Hello from St. Paul,
January 8 marked the beginning of Minnesota’s 2013 Legislative Session with all state representatives being officially sworn into office during a ceremony at the State Capitol.
It continues to be an honor to serve the people of southwestern Minnesota. Lawmakers have many tough decisions to make over the next few months, so I am anxious to get to work.
During the first House floor session of the year, I and other Republicans voted to prioritize rural Minnesota and agricultural interests.
New House Speaker Paul Thissen, who lives in Minneapolis, chose to eliminate the House Agriculture and Rural Development Finance Committee, and combine it with an environment finance committee. This maneuver allows the environment chairperson, who also lives in Minneapolis, to determine whether more state dollars are used to fund environment or agriculture needs.
I voted to remove control of ag finance from the Minneapolis environmentalist and place it under the jurisdiction of a rural Minnesota Democrat who chairs the House Agriculture Policy Committee, but the measure failed.
To me, this was about taking a rural Minnesota finance committee and putting it in the hands of someone who lives in and better understands rural Minnesota’s needs. With a Minneapolis House Speaker, a St. Paul majority leader, and a Minneapolis agriculture finance chair, I truly believe rural Minnesota’s influence could be lost this session.
A recent study by the nonprofit Center for Rural Policy and Development (CRPD) also found that rural Minnesota is losing its influence in policy decisions, and must work to get its voice back.
CRPD Executive Director Brad Finstad noted, “This year’s agenda could include major reforms in tax, health and education policies, transportation funding and a possible bonding bill. The decisions made in each of these areas are critical to making the most of rural Minnesota’s opportunities and addressing our challenges. Rural Minnesota can’t be on the sidelines when these decisions are made. If rural falls behind the rest of the state on measures of economic and cultural success, the whole state will suffer.”
The overwhelming majority of the new House leadership team is comprised of Metro Area and inner city lawmakers, which is why one of my top goals this session is to ensure that rural Minnesota’s needs are not ignored and to work tirelessly for our priorities.
Talk to you soon,