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Legislators share views of session

Speaking before Gov. Mark Dayton's weekend vetos of more bills, several area state legislators shared their views of the recently concluded legislative session.

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Speaking before Gov. Mark Dayton's weekend vetos of more bills, several area state legislators shared their views of the recently concluded legislative session.

A disappointment was the governor's veto of the K-12 education bill. On the positive side, legislators cited increased funding for nursing homes.

"Probably the most important thing we got accomplished is rural nursing homes and deep rural nursing homes will be reimbursed at the same rate as metro nursing homes, which will be significant," said District 9 state Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Cass County.

District 10A state Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, agreed the $138 million for nursing homes is a boon.

"There's a ton of turnover in nursing homes and we're trying to provide income that justifies the level of work," he said. "This will improve that situation."

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The bad news from the session, Gazelka said, "is we're not able to return to the taxpayer any tax relief." The state had a $2 million surplus, but because legislators wouldn't agree to a significant gas tax increase, Dayton wasn't interested in giving any back to taxpayers, Gazelka said, calling it "very disappointing."

Gazelka noted the education bill the governor vetoed was agreed upon by the Democrat-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.

"It really was focused toward some of the rural school issues - taking care of facilities, a decent per pupil increase in funding," Gazelka said. "The governor wanted it all on pre-K, and none of my school districts said that was what we should do."

District 9A state Rep. Mark Anderson said in a news release: "For the governor to threaten vetoing the K-12 bill because it does not fund universal pre-K is selfish and purely political. He's not living in reality. Where is the support for it?

"Districts themselves don't want it, the Legislature doesn't support it and I'm not hearing an outcry from parents advocating it. It would be really disappointing for the governor to veto a good bill because he isn't getting his way on pre-K. Again, none of us got everything we want and it's time for the governor to accept that, sign the bill and move along," Anderson said.

On a personal note, Heintzeman said one of the best moments for him and his district was the issue of a pre-Labor Day school start date.

"Through most of the session I was listening and trying to pick up as much as could before I started engaging on the House floor," the first-term legislator said. "That was the first issue I engaged in."

Other surprising highlights for Gazelka included passage of National Rifle Association provisions, including legislation that makes it harder for government to confiscate guns during catastrophes and legislation that makes it legal to have suppressors to reduce sound.

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In a news release, Anderson said, "When it comes down to it, House Republicans and Senate Democrats came together with a pretty good agreement with strong bipartisan support for our major budget bills. Did we get everything we wanted? No, we didn't, but neither did the governor and the Senate. That's how compromise works.

"One House proposal that fell by the wayside with the tax bill would phase out Minnesota's practice of taxing Social Security benefits. That would be a huge boost for our seniors living on fixed incomes, but the governor and the Senate stood in the way on that one so we'll have to continue working to get that through next year," he said.

Related Topics: PAUL GAZELKA
Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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