2015-16 Legislative Session
Much was left undone as the 2016 Legislative session closed in May without passing a comprehensive transportation bill and a bonding bill. Staffing needs at the Minnesota Security Hospital were not funded. We passed a good tax bill for working Minnesotans but a $101 million error necessarily resulted in a veto by the Governor. All Minnesotans are rightly disappointed that there will be no special session due to the refusal by legislative leaders to compromise and get the job done.
Rep. Johnson took the lead in a number of efforts to move Minnesota forward. Several of his efforts will address workforce needs, rural economic development, and improve water quality.
Transportation Funding Compromise Proposal
Rep. Johnson supported a compromise to provide long-term dedicated funding for transportation. His greatest disappointment in the 2015-16 session is the failure for the Legislature to come to a compromise solution for improving transportation. Shortly after the end of the session, he worked with his DFL colleagues in the House and Senate to offer a compromise that includes parts of each transportation proposal (House, Senate and Governor.) Minnesota needs new permanent and reliable funding for roads, bridges and transit. Nowhere is this more important than in our region where we need to complete 4 lanes on Highway 14 to New Ulm, improve roads to get our farm products to market, and meet the emerging infrastructure and transit needs of the growing Mankato area.
Safety, Care and Treatment at the Minnesota Security Hospital
Rep. Johnson fought hard to pass a bonding bill that would have completed reconstruction of the Minnesota Security Hospital. He also fought hard to secure funding for additional staff at MSH. Compared to similar institutions in other states MSH is severely understaffed. The failure of the leaders in the Legislature to compromise resulted in no bonding bill and the refusal by the GOP majority in the House to fund new staff was very frustrating. Clark will never sit still on these issues. Improving the facility and adding needed staff are absolutely need to improve care and treatment of patients and to improve safety for patients and our valued staff at MSH.
Funding for the Center for Rural Policy and Development
Rep. Johnson authored legislation, HF 1386, that resulted in $278,000 of new state funding for the Center for Rural Policy and Development. The funds will be used by the Center for research and sharing of information about rural Minnesota. Their work informs policy makers, local and state leaders, businesses and citizens to help all of us make better decisions to improve rural Minnesota. Check out the work of the Center at http://www.ruralmn.org/
Rep. Johnson worked across the aisle and with multiple stakeholders to help secure a compromise on the composition of the product that will be used to produce cellulosic biofuels. Agreement was reached by farmers, environmentalists and biofuels producers to require that 50% of biofuels from agricultural land come from cover crops and perennials. This helps create a market for cover crops and perennials which will help improve water quality in farm country. He was honored to be asked to chair the Agriculture Finance Committee when the amendment was added to the legislation.
One tool to improve water quality is increasing the amount of agricultural land that has perennial cover. Perennial crops need a market and Minnesota is taking steps to achieve that. The Working Lands bill (HF 2881) that passed this year as part of the supplemental funding bill provides funds to study the potential for the advanced biofuels market along with impacts on water quality and how to incentivize landowners and farmers to grow perennial crops to be developed as cellulosic biofuels. This legislation was developed and passed by Rep. Johnson working with a broad coalition including the Minnesota Corn Growers, the Minnesota Farmers Union, the Great Plains Institute, Friends of the Mississippi and the Minnesota Environmental Partnership.
More than a decade ago massive budget cuts significantly reduced Minnesota’s efforts to improve job safety on the farm. Minnesota has seen a 30% increase in work-related deaths on the farm over the last decade. In comparison, Wisconsin which has a farm safety program, experienced a 16% decline over the last ten years. Rep. Johnson’s bill, HF 2840, was enacted as part of the ag policy bill to establish a farm safety initiative for Minnesota. As a result, the MN Agriculture Department will make recommendations to the next legislature on how to improve farm safety efforts in Minnesota.
Improving Water Quality…watershed by watershed.
Rep. Johnson authored legislation, HF 2173, to help involve citizens in improving the quality of Minnesota’s waters. The bill is a starting point for improving water quality as it seeks to build on the success of the 7 Mile Creek project in Nicollet County. When addressing water quality Rep. Johnson works from several principles:
1. We need to improve the quality of Minnesota’s waters.
2. We need measurable outcomes through which accountability for improvements can be documented and made public.
3. Landowners need to be at the core of decision-making about their own land.
4. They need to be supported by capable public servants who can help them work together to meet targets to improve water quality.
Rep. Johnson will continue to implement these principles through legislation and his work on the Environment and Natural Resources and Agriculture committees and on the Legislative Water Commission. He will work to restore the MPCA’s Citizen Advisory Board which was eliminated in the June special session.
Advocate for Agriculture
Rep. Johnson worked hard in the last session to assure funding for the Agriculture Water Certification Program, to establish a School Building Bond Agricultural Tax Credit, and extend the Farmer Lender Mediation Program. As a member of the House Agriculture Finance committee and the House Agriculture Policy committee, Rep. Johnson is deeply involved in supporting agriculture in Minnesota.
