Childcare, frac sand and same-sex marriage issues come to a head
State Seantor District 28
With just five legislative days left until the end of session, the Minnesota Senate has spent many hours debating and discussing several pieces of legislation on the floor, however, has yet to take up any final budget bills. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the budget and issues related to jobs, the economy, education, healthcare, including senior care, and policies to help make our government more efficient and effective.
Below is information on two bills passed this week as well as a legislative proposal regarding silica sand mining.
Childcare provider unionization
On May 15, after nearly 20 hours of debate that lasted through the night, the Minnesota State Senate passed a bill regarding the unionization of childcare providers and Personal Care Attendants (PCAs). I voted in opposition to the bill, Senate File 778.
In this legislation, childcare providers, both licensed and unlicensed, who provide childcare services for a child who qualifies for state public subsidies (principally the Child Care Assistance Program or CCAP) are asked to form a union and collectively bargain with the state to negotiate public subsidy rates and terms of employment. Representation elections for providers must be conducted once a union demonstrates that at least 30 percent of providers have petitioned for an election.
This unnecessary legislation will make childcare more expensive for families and taxpayers. There are real concerns that this bill will limit choices and options for low-income parents. I heard overwhelming opposition to this legislation from childcare providers in the district I represent. Many of the providers I spoke with who do not want to be unionized or can’t afford it, will be forced to reject CCAP children. In fact, according to the Minnesota Licensed Family Child Care Association, this proposal is opposed by 86 percent of childcare providers.
Agreement on trout stream setback language
This week, House and Senate members, the governor’s administration, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) came to an agreement on legislation regarding silica sand mining in Minnesota. These provisions will be proposed in the Environment Finance Conference Committee.
A key provision provides new permitting authority to the DNR over any new silica sand mine proposal that is located within one-mile of a designated trout stream in Southeastern Minnesota. A hydrological study must be performed and the new silica sand mining trout stream setback permit issued by the DNR will contain restrictions to prevent potential impacts to trout stream.
This proposal is a reasonable, bipartisan approach to regulate the silica sand mining industry. These provisions will protect the health and well-being of our citizens, natural resources, infrastructure, small communities and tourism industry that help make sSoutheastern Minnesota so unique, while still providing opportunities for job growth and economic development.
Another key silica sand mining provision includes creating a state agency technical advisory team to help local governments properly regulate projects that require local permits, requiring the state technical advisory team to set standards and criteria for local governments to use for important issues such as setbacks and buffers, hours of operation, air quality and dust monitoring, noise testing, inspection and storage pile requirements. This legislation will also create new rules by the MPCA regulating dust emissions and new rules by the DNR creating statewide standards for reclaiming mine lands.
This language will continue to allow our local government to make local decisions, while allowing them to tap into state resources to assist with the process.
On Monday, May 13 the Senate passed House File 1054, same-sex marriage authorization, and on Tuesday, May 14 Governor Dayton signed the bill into law. Minnesota has become the 12th state to allow same-sex couples to marry, effective August 1.
I have received thousands of correspondence from constituents specifically related to the debate over redefining marriage in Minnesota. I’ve had the opportunity to visit with many groups of people on both sides of this debate both at the Capitol and in the district. There are wonderful people and compelling arguments on each side of this debate. I thank all of my constituents for sharing their views and personal stories related to this issue.
Although views about same-sex marriage are changing, there is still a clear majority of people in the district I represent that support the traditional definition of marriage. It is an honor to serve the people of Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties and my vote today reflects the current view of the majority of people I represent.
State Senator Jeremy Miller represents