Radio Interview (4/17/2019)

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 talk about meeting with parents of children who suffer from PANS/PANDAS, the tax bill and the record setting size of omnibus bills being compiled in the Minnesota House.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation on KDWA.

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

Hastings projects included in bonding proposal (4/15/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/15/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

The City of Hastings received some good news recently, as the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee has included two bills I sponsored in its proposed $1.5 billion bonding proposal.

The bills would provide needed funding in order to help the city pay for construction costs relating to Highway 316 improvements as well as renovating its historic city hall building.

I’ve been working hard in the House to promote these projects so I’m pleased they were included in this capital investment plan. It’s definitely good news, but we still have a long way to go.

The Highway 316 project is moving forward as a result of an agreement I reached with MnDOT in 2017. My goal for the Highway 316 corridor agreement was to increase pedestrian safety, lower speeds and provide better ways to control traffic.

MnDOT’s plan, which has been endorsed by the Hastings City Council, would install roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, as well as Tiffany and Tuttle drives, construct bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the highway and add a center median.

The City has noted there is a roughly $1.5 million funding gap that needs to be rectified in order to complete the project. This bill would dedicate $1 million in general obligations bonds to help with construction costs relating to the creation of the bike and pedestrian paths along Highway 316.

The Hastings City Hall 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.

So where do things go from here? A number of significant hurdles remain before this proposal could reach Governor Walz’s desk.

As there are dozens of projects included in the House capital investment bill, the Hastings proposals must first survive scrutiny from the House Ways and Means Committee as well as the full Minnesota House.

Then there’s the Minnesota Senate, which to date has shown no interest in moving a capital investment bill forward this year. Historically, the second year of the legislative biennium is recognized as the “bonding” year at the State Capitol. If the Senate does not agree to approve a capital investment bill this year, this House proposal will not move forward and the fate of the Hastings projects would have to wait until the 2020 session.

Despite the potential roadblocks, I’m pleased with the progress made with the Hastings bills in the Minnesota House. With both of my city hall and Highway 316 bills in the House capital investment plan, there is nothing more I can do on the House side other than continue to work with leadership and committee members to advocate for these projects then let the process play out. I am pleased House leadership recognized the importance of these bills, and my thanks go to the Hastings city officials who came to St. Paul and testified in favor of my proposals.

Not long ago, I did an interview with the South Washington County Telecommunications Commission regarding legislative issues. To watch the report, click here. (https://youtu.be/5s3-EbnqLAI)

To hear my most recent In Depth report on KDWA, please click here.(http://kdwa.com/wireready/indepthnews/16192_TonyJurgens_0410.mp3)

Congratulations to Ken Brittain on being named Cottage Grove Volunteer of the Year and thank you to everyone who volunteers their time to make our communities stronger. Ken’s list of involvement is a mile long including several boards and commissions we served on together.

Last week I joined Governor Tim Walz, Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan, and Senator Karin Housley at Stillwater High School to hear from students, faculty, school board and staff on a variety of topics including the Peer Helper program where students help counsel each other. A number of Afton students in our district attend Stillwater High School, so I was pleased to make the trip.

Hastings constituent Dean Birnstengel visited with Minnesota Utility Investors.

Nurses including Jolene from Hastings and Michele stopped by my office to discuss safety issues in the nursing profession.

Members of Teamsters Local 320 visited recently, including Alston Dutchin and Maureen Acosta from Cottage Grove.

Hastings constituents and LIUNA Minnesota & North Dakota Local 563 members Diane McClain and James Mackey visited last week on Building Trades Day at the Capitol.

Kyrsten Wagner and Alix Paularena, Carpenters Local Union 322 members from Hastings, dropped by as part of Building Trades Day at the Capitol.

Regions Hospital Emergency Room doctors Dr. Jacob, left, and Dr. Alan Okada from Cottage Grove were at the Capitol to talk about issues they face including identifying those doctor shopping for opiates, mental illness and workplace safety.

Finally, PANS/PANDAS affects as many as 1 in 200 kids, some more severe than others. Families affected by this neurological disorder gathered at the Capitol recently to ask for help.

