Published on Wednesday, 30 November -0001 00:00
With the start of the 2011 Legislative Session, I want the Week in Review to be a place to provide updates on some of the issues facing Minnesota and District 14. Throughout the next few weeks, feel free to share your comments and questions with me.
Session started with the election of the president and secretary of the Senate. I was chosen to serve as the president of the Senate, the first woman to hold the position.
JOBS Senate File 1 was introduced this week and is focused on creating jobs and putting Minnesotans back to work. This legislation focuses on creating private sector jobs, which is crucial to the state's economic recovery. Highlights of the bill include:
Focusing on government reform by creating more clarity for job providers when seeking environmental permits to start or grow their businesses in Minnesota. Making Minnesota a business-friendly state which will encourage private sector job growth.
Creating jobs to help the state's economy recover quickly is a bi-partisan issue. I look forward to working with elected officials from both political parties to get down to the business of creating jobs for Minnesotans.
GREEN ACRES I authored Senate File 2, which would repeal the changes to the Green Acres program made in 2008. This is an issue of particular concern to our district and one that I am committed to improving. "Green Acres" was originally passed in 1967 to prevent the premature development of farmland through tax-deferment benefits. Instead, some property owners have experienced significant increases in their property taxes and have been forced to take drastic changes to avoid unexpected increases and penalties. Changes to Green Acres in 2008 created a new series of issues and problems for farmers and land owners.
ZERO-BASED BUDGETING Last week, I also introduced a bill that would provide for the governor to require proposed state budgets to use zero-based budgeting practices. It would also require the legislature, judicial branch, and public employees retirements systems to use this budgeting method as well. Zero-based budgeting is a reversal of our existing budgeting methods. Currently, state department commissioners and state agency fiscal officers justify only increases over the previous year's (biennial) budget and what has already been spent is automatically sanctioned. Under my proposed method, every aspect of Minnesota's budget would be comprehensively reviewed and all expenses (not just increases) would require approval. This plan would require any budget request to be justified in complete detail. In a time when state government is growing at an unsustainable pace, it's important that we focus on our priorities and needs.
CUTS TO LEGISLATOR COMPENSATION The Senate and House leadership took the first step toward changing the way things are done in St. Paul by making more than a
10 percent cut in daily perdiem payments. This change will lead to savings of more than $100,000. Along with this change, reimbursement for out-of-state travel was eliminated as another step in reducing legislative costs.
GOVERNOR'S COMMISSIONER APPOINTMENTS Governor Dayton continues to make Cabinet-level appointments to his administration. As of today, the Governor has announced the following commissioner designees:
Dept. of Veteran's Affairs-Major General Larry Shellito
Dept. of Human Services-Lucinda Jesson
Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board-Tony Sertich
Dept. of Natural Resources-Tom Landwehr
Dept. of Revenue-Myron Frans
Dept. of Commerce-Mike Rothman
Dept. of Education-Dr. Brenda Cassellius
MN Pollution Control Agency-Paul Aasen
Dept. of Health-Dr. Edward Ehlinger
MN Management and Budget-Jim Schowalter
Dept. of Agriculture-David Frederickson
Dept. of Labor and Industry-Ken Peterson
General Counsel-Peter Wattson
Dept. of Transportation-Tom Sorel
Each of these appointments will come before a Senate committee for confirmation and ultimately voted on by the full Senate. I look forward to allowing the committees to do their work in an open and fair manner.
Senator Michelle Fischbach encourages and appreciates constituent input and can be reached by phone at (651) 296-2084, by mail to 226 State Capitol / St. Paul, MN 55155, or via e-mail at