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Letter: Legislative session off to good start

To the editor:

Last fall, we talked about the importance of having strong start in the 2011 legislative session so we can help people get back to work, revitalize our small businesses and balance the budget. So far, so good.

In less than a week from the start of this session, we introduced two bills that address those challenges. Those are the things Minnesotans sent us to St. Paul to do and we're fully committed to following through. We started on the right foot by introducing one bill to give our small businesses breathing room and another bill to bring common sense to our state's budgeting process.

The budget bill is government's version of "kitchen-table economics," a phrase local folks hear me use all the time. It's a really simple concept that goes like this: First, we figure out how much revenue the state has. Then, we appropriate funding according to our priorities. Small businesses and families take this approach every day and it's a wonder government hasn't grasped the concept sooner. The good thing is we can use this model of budgeting even without it being in the statute books, so expect it to be phased-in even before this bill becomes law. I'll pass along more about that as things develop.

The other bill we unveiled would go a long way toward unraveling red tape that tends to bog down our small-business owners. Turnaround times in our permitting process can drag on seemingly forever, to the point where entrepreneurs get fed up and pull the plug on starting a new business or expanding an existing one in Minnesota. Our new bill would institute a 150-day goal for the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to issue permits. A report on applications not meeting that goal is required.

We don't want to compromise environmental protection in the name of quicker turnaround times, so new rules for air, water and hazardous waste are included in the bill.

It's been a good start, but our work is far from finished as serious challenges and difficult decisions remain. I welcome your thoughts on these and any other issues, especially as they pertain to my committee assignments (Vice-Chair: Transportation Policy and Finance, Commerce and Regulatory Reform, and Education Reform). The best way to reach me is by e-mailing or by calling 651-296-4293.

Rep. Mark Murdock