Minnesota Care as a public option on the Health Insurance Exchange
With the exit of Blue Cross/Blue Shield from the individual health insurance market Minnesotans have fewer options for purchasing health insurance. In 2016 Rep. Johnson authored legislation, HF 3283, that would allow Minnesota to seek a waiver from the Federal Government to explore the possibility of offering Minnesota Care for purchase on the health insurance exchange. No hearings were held in the House even though the bill had many co-authors and Sen. Kathy Sheran advanced the bill in the Senate. Clark will re-submit the bill in 2017. Minnesotans need more options for health insurance.
2013-2014 Legislative Session
Rep. Clark Johnson had a very successful first term in the Minnesota House. He was chief author of a number of important bills that became law. These included:
Building at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center
One of the largest projects included in the 2014 Bonding Bill is the expansion and rebuilding of the Minnesota Security Hospital and modification to facilities housing the Minnesota Sex Offender Program in St. Peter. Rep. Johnson authored the initial bill, HF 2067.
Safety for patients and workers at the Security Hospital is critical. The redesign of the structure will provide an improved environment for treatment and eliminate isolated areas in which patients and personnel are particularly vulnerable to violence.
There is still much more to do to assure safety at the Security Hospital and tangible changes are needed now. But, a rebuilt facility is also critical to assuring that our patients and valued state employees are safe.
Representative Johnson was the House author for SF 663, called one of the most significant reforms in recycling in Minnesota for years. Progress on recycling in Minnesota has stalled and the new law will put state agencies in a lead role to reinvigorate our commitment to recycling.
The new law requires state agencies to recycle solid waste generated by offices and operations located in the metropolitan area at a rate consistent with the metropolitan solid waste management policy plan goals, currently at 75 percent. State agencies outside of the metropolitan area must recycle at least 60 percent by weight of the solid waste generated by offices and operations.
Each state agency must report to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) the estimated recycling rates from the prior year. If the recycling goal is not met, the agency must inform its employees of recycling opportunities and expectations, and must notify the MPCA of action taken to meet the goals.
The new law also requires commercial buildings in the Metropolitan Area that generate more than 4 yards or more of waste a week to offer recycling containers. This will improve metro recycling rates and save businesses money as they take advantage of cheaper costs for recycling.
GPS protection for victims of domestic violence
The Minnesota Legislature gave final approval to a bill authored by Rep. Clark Johnson, SF 2736, that gives judicial districts the option to use GPS monitoring programs to protect victims of domestic abuse. Both the victim and the offender must agree to participate in the program which will be created in participating judicial districts based on input from local stakeholders.
The new law builds on a pilot program being used currently in Ramsey County. It is using GPS technology to alert authorities when alleged domestic violence offenders are getting too close to their victims. Participants in the program report feeling safer because of the GPS tracking.
I am very pleased that the House and the Senate unanimously passed legislation to provide for GPS monitoring to protect victims of domestic violence. This is an important step to provide needed security for victims and assures a thoughtful process for setting up programs that can work.
Rep. Johnson was the author of a bill, HF 3203, which became part of the Agriculture omnibus policy bill that established a key role to be played by biodiesel in Minnesota’s energy future. The new law solidified mandates for use of a 10% biodiesel blend in summer months with a 20% blend to be established in 2018.
Biodiesel is an alternative to petroleum diesel made from Minnesota's own soybean crop. It is recognized as an "advanced biofuel" by the Environmental Protection Agency because it is a renewable fuel that cuts lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent.
Biodiesel is also acknowledged as a Clean Air Choice® by the American Lung Association in Minnesota. According to the latest U.S. Department of Energy facts, cleaner-burning biodiesel provides 5.5 units of energy for every one unit expended in production - the greatest energy return of any fuel approved for use as a legal motor fuel.
Using biodiesel blends lessens the harmful impact of motor vehicles emissions on our health and supports our farmers who raise soybeans as well as many good jobs in rural Minnesota making biodiesel.
STEMI reporting in rural Minnesota
Legislation, HF 2227, authored by Rep. Johnson was included in the Health and Human Services Omnibus Policy bill, which requires the Health Department to provide a quarterly report on its website and to submit an annual report to the Legislature on ST-elevated myocardial infarction (STEMI), a very serious heart attack.
The American Heart Association developed a program called Mission Lifeline to address STEMI in Greater Minnesota. Participating rural health centers caring for STEMI patients provide data on how the program is working, explained Johnson.
The new law creates a registry at the Department of Health of the data already collected through the Mission Lifeline program to give the department the ability to analyze and report on the data and to identify areas for improvement.
It creates a comprehensive system for treating the most deadly heart attack. When a STEMI strikes, a patient needs to be rapidly transported to a facility that is capable of opening up the blocked artery. Time is of the essence and this is particularly critical in rural Minnesota.