This is treatable and reversible with awareness, diagnosis and proper medication. PANDAS is brought on by strep or another infection with a sudden onset of intense anxiety, mood swings, OCD, and tics. The child can go from no symptoms to appearing autistic, but this is not a form of autism. In some cases antibiotics can reverse the symptoms but in more severe cases costly IVIG treatments are needed. 20/20 did a segment on Parker, which you can watch here (https://abcn.ws/2JFTeKB). His parents Brian and Natalie are pictured. As an update, Parker has improved but not without symptoms – yet.

Talk to you soon,
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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Legislative Update (4/5/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 4/5/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

This week, Governor Tim Walz gave his first State of the State Address in the Minnesota House. I was joined at the event by Hastings High School teacher Mike Harp.

Following the address, Mr. Harp and I attended a Capitol reception and had the opportunity to meet with Governor Walz. My thanks to Mr. Harp for making the trip to St. Paul!

In the Minnesota House, omnibus spending bills – which are the proposals that will fund state government over the next two years – are being brought forward by our Democratic House majority.

In the Education Finance Division where I serve, the bill has been reviewed and sent to its next committee. Their transportation funding proposal includes a 20-cent per gallon gas tax increase, which if my emails are any indication, is strongly opposed by drivers in Dakota and Washington counties. And I’m not quite sure what to say yet about the health and human services bill, as it is 998 pages long. I know some people in the past have complained loudly about the use of omnibus bills and their overall size; these folks should know a change in party leadership hasn’t changed the way business is conducted in the House one bit.

I will keep you updated on these proposals as they move forward.

On Monday, Ron Dermer, the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, visited Minnesota.

A reception in his honor was held at the Governor’s residence in St. Paul hosted by Gov. Walz and the First Lady Gwen Walz.

You also may recall I was honored to have been asked to visit a number of local schools in February to read to students as part of “I Love to Read” month. Well you can imagine my surprise when I received dozens of handmade thank you cards this week from the students at Pine Hill Elementary in Cottage Grove! My day was made!

During the visit, I read a chapter from my favorite book from when I was their age, and left them a copy to read if they were interested. I was pleased to learn several have done just that. My thanks again to those schools that gave me the opportunity to read to their students.

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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Capital Investment Committee and other news (3/29/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/29/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

This week the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee heard two of my bills, one that would secure state funds for Hastings’ Highway 316 improvement project, the other that would address Cottage Grove’s ice arena.

You’ll recall the Highway 316 project is moving forward as a result of an agreement I reached with MnDOT in 2017, with the goals being to increase pedestrian safety, lower speeds and provide better ways to control traffic.

MnDOT’s plan, which has been endorsed by the Hastings City Council, would install roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, as well as Tiffany and Tuttle drives, construct bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the highway and add a center median. The project is scheduled to begin in the year 2021.

According to projections, there is a funding gap of roughly $1.5 – $2.5 million to complete the project. My bill would dedicate $1 million in general obligations bonds to help with construction costs, and close the gap with other sources for the additional need.

Hastings Public Works Director Nick Egger joined me at the hearing.

My thanks to Nick for his solid testimony during the hearing. Hopefully, there’ll be good news to report from the capital investment committee in the future. As I’ve said before, I believe this project is going to be funded by accessing several pots of available revenue from the state level. Anything we can get from this capital investment proposal is that much less we’ll have to find elsewhere, and will ultimately result in lower costs to the City of Hastings.

My thanks also go out to Cottage Grove Director of Parks and Recreation Zac Dockter for testifying before the capital investment committee this week. He spoke in favor of my bill that would allocate $5 million in Mighty Ducks grants to help convert ice arenas from R22 Freon cooling systems. This is the second time Zac traveled to the Capitol to discuss this issue, and he did a fantastic job.

As you are aware, flood concerns are at the forefront of many in our district these days. Like many of you, I spent last Saturday filling sandbags in Hastings and Cottage Grove. At the Hastings gathering, I had the opportunity to visit with Governor Walz and told him about my legislation that would provide needed funds to our disaster relief account so he would have money at the ready when he needed to declare a disaster.

