health care and lower your costs. The tough part will be deciding how we go about it while maintaining the quality and access of care. I look forward to seeing how these proposals progress through the committee process, and will keep you updated as session moves forward.

This week I took part in number of local meetings, participating in the Dakota County Regional Chamber of Commerce reception, and a legislative priorities meeting that was hosted by the City of Cottage Grove. One of the topics there was addressing concerns with the 3M settlement and using some of those funds for filtration systems within Cottage Grove, something that will be discussed again in the very near future.

Finally I was pleased to take part in a Cottage Grove ribbon cutting at the new Sushi Cafe.

Stop in for sushi, delicious bubble tea or a hibachi entree. They’re located in the center behind Kohl’s near Jimmy John’s and Anytime Fitness.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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The first week of the session (1/11/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/11/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

State lawmakers have returned to the State Capitol for the 2019 session and our work has begun. On January 8, all of the newly-elected state representatives were sworn into office on the Minnesota House floor.

It is such an honor to represent the people of Hastings, Cottage Grove, Afton, Denmark Township and Nininger Township, and I’m so grateful to have earned their trust for another two years.

The first week of session is usually not action-packed in terms of legislation being debated in committee or on the House floor. I did introduce a pair of bills. The first eliminates income taxes on Social Security benefits for all senior citizens. Last session we approved a law that helped tens of thousands of seniors keep more of their benefits, and I’m looking to continue that effort by helping the rest who did not qualify under that law. I spoke with the new chairman of the House Taxes Committee and he was receptive to giving my bill a hearing this year. The second bill would end lunch shaming in our schools.

But plenty of interesting events took place outside of the Capitol walls this week. For example, I was able to attend a dedication and ribbon cutting for a new 64-unit independent living and 75 unit skilled nurse & memory care service at Presbyterian Homes Norris Square Senior Living Community in Cottage Grove. It was a pleasure to speak at the ceremony.

I was also able to attend the swearing-in ceremony for new Hastings Mayor Mary Fasbender, and sit with members of the Hastings Chamber of Commerce at the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce’s Session Priorities dinner.

Today, I met with local leaders, YMCA representatives, and parents of Hastings High School students who are taking part in the Youth in Government program this weekend at the State Capitol.

These folks were able to tour the Capitol and learn more about the Youth in Government program.

Finally I enjoyed attending the Association of Metropolitan School Districts Legislative Session Preview, and I also took part in the bipartisan, bicameral panel discussion on health care costs and issues at the One Minnesota Legislative Policy Conference at U of M Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

As with any new year, there are changes at the Capitol. You may remember my previous legislative assistants Micah and Nicole. This year I’ll be working with Josh Solano.

When you visit my office or call to set up an appointment, Josh is likely the first person you’ll see, so feel free to stop by and say hello!

Along those lines, you can call 651-296-3135 or email rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn to set up that appointment, or to share your thoughts, ideas and concerns with me. My new office is located in Room 351 of the State Office Building.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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I spoke with our incoming governor (1/4/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 1/4/2019

Happy New Year!

On Thursday, I was pleased to visit rural Hastings constituent Bill Sorg’s dairy farm in Nininger Township, a location where Governor-elect Walz announced his choices for a number of cabinet positions within his new administration.

Bill Sorg dairy farm in Nininger Township

Following the announcement, I spoke with our incoming governor for a few minutes and both of us shared a strong desire to set partisanship aside this session and to work together in the best interests of Minnesotans.

set partisanship aside

This event will surely be a special memory for the Sorg family and their friends, and I’m always glad when a local resident can be honored for their accomplishments. You might recall that in 2009 the Bill and Randy Sorg families were named Dakota County’s “Farm Family of the Year” by the University of Minnesota, so I’m glad they were once again recognized as leaders in agriculture.

In other news, I just wanted to remind everyone about my listening sessions that will be taking place Saturday.

The events will be held at the following times and locations tomorrow, January 5:

  • Hastings City Hall, 101 4th St. East, 8:30-9:30 a.m.
  • Cottage Grove City Hall, 12800 Ravine Parkway South, 10:00-11:00 a.m.
  • Afton City Hall, 3033 St Croix Trail S, 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Senator Bigham will join me at the Hastings gathering.

I’m holding these listening sessions earlier this year as I wanted to give residents the opportunity to share the topics that are important to them before session begins. I’m hopeful you will take some time Saturday morning to attend the session that best fits your schedule and share your thoughts.

I look forward to seeing you there!

Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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