Renovate the Hastings City Hall building (3/1/2019)

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/1/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Plans to renovate the Hastings City Hall building took a needed step forward on Wednesday as a bill I’m chief-authoring that would provide funding for the project was heard in the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee.

I thought the hearing went very well. Many of the members on the committee toured the facility back in 2017 when I invited them to Hastings to learn more about it, so they didn’t necessarily receive new information, but rather renewed information with some updates.

I was joined at the capital investment committee presentation by Hastings City Planner Justin Fortney and Interim Hastings City Administrator and Administrative Services Director Julie Flaten, and they both did an outstanding job.

The bill would provide $2 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, a $2.6 million investment from outside sources – such as the City of Hastings – would be needed in order to secure the state’s bonding proceeds.

There seems to be legitimate interest from the committee in asset preservation. Having the second oldest courthouse in the State of Minnesota and having regional significance works in our favor.

So what happens next? I’m not aware of any hearings being scheduled in the Minnesota Senate on the Hastings City Hall bill, and the bill didn’t receive a hearing last session either, which means I’ll be pushing hard for its inclusion in the House’s capital investment plan – whenever that’s unveiled.

We probably won’t know if we’ll have a bonding bill this year, or if the Hastings project is included in it, until the final days of session. Now its wait time for everyone but me, as I’ll continue working behind the scenes and reminding the chairwoman and other members of the committee how important it is to renovate the Hastings City Hall building.

DEMOCRATS VOTE TO VOID BOAT INSURANCE POLICIES FOR HALF A MILLION MINNESOTANS

Do you have boat insurance? If a bill approved in the Minnesota House Thursday becomes law, it could be worthless by the time the fishing opener rolls around.

Thursday evening House Democrats voted to pass HF476, a bill aimed at eliminating family exclusions in watercraft and personal umbrella liability insurance policies. As written, the bill would render any policies that include family exclusions “void.” Unlike other insurance-related bills that have enactment dates well into the future to allow changes to be made during the next policy renewal, HF476 would be effective “the day following final enactment and applies to policies in effect on or after that date” which means your policy could be void before your insurer has an opportunity to notify you and rewrite a new policy.

During the debate on the House floor, I offered a number of amendments that would have solved this and other problems, but they were all voted down by the majority party.

Having an insurance background, I can tell you with certainty that this bill would instantly void hundreds of thousands of insurance policies and throw Minnesota boat owners into chaos. I’m sure that sounds like another exaggerated political statement, but we actually had the conversation with non-partisan researchers who told us this is exactly what will happen if this bill becomes law.

Worse, if your boat is covered under a personal umbrella policy, the entire umbrella policy could be void because of the way the bill was written.

While I appreciate what this bill was trying to accomplish it would be a disaster if it was signed into law in its current form. There’s simply no reason to void policies the day after the bill is signed—it’s unnecessary and creates a mess for both policyholders and insurers who would need to draft and issue hundreds of thousands of new policies.

One of my amendments would have moved the enactment date to January 2020 and called for the Commerce Commissioner to establish a Policy Exclusion Advisory Group to review these issues and report back by November of this year. Unfortunately, there was more interest in getting the current bill passed than in getting it right.

According the DNR, there were 818,000 boats in Minnesota as of 2016. Boats.com estimates that 40% of boats are uninsured, meaning that approximately 400,000-500,000 Minnesotans have insurance policies that could be rendered void under the bill.

WHAT DID YOU READ DURING “I LOVE TO READ MONTH?”

Did you know February was “I Love to Read” month? I was fortunate to be able to visit a number of area classrooms over the past couple of weeks, which is truly one of the most enjoyable parts of being your state representative. Not only was I able to read to these kids, but I was able to discuss with them the importance of reading at all ages and learn about the types of books they enjoy.

I started off in Hastings at Kennedy Elementary, visiting 3rd grade students from Mrs. Kirk’s classroom.

