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Legislator's viewpoint: Session's first half proves enlightening

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opinion Woodbury, 55125
Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

As the 2013 legislative session returns to action, I wanted to share a few examples of the many things I've learned in my short time in St. Paul and give you an update of what has taken place so far.

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The first being, Senators apparently lack the ability to make their own copies. I recently stood outside my office making copies and was mocked by several staff members and colleagues that they've never seen a Senator make their own copies before. As a former small business owner, I'm used to a different way of doing things.

On a more serious note, however, I have been quite impressed with the hard work and dedication of everybody at the Capitol - fellow legislators, staff members and citizens who take time out of their lives to come testify in committee. Truly, everybody is working toward building a better Minnesota. We may not always agree on how to get there, but I've learned everybody cares about making our state a great place to live.

Along those same lines, I'm happy to be a part of the newly formed "Purple Caucus," which is a bipartisan group of legislators dedicated to having a civil conversation to find areas of agreement. We've had our first meeting, and I'm hopeful we will be able to help set the tone for a more cordial Senate.

During the first part of the session I have focused on two main areas: local issues and education. I've authored bills to help with economic development, including creating a tax increment financing (TIF) district to allow Maplewood to partner with 3M to construct a new research and development building, and extending a TIF district in Oakdale to allow for continued redevelopment. I've worked to secure land for the Maplewood Fish Creek Natural Greenway and to allow the east metro an option to expand bus rapid transit.

With education, I'm proud to have been a part of the bipartisan solution to our problem of losing high-quality teachers who are unable to pass the Minnesota Teacher Licensure Examinations basic skills test. Originally, the law did not account for non-native English speakers and individuals with a learning disability. We worked out a compromise that all sides can support going forward. I'm also pleased to author legislation that will give local school districts control when it comes to spending money on early education and all-day kindergarten. Instead of a statewide, cookie-cutter approach, school districts need flexibility to determine the needs of their district.

With less than two months to go in the session, we still have a lot of work to do. Our primary job will be to create a budget that puts Minnesota on a sustainable path forward and makes investments in our state that will help create jobs now and in the future. Please do not hesitate to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns you have.

Kent, a Woodbury Democrat, represents District 53 in the Minnesota Senate

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