Viewpoint: 2019 legislative session moves forward
By Sen. Karla Bigham, Minnesota Senate District 54
The first month of the 2019 legislative session is over. My colleagues and I are hard at work introducing legislation and holding committee hearings, moving legislation through the process. Our biggest priority in 2019 is crafting a budget that will fund essential state services and priorities over the next two years. This budget will touch on everything from education needs for students from pre-K through college, to transportation upkeep and maintenance, to human services like caring for our most vulnerable citizens.
We have an idea for how big this two-year budget will be — approximately $50 billion. While this is a big number, much of it is tied up already in things like the general education formula or other needs that are statutorily dedicated. However, we at the Legislature will spend the next few weeks and months in deciding just how to prioritize spending. In just a few weeks, we will receive the February budget forecast which will give us the best picture of how much money is available.
The information from the forecast will inform how we can move forward with the final budget, but it's important to get started early on moving legislation forward. I have chief-authored 35 bills so far this session and have joined as a co-author on many more.
One piece of legislation I introduced asks the University of Minnesota to review the potential health effects of exposure to per-and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS). This legislation would take a thorough approach on diving into the details to make sure we have the best information available on determining if our community has the best information available about the potential health effects of PFAS exposure. We should let science and facts lead the way on whether there is more we must do to address any potential health issues.
Recently, we heard an overview of the effects of chronic wasting disease on our deer population in the Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committee. The Board of Animal Health presented troubling information about the effects of CWD and what work is necessary to address its spread. Addressing CWD is of the utmost importance and my colleagues and I will do whatever is necessary at the state level to find solutions.
While we have a steady flow of work here in St. Paul, we know that things will really pick up as we move legislation before the committee deadlines, which will be coming later in the spring. I encourage folks to reach out to me with questions, comments or concerns about all issues that are on their mind. I want to thank those who came to our town hall Jan. 19 to ask questions and make their voices heard. Communication and transparency are key to making our legislative process work, and I'll always be open and clear with my constituents on my work at the Capitol, and I will always seek to hear from them. Be sure to stay informed and to sign up for my legislative update for the most up-to-date information.
One update since the session began is I have moved offices! You can now find me in Room 2327 in the Minnesota Senate Building, located at 95 University Ave. W., St. Paul. Stop by any time, and I would be happy to meet with you. You can also mail me letters, reach me by phone at 651-297-8060, or email me using the contact form available online at www.senate.mn/senatorbigham.