I read the book “Dream Big, A True Story of Courage and Determination” to these youngsters, a true story about a teenager who not only dreamed of participating in and finishing the Boston Marathon, but eventually directed the annual event for thirty years.

I was also invited to read to 5th graders at Newport Elementary School.

As well as 5th graders at Pine Hill Elementary School in Cottage Grove.

To each of these groups, I read a chapter from my favorite book from when I was their age, The Mystery of the Witches Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton. When we were done I gave the book to them so they could finish reading it if they were interested. The book was written in 1967 and I had to find used copies online. This is the first chapter book I remember reading and I couldn’t wait to go to the local library to check out another mystery to read. My hope is at least one student falls in love with reading because of The Mystery of the Witches Bridge.

Minnesota School Bus Drivers Appreciation Day also took place this week. I met these drivers at 6:15 AM before they went out on their Hastings routes to thank them for getting our kids to and from school safely.

This has been a very challenging month due to weather but drivers, aides, dispatchers and mechanics have done a great job. Their concerns include drivers putting safety at risk by ignoring stop arms and loss of pay due to weather related school cancellations.

Have a great weekend,
Tony

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

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

Radio Interview (2/20/2019)

kdwaHere’s my latest KDWA InDepth radio program. We’ll be doing these on a weekly basis during the 2019 legislative session.

Today’s InDepth on KDWA Hastings, we discuss tax relief for senior citizens, and I am chief-authoring new legislation that eliminates taxation on Social Security benefits.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation with Kelly Casey on KDWA.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation with Kelly Casey on KDWA.

Eliminate state taxes on Social Security benefits (2/15/2019)

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/15/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Last year I held a meeting with senior citizens at Regina Senior Living in Hastings. To a person, they told me they wished they had more money to spend from their Social Security checks.

I explained that they were not alone, and that the Legislature had begun to tackle the problem.

During the 2017 session, lawmakers approved a bipartisan tax relief law that addressed Social Security, providing nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax filers with tax reductions, and 72,000 of them no longer pay any state income tax on their Social Security benefits.

This session I am chief-authoring legislation that would eliminate state taxes on Social Security benefits for ALL senior citizens. My bill would benefit nearly 358,000 Minnesotans who would average savings of nearly $1,100 each from the elimination.

On February 14, my bill was debated in the Minnesota House Taxes Committee, and was held over for possible inclusion in a more comprehensive taxes bill that will be unveiled later this year.

To me, there is no good reason to financially punish senior citizens. They’ve paid into the system their entire lives and the State of Minnesota shouldn’t be relying on them to help fund government programs. I believe it’s time to end this unjust law.

INCREASING MENTAL HEALTH GRANTS FOR SCHOOLS

In order to help students who are struggling as well as schools who need resources to help them, I am chief-authoring legislation that would increase funding for state mental health grants for schools.

The number of students dealing with mental health problems in our schools continues to rise. Minnesota is way behind much of the country when it comes to employing school psychologists and mental health professionals.

My bill would increase mental health grant funds by $10 million a year, allowing more schools to bring in professionals to work with students who are in need of help. Current funding is $11 million a year.

I have spoken to both Hastings Schools Superintendent Tim Collins and South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus on this topic, and both are supportive of addressing student mental health.

Expanding mental health services in our schools is a critical component of school safety and improving outcomes for Minnesota students, and will also assist parents who don’t know where to turn for help for their child.

Many troubled kids who need help either don’t have health insurance or have a poor health plan, so their parents don’t seek assistance for financial reasons. We all want children to succeed in life. If we are able to reach kids in the schools who are dealing with untreated mental health issues, we greatly improve their chances at success in the classroom and beyond.

LACK OF FEDERAL SPECIAL EDUCATION FUNDING BECOMING A CRISIS

If you ask school leaders what contributes to funding woes within their district, you’ll likely hear about the lack of funding for special education.

In 1978, laws were written stating the federal government would fund 40 percent of special education services to the states.

It’s never come close to holding up its end of the bargain.