On Thursday I tried to put my plan into action by attempting to transfer $43 million from our budget surplus into Minnesota’s disaster contingency account. While House leadership was promoting a plan that put $10 million into the account – and that bill was ultimately approved by the full House – my proposal would have added an additional $13 million to the account in 2019 and another $20 million in 2020. Of that amount, $3 million would have been used to provide the state match for FEMA public assistance cleanup efforts from the Duluth and Brainerd floods in 2018.

While some money is better than no money, I am disappointed in the result. We had an opportunity to set needed funds aside from our budget surplus to clean up after the floods, repair infrastructure, and just be prepared for whatever else Mother Nature hands us over the next two years. Hopefully the needs of disaster relief victims will not get lost at the Capitol as budget negotiations begin, as we do not want to have to come back into special session to deal with disaster relief.

Congratulations are in order to the owners of the Muddy Cow restaurant in Cottage Grove. I attended their ribbon cutting ceremony this week, and they are now open for business in the former Ruby Tuesday location. Welcome to the community!

Though not all of them were special education teachers, a group of educators from the Hastings School District stopped by this week to discuss the importance and need for special education funding, among other issues.

I also had a nice visit with parents, staff and kids about Head Start. I love when kids come to the Capitol with their parents. What a great way to teach them how they can influence policies that impact them.

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

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The week in review (3/22/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/22/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

I was pleased to be joined at the Capitol by South Washington County Schools Superintendent Keith Jacobus and Special Services Supervisor Jo Park who testified before the Minnesota House Education Finance Division in St. Paul this week. They spoke in favor of my bill that would increase funding for school-linked mental health grants by $10 million. Current annual funding is $11 million.

School-linked mental health uses community mental health agencies to place mental health professionals and practitioners in partnering schools to provide mental health services to students. One of the strengths of this program is reaching underserved children who have never received mental health services.

The next stop for the bill is the health and human services finance division. My thanks to Superintendent Jacobus and Ms. Park for sharing their thoughts on school-linked mental health grants to the committee.

This week the full Minnesota House approved legislation that would require hands-free cell phone use for drivers, which I believe is necessary in order to reduce the number of accidents that occur due to drivers who pay more attention to their cell phones than the road.

The bill would allow voice activated cell phone use only, along with one-touch or headsets. It’s far from perfect, but it will hopefully keep more drivers’ eyes on the road.

Legislation addressing opioid addiction was also approved this week. The bill establishes new registration fees for opioid wholesalers and manufacturers which will total $20 million based on the percentage of opioid units for which each manufacturer and wholesaler is responsible. $12 million is paid by manufacturers, and $8 million is paid by wholesalers.

Under the approved legislation, these funds would go into a designated account, which would then be allocated to address the opioid epidemic through programs focused on prevention and education as well as intervention, treatment, and recovery.

Earlier this week, I attended a meeting in Hastings with local, state, and federal lawmakers and staff to discuss flooding expectations and preparations in the city.

There’s little doubt we are going to see flooding, but how significant it will be remains to be seen – both in our area and statewide. This is why I’m chief-authoring a bill would transfer $20 million in Fiscal Year 2019 and another $20 million in Fiscal Year 2020 to Minnesota’s disaster assistance contingency account, which currently sits empty.

It’s critical that we have available funds for the disasters that will soon be here. Putting money in this account now gives Governor Walz the opportunity to access it as soon as he declares and emergency, whether the Legislature is in session or not.

In other news, as part of Asian Pacific Islanders Day at the Capitol this week, Zoe Zhi, Sifang Wu and Qin Tang stopped in to talk about my bill that would eliminate language in law that disaggregates student information that they feel is discriminatory.

Tony Manaforte from the Cottage Grove VFW Post 8752 was at the Capitol for the Veterans Day on the Hill rally. His biggest concern is getting veterans the help they need to prevent suicides.

David Welshons from DCA Title was at the Capitol with Minnesota Land Title Association.

Amanda Husie from Cottage Grove is a school counselor for 600 children at Paul and Sheila Wellstone Elementary School in St. Paul. Minnesota School Counselor Association counselors would like to work with kids on preventive matters but spend more time in reactive mode.

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 (3/20/2019)

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 the Disaster Assistance account, the proposed Gas Tax, Re-insurance proposals, and a bill that could assist local Ice Arenas to upgrade their coolant systems.

Listen to our InDepth radio conversation on KDWA.

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