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March 24, 2016     Tri-County News
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March 24, 2016

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pA(- E' ................. .................. _ rJl_3 JL V .7 .... March 24, 2016 : .... ::: .. ....... ..: ........................... LJ Tax statements sent to property owners Stearns County Auditor- Treasurer Randy Schreifels wants residents to know that 2016 prop- erty tax statements have been mailed or emailed to those who own property in Stearns County May 15th falls on a Sunday this year; therefore, the first half property tax payments are due Monday, May 16, 2016. Propertytax payments can be online through the Stearns County website at Through the website, property owners can also request to get future tax state- ments by email. Property owners in Stearns County who did not receive a tax statement should con- tact the Stearns County Auditor- Treasurer's Office at (320) 656 -3870, or at taxes@co.stearns, ran. us. Death of baby in Dassel Saturday, March 19, at 8:58 a.m., the Meeker County Sheriff's Office received a report of an unresponsive baby at a resi- dence in the 74600 block of 250th Street in Dassel Township. Meeker County Deputies, Dassel Rescue and Gold Cross Ambulance all responded to the scene. It was determined that the baby had died and an investigation was started. The baby and par- ents, who notified authorities, all reside at the 250th Street resi- dence. There is no indication that the death is suspicious, although at this time there is no known cause of death. The baby has been identified as Blake Bohnsack, 7 months old. The investigation is ongoing. Legislative Update for March 18, 2016 By Michelle Fischbach Minn. State Senator The first full week of session was busy, filled with constituent meetings and committee hear- ings. Finance Committee heard an update on the February fiscal forecast, as well as the REAL ID bill. Commerce Committee heard several bills and had an update from the No-Fault Insurance Task Force. I have provided more infor- mation about some issues from this week below. Tax Committee considers credit for parents The Senate Tax Committee and Tax Reform Division each met for the first time this week. Notably, the division heard a bi-parti- san bill authored by Senator Rest (Senate File 2288) that would pro- vide for a refundable income tax credit for parents of stillborn chil- dren. An estimated 400 Minnesota families a year are impacted by this tragic loss. Under this pro- posal, they would be eligible for a $2,000 tax credit to offset some of the difficult expenses incurred by the families. REAL ID moves forward This week, the Finance Committee heard Senate File 1646, a bill that requires the Department of Public Safety to create an implementation plan to bring Minnesota in compliance with the federal REAL ID Act. In committee, I offered an amend- ment to ensure that the planning for REAL ID is done in a fiscally responsible way for Minnesota tax payers. The committee adopted the amendment and passed the bill as amended. The bill is sched- uled to be debated by the full Senate Monday, March 20. Judiciary Committee The Judiciary Committee has begun hearing bills this week, and passed a variety of them. Included in those sent to the floor are bills on allowing counties to more eas- ily decide which type of proba- tion service delivery system they would like to use in their dis- tricts (Senate File 2570), giving law enforcement additional tools to investigate fraudulent credit card transactions (Senate File 2537), and adjusting the law on orders for protection to better serve both those seeking the orders and those responding to them (Senate Files 2567 and 2568). Buffer zones revisited On Wednesday, the lobs, Agriculture & Rural Development Committee considered and passed a bill (Senate File 2503) that would create some changes to the 2015 50-foot buffer strip legis- lation. Most of the changes would attempt to clarify a few issues that were absent the 2015 law. One major change would extend the effective date for ditches to com- ply with the buffer law out to 2025. The bill will next be heard in the Environment Committee. Debate over assisted suicide The Health and Human Services Committee this week heard a bill that would legalize assisted suicide in Minnesota. Senate File 1880 would make it legal in Minnesota for doctors to provide a prescription to end a patient's life. After all testimony was heard, the bill's chief author, Senator Chris Eaton, withdrew the bill from committee which pre- vented the committee from vot- ing on the bill. It is highly unlikely that the bill will be heard again this session. Those suffering from termi- nal illnesses deserve our deepest respect and compassion. At one time or another, we have all been deeply touched and saddened by a death. There's no worse feeling than being unable to relieve our loved ones' burdens at the end of life. However, the implications of legalizing assisted suicide are far-reaching and irreversible. Department of Transportation audit reveals concerns In our district and around the state, transportation needs are piling up. Road maintenance and expansion projects are handled by the Minnesota Department of Transportation, but according to an audit released this week, there's plenty of room for improvement. For instance, MnDOT's trans- portation "to-do" list prioritizes shovel-ready projects rather than those that will provide the best return on investment for taxpay- ers. The audit found no standard- ized selection process for certain road expansion projects, and local communities don't have much say in how their needs are prioritized. These issues can be easily fixed by establishing some common sense guidelines to select the best projects, maintaining public lists of projects under consideration, and making sure community feedback is measurable. Follow up audits will be done to verify that these issues are addressed appropriately. Transportation Conference Committee meets In other transportation news, the conference commit- tee on House File 4 (Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill) met on Wednesday to refresh members of what finance options are on the table. The Senate bill relies on new gas taxes, license tab fees, and a 75-cent sales tax in the metropol- itan area to infuse more money into the transportation system. The House bill relies on shifting sales tax on auto parts and rental cars to infuse more money into the system. 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