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Rep. Jeff Backer: Productive first month of session at the Capitol

Rep. Jeff Backer

ST. PAUL — The first month of the 2015 Legislative Session is officially in the books and I am honored to serve as your representative in St. Paul. The Capitol has been buzzing with activity as committees have swung into full gear holding hearings on a variety of bills and important issues. While much of the legislature's work has been taking place in committee, the House passed two bills during the legislature's first month that have a positive and direct impact on rural Minnesota.

During the second week of session, the House passed a bill that brings nearly $20 million dollars immediate tax relief to Minnesota families. Teachers, homeowners, business owners, and college students will all be eligible for tax deductions as a result of this bill. Thanks to hard work by members of both parties, the House was able to pass this bill in a timely manner so that Minnesotans will be able to take advantage of these deductions well in advance of the April 15 tax filing deadline. This bill has since been passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor.

The second bill that was passed thanks to good, bipartisan cooperation was a flood disaster relief bill that brought funds to 47 counties and three tribal governments across the state to offset the cost of cleanup and repair efforts from last summer's severe weather.

Included in the final package was funding for cleanup efforts in Grant County.

The bill ended up being a great deal for the state as much of the funding came from unspent dollars from previous disaster bills. This money was then used as a match in order to receive FEMA disaster relief money from the federal government. In all, the state received disaster relief money at minimal cost to taxpayers.

Also taking place the first month of session was the release of the Governor's Task Force on Child Protection's initial recommendations in reforming our state's child protection laws and procedures. This task force was established by the Governor following the tragic case of a four year old boy, from the Starbuck area, who was tragically killed by his stepmother as a result of repeated child abuse. The Task Force's recommendations begin the process of reforming our child protection services to ensure that the safety of the child is the number one priority when investigating allegations of child abuse.

The passage of these first two bills as well as the recommendations from the Governor's Task Force are great examples of cooperation and strong bipartisan work amongst legislators. While bills such as these may not grab headlines in the paper, they are important pieces of legislation that have a direct positive impact on our cities, counties, and families.

I am looking forward to continuing to work for our district and the state. Please know that my door is always open and strongly encourage you to contact me to discuss your ideas on how we can make state government work better for all of Minnesota. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-4929 or via email at rep.jeff.backer@house.mn.