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Message to legislators: Repeal mandates

WILLMAR -- Dave Baker offered a bit of a challenge to local legislators Friday. For every new mandate the Legislature approves this year, 10 existing ones should be repealed. Baker, chairman of the public policy committee for the Willmar Lakes Ar...

WILLMAR -- Dave Baker offered a bit of a challenge to local legislators Friday.

For every new mandate the Legislature approves this year, 10 existing ones should be repealed.

Baker, chairman of the public policy committee for the Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce, made the request during a monthly meeting of the committee where Sen. Joe Gimse and Rep. Bruce Vogel had just provided an update on legislative action.

Top level local government leaders were also at the meeting where they too pleaded with the lawmakers to remove mandates that hamstring local units of government with costly requirements.

Attached to the meeting agenda were a collection of the top mandates that the city of Willmar, Kandiyohi County and Willmar school officials want repealed.

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Dr. Jerry Kjergaard, superintendent of the Willmar Public School District, said the Jan. 15 deadline for schools to reach teacher negotiations "punishes" school and students by imposing fines on schools who fail to meet the deadline. Citing the state law that prohibits school from starting before Labor Day, he said local schools can't even decide when classes should begin.

Several members of the committee expressed concern for a new proposal that's making its way through the Legislature that would freeze school employees' wages for two years without giving local districts a choice.

"Don't put anymore mandates on us,' said Kjergaard.

Gimse, R-Willmar, said legislators might be willing to back off the salary freeze issue as long as the local governments didn't then blame the Legislature for raising property taxes if more local money is needed for higher salaries.

Gimse said legislators are "caught between a rock and hard spot" when it comes to imposing state restrictions and local units of government that "don't act responsibly."

But both legislators said mandates would be addressed this session.

Vogel, a Republican from Willmar serving his first term in office, said he's already been reviewing a list of unfunded or duplicative mandates that will be considered for repeal. He asked for continued input from local leaders.

Gimse said the batch of freshmen legislators are "taking ideas and running with them." He promised that discussion about repealing mandates will be as plentiful as discussions about the budget deficit.

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The two legislators also spoke about other bills that have passed that they supported, and bill that are being debated that do support including permanent cuts to aid to cities and counties, lifting the ban on nuclear power discussions, creating steps for business and professional people to teach in classrooms, shortening timelines for permits to be issued and prohibiting agencies from making rules without first getting legislative approval.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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