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Your Letters: An update from the Legislature

Committee work has dominated the first weeks of the 2011 session and now we're starting to see some important bills reach the House floor for final approval.

One of those bills (HF 130) would wipe away approximately $1 billion from our $6.2 billion budget shortfall. It passed the Legislature, but then Gov. Mark Dayton promptly vetoed it. What's curious about this is Dayton soon will issue his budget plan, and approving this bill to extend last year's unallotments would have made his job easier. The governor said during his State of the State Address this week that he remains committed to raising our taxes, but even he can't possibly believe he can solve the budget through $6 billion in tax increases. It will be interesting to see the details of his plan, but I continue to disagree with increasing taxes on our small-business owners because it runs contrary to our goal of helping folks get back to work by making Minnesota a better place to set up shop.

The House passed another bill (HF 1) which the governor has said he supports. It is designed to streamline the process for obtaining business permits required by the Department of Natural Resources and the Pollution Control Agency. Most of the bill had bipartisan support. There still seems to be room for improvement in making the permit process more efficient, but this bill gets us pointed in the right direction and helps level the playing field compared with neighboring states. We are awaiting a Senate vote on this bill.

A third bill (SF 40) we passed provides alternative pathways to obtaining a license to teach. The bill would make it easier for schools to employ teachers without traditional education training who meet other criteria. Candidate requirements include a bachelor's degree with a 3.0 grade-point average, unless waived by the Board of Teaching; passing three tests including basic skills, pedagogy and content; participation in at least 200 hours of training; and ongoing professional development and supervision, including by a school site team. The bill now goes to a conference committee, which will prepare if for a final vote.

That's enough for now, but I welcome your thoughts on these and other issues. A survey I am conducting remains on my legislative Web site. It appears there was a glitch with the Web address I provided in an earlier letter. This is where you should go to participate in the survey: Then just click on "2011 Legislative Survey" along the right side of the home page.

Rep. Mark Murdock