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Priorities: Here are the first bills Minnesota lawmakers introduced in 2015

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The Minnesota House (now controlled by the Republicans) and Senate (controlled by the Democrats) introduced their first bills of the 2015 Legislature Thursday, signaling what they see as some of the most important issues of this year's session.

Senate's first six

The DFL-controlled Senate introduced its first bills Thursday morning, many of them focused on long-term plans to help grow the state's economy and education programs.

The first six:

  • Flood relief: Match the $6.8 million in funding from FEMA, for 37 counties that were affected by flooding last June.
  • Higher education: Provide tuition assistance for high school graduates at state community or technical colleges, the goal being to help reduce student loan debt and give students the skills that employers say they need.
  • Rural health care: If medical care professionals work in a rural area for a certain amount of time, portions of their student loans would be forgiven (meaning, they wouldn't have to pay back that portion).
  • Child protection: Reforms to current child protection laws, focusing on screening and increased reviews of child welfare cases.
  • Workforce development: The state would partner with businesses and provide funding, in order to offer apprenticeships for high school students – they'd take vocational training for course credit.
  • Early education: Every 4-year-old in the state would get to attend preschool for free starting in the fall of 2016.

Absent from the first six was a bill on transportation, something that's been touted as a priority for both the Democrats and Republicans. The DFL-controlled Senate is expected to introduce a transportation proposal next week, Northland's NewsCenter notes.

House bills

House Republicans introduced several measures Thursday, which intend to strengthen the workforce and fix the state's roads.

The first five house files:

  • Tax credits: Provides tax credits and incentives for research and development, the goal being to create business and spur job growth in the state.
  • Education policy: Aims to strengthen teacher licensing in Minnesota and update teacher evaluation and tenure policies.
  • Long-term care: Loan forgiveness for nursing home and care facility workers.
  • Transportation funding: $750 million over the next four years to fix the state's crumbling roads and bridges, without raising taxes. The money would be taken from a highway fund, and accrued by implementing "certain efficiencies" in MnDOT.
  • Health care: The bill would make changes to MnSure, the state's health care exchange, including adding more legislative oversight.

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