Portrait by J. Alan Paul Photography
Photos courtesy of FMWF Chamber of Commerce
Here at the Chamber, we host many events, ranging from workplace training to inspirational keynotes to networking functions and more. One of our monthly series, Eggs & Issues, is among my favorites, though.
It’s a forum that gathers community leaders and elected officials who speak to the Chamber membership about the timeliest topics affecting our region. We’ve had several highly attended and informative events covering a range of topics, including community crime and the drug crisis, immigration, the oil and rail industries, workforce and more.
As a chamber, it’s a priority for us to help our community stay educated on the issues that affect them and make exposure to such topics and speakers easy. In June, we hosted the second of our legislative wrap-ups, focusing on the recent session in Minnesota.
Bill Blazer of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce opened the event, and Sen. Kent Eken, Rep. Paul Marquart and Rep. Ben Lien also took the stage to share what they saw in the legislature.
What we learned was that while it was a divided session—with nearly 25 new legislators in the House and more than 20 in the Senate—they were able to come together for a successful conclusion for all Minnesota residents.
Blazer shared with us the state Chamber’s four main priorities:
- Business-tax relief
- Creating healthcare options
- Stopping new workplace mandates
- Transportation investments
All areas saw success with the exception of their hope of passing the Uniform State Labor Standards Act.
Minnesota did pass Real ID, which means the state’s driver’s licenses will become compliant at federal checkpoints by 2020.
One issue we’re watching locally that was on the state chamber’s radar was affordable childcare and housing—an area that still has much work left.
“Our one-word summary for the 2017 session was that it was successful,” Blazer said. “The legislature made substantial progress toward the development and growth of the state’s economy.”
Moving on to the legislators, Sen. Eken expressed concern for higher education, stating that while there was more money provided, it wasn’t enough to maintain the level of quality and an affordable price for our students. One other area he wished got more funding was long-term care.
“We are facing demographic changes, the likes of which we’ve never seen in world history,” Sen. Eken said. “This is a major challenge and a daunting task, but we need to shine the spotlight on it.”
Marquart then noted the difference a year makes, comparing last year’s absence of a tax bill and bonding bill. He did mention that we saw our first-ever student-loan credit but acknowledged the teacher shortage, stating that we need to correct teacher licensure, especially for Northwest Minnesota.
Lien noted a $3 million appropriations tax bill, which will continue the Border-Cities Enterprise Zone Program to provide business tax credits to qualifying businesses on the Minnesota-North Dakota border.
One of his concerns was student-loan forgiveness, which he says is important because student debt is a real crisis that is slowing economic growth.
One major win for our community was achieving funding for the Moorhead railroad underpass. This will allow for better traffic flow and quicker response times for emergency vehicles at 21st Street and Main Avenue. It also served as a great example of teamwork from our lawmakers and our community members.
If you haven’t been to an Eggs & Issues before, I encourage you to join us. It’s important that our member businesses and individuals take time to learn more about political, social, and economic issues, and this event series helps them do just that.
Plus, it’s a great time to network over a delicious breakfast. We hold these the first Tuesday of every month from 7:30 – 9 a.m. at the Courtyard by Marriott in Moorhead.
We hope to see you soon!