Currently, Minnesota receives roughly 10 percent of what it needs from Washington. In addition to state funding, districts are forced to use general funds that are allocated to them from state government.

Don’t get me wrong, the schools are doing the right thing. The problem is, the federal government’s failure ultimately impacts all students. Because the district is forced to spend more state dollars on special education, money that could be available for other programming is eliminated. You don’t close the achievement gap from the top down; you do it by raising all students up.

As a member of the K-12 Education Finance Division, I’ve heard the alarming statistics. Consider autism programing, just one segment of special education. In the last six years, Minnesota has seen a nearly 30 percent increase in the number of students on the autism spectrum. And in the last 11 years, the cost of educating each student with autism has risen by nearly 40 percent.

That’s unsustainable. There might be light at the end of this tunnel, but it’s coming in the form of a freight train that’s going to hit schools head-on.

I recently met with Congresswoman Craig who said the special education cross subsidy issue is also important to her, and that she is working with Minnesota Congressman Stauber on this issue. This is good news. Hopefully we’ll see some needed action from the federal government on this matter because it must step up and honor its special education responsibility to our schools.

In other news, Almanac did a story with me regarding my time in high school. Click here to watch my “Back to School” story.

My discussion on KDWA’s In Depth program aired this week, with conversation regarding the Special Education Cross Subsidy, recreational marijuana, and many other topics. Click here to listen.

Christy, Beth and Michelle from Regina Hospital in Hastings attended Chief Nurses Officers Day at the Capitol with Minnesota Organization of Leaders in Nursing and stopped in to talk about nurse shortages and workplace safety.

Dakota County Commissioner Mike Slavik was at the Capitol with the Association of Minnesota Counties and he stopped in to talk about Dakota County legislative priorities that include bonding, transportation and housing.

Hastings resident Grace Bauer, a student at Hamline University visited about grants to help students pay for post-secondary education. Grace was in Show Choir while at Hastings High and is studying Marketing and Communications at Hamline.

The House Capital Investment Committee toured the new home of Minnesota United FC, the 19,400 seat privately funded Allianz Field soccer stadium in St. Paul. Team owner Dr. Bill McGuire and Mortenson Construction representatives led the tour. The Major League Soccer season will start in April on the location of the former Metro Bus garage near Snelling Ave, University Ave and I-94.

Finally, Mr. and Mrs. Meierotto of Afton paid a visit to discuss a number of different issues.

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

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

Increase funding for state mental health grants for schools (2/8/2019)

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/8/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

In order to help students who are struggling as well as schools who are seeking the resources to help them, I am sponsoring legislation that would increase funding for state mental health grants for schools.

Minnesota is way behind much of the country when it comes to employing school psychologists and mental health professionals. Mental health issues can be found throughout our society and the schools are no exception to that. Students need to have the help that they deserve.

The legislation would increase mental health grant funds by $10 million a year, allowing more schools to bring in professionals to work with students who are in need of help. Current funding is $11 million a year.

Expanding mental health services in our schools is a critical component of school safety and improving outcomes for Minnesota students, and will also assist parents who don’t know where to turn for help for their child.

Many of these kids who need help either don’t have health insurance or have a poor health plan, so their parents don’t seek assistance for financial reasons. We all want children to succeed in life. If we are able to reach kids in the schools who are dealing with untreated mental health issues, we greatly improve their chances at success in the classroom and beyond.

The bill has been referred to the Minnesota House Education Finance Division for debate.

This week, constituent Ruth Ann Michnay visited for CPA Day with the Minnesota Society of Certified Public Accountants at the Capitol advocating for Federal Conformity (no surprise there) including the estate tax, Section 179 as well as Federal Partnership Audit Conformity.

Physical Therapy student Matt Goecke from Cottage Grove visited with the Minnesota Physical Therapy Association to discuss physical therapy alternatives to opioids, early access to physical therapy and disability parking permits.

