Local Officials Get the Latest on Taxes, Other Issues at 2013 Joint Legislative Conference
The event offered important insights for city leaders as they work with their state legislators, and advocate for city priorities during the 2013 session and beyond. (Published Mar 25, 2013)
The 2013 Legislative Conference for Cities, Counties, Schools and Townships held last week in St. Paul drew over 150 city officials from 96 cities. With county, school district, and township officials included, total attendance was over 500 people.
This event, which is held in partnership with the Association of Minnesota Counties, the Minnesota School Boards Association, and the Minnesota Association of Townships, is an opportunity to advocate on issues that impact all local governments.
While it was an incredibly busy time for legislators—and the local government lobbyists who are monitoring hundreds of bills making their way through the legislative process—this event offered important insights for city leaders as they work with their state legislators, and advocate for city priorities during the 2013 session and beyond.
Here’s a look at the top five take-aways:
State legislators can have a healthy and respectful discussion of the issues. The morning legislative panel—Rep. Ann Lenczewski, chair of the House Taxes Committee; Rep. Paul Torkelson, Republican lead on the House Property and Local Tax Division; Sen. Julianne Ortman, Republican lead on Senate Taxes; and Sen. Sandy Pappas, president of the Senate, chair of the Senate State and Local Government Committee, and chair of the Pension Commission—offered a substantive and engaging look at some of the issues before the state Legislature. While they disagree on how to best approach tax reform and fund education, transportation, and other critical programs, our state legislators seemed open to finding a path forward. As Rep. Lenczewski said in her closing remarks, they actually do like each other. That’s a good place to start.
Working in a political system with one-party Democratic control isn’t as easy as it sounds. During the opening session, Gov. Dayton shared his perspective on topics from tax reform and local government aid (LGA) to transportation funding and collaboration. But some of his proposals have fallen flat with legislators—even those within his own party. While the DFL party controls both legislative bodies and the governor’s office, there’s sure to be a lot of wrangling over policy and budget issues in the final weeks of the session.
Some issues are breaking geographically, rather than along party lines. During the luncheon program, Twin Cities Public TV reporter Mary Lahammer and Forum News Service Minnesota Capitol Bureau Chief Don Davis talked about their experience covering the Capitol beat, including issues that are getting the media’s attention. Lahammer and Davis observed that some high-profile issues—like gun control and same-sex marriage—are not breaking down along party lines, but instead, by geography. So advocates on both sides of these issues are looking beyond the traditional parties to build coalitions.
Local governments continue to work together on many issues. Cities, counties, schools, and townships are partnering on a number of initiatives this session, including data practices legislation and a proposal to allow early voting in Minnesota elections. Transportation funding is also a critical issue for many of our local governments, and our associations are advocating for a comprehensive transportation finance package, including additional revenue and funding mechanisms for local governments. Aid and credit programs for local government continue to be a hot topic, especially for cities. Last week, the League’s board voted to support a new legislative proposal to reform LGA (read related story). The governor, legislators, and media panelists all commented on this new approach to reform, and said they were grateful for the League’s involvement in bringing together cities from across the state to agree on a reform proposal.
While they are serious about the business of local government, Minnesota’s city, county, school, and township officials have a sense of humor. During a discussion about the impact of social media on political discourse, reporters Mary Lahammer and Don Davis invited Association of Minnesota Counties President and Beltrami County Commissioner Joe Vene—who is known for his amazing voice—to sing “Happy Birthday” to Twitter, which is now 7 years old! Commissioner Vene accepted the invitation and delivered a moving rendition of “Happy Birthday, Twitter!”
And, speaking of Twitter, you can find lots of tweets about highlights of the Joint Legislative Conference by checking out #mncities!
Contact Laura Harris Training & Conferences Manager (651) 281-1251 or (800) 925-1122 email@example.com
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