It’s nice to know neighboring counties, both in my district, work together. Washington County Community Development Agency Executive Director Barbara Dacy and Dakota County Community Development Agency Executive Director Tony Schertler visited to talk about housing needs including preventing homelessness, controlling costs to provide affordable rental homes and preparing first time home buyers.

rep tony jurgens paul bunyans axe

I also attended State of the City addresses in both Hastings and Cottage Grove this week.

Finally, Paul Bunyan’s Axe visited the Capitol.

This is the trophy the Gopher football team brought home by beating Wisconsin 37-15 for the first time in 15 years. It was nice to hold a piece of football rivalry history.

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

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

Radio Interview (2/6/2019)

kdwaHere’s my latest KDWA InDepth radio program. We’ll be doing these on a weekly basis during the 2019 legislative session.

Today’s InDepth on KDWA Hastings, Kelly Casey and I talk about home-based E-classes during the record cold snap, visits with constituents who have important topics they have an opinion about, economic development in our district, and we discuss the list of issues I will consider as the session continues.

Thanks to Hastings Bus Company (2/1/2019)

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 2/1/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Last week I talked to you about the homeless residents in Hastings, a population few of us were aware existed.

A brief update on that story. With some of the coldest temperatures in decades hitting Minnesota this week, the need to provide shelter to these folks in need was critical. I spoke to Amber from Ally Supportive Services earlier in the week, where I learned a church in Mahtomedi was opening its doors for several days to anyone who needed to escape the cold. What was needed: transportation.

I put in a call to Pat Regan of the Hastings Bus Company to see what they could do to help. I’m pleased to report that details were worked out and several homeless residents were able to get a break from the deadly winter temperatures at the church – and those that didn’t go to the church did find shelter. My thanks to Mike Karlen at Hastings Bus Company and to all involved who made this happen.

In other news, our House Capital Investment Committee approved a bill that ensures a clean water fund will be moving forward. Last session we approved a bonding bill that allocated $98 million to clean water grant programs. Under the proposal, the funding was scheduled to come from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust fund rather than general obligation bonds. But that met with some resistance and resulted in a lawsuit that delayed the projects. To expedite the process the committee voted to use general obligation bonds instead of ENRT appropriation bonds. I expect it will be debated on the House floor in the coming weeks.

On Tuesday, I was pleased to attend a ribbon-cutting at Planet Fitness in Cottage Grove.

Planet Fitness is operating in part of the former Home Depot building. I was on the Cottage Grove Economic Development Authority when agreements were negotiated to redevelop this site that now includes Hy Vee, TJ Maxx, Home Goods and Planet Fitness, with more still to come.

Cottage Grove Fire Chief Rick Redenius was at the Capitol for Fire Service Day to talk about issues important to Minnesota Fire Fighters like phasing out carcinogenic flame retardants and allowing municipalities the ability to create fire protection districts.

A.B.A.T.E. of Minnesota, Inc. held “Biker Day at the Capitol” on Wednesday, always one of my favorites.

Several members of the St. Croix Valley Riders stopped in to advocate for tougher distracted driving laws, 3-wheel endorsement laws and more.

On Thursday, Reverend Dan Yeazel of First Presbyterian Church of Hastings served as “Chaplain for the Day” during our House floor session and did a great job.

Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton 5th grader Henry Marthaler invited me to Hastings to visit his school as part of Catholic Schools week.

As the weather shortened the week, today was the only day I could make it. But it was a good day to visit as I was able to watch students take part in a Geography Bee.

As both of my girls attended SEAS, its always fun for me to visit and see some of the teachers and staff who were there when my daughters attended, and to learn about the exciting things that are currently happening at the school.

I also spoke with KDWA this week on a number of topics, including education and homelessness. Click here to listen.

Finally, the Hastings High School Varsity Show Choir Riverside Company was awarded Best Band, Best Choreography, and Best Vocals at an event in Omaha, Nebraska. Congratulations on your Grand Champion win!

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

>> Click here to join Tony’s legislative update email list <<