MNGOP, DFL unveil first bills of 2015 legislative session

The first day lawmakers can introduce bills during the new legislative session revealed an emphasis on rural Minnesota.

Republicans are now in the majority in the House, and House File 1 provides tax credits for businesses and those who pursue careers in science and math.

House File 2 increases teacher licensure, and House File 3 supports nursing homes by forgiving student loans for doctors and nurses who go to work there.

House File 4 provides more than $750 million for roads, and House File 5 asks the federal government for permission to offer tax credits to buy health insurance plans outside the sometimes troubled MNSure exchange.

"We don't think we should put Minnesotans through that messy process and make them experience the pain," said Rep. Tara Mack (R-Apple Valley). "They should have the ability to shop where they want to shop."

On the Senate side, where Democrats still have control, a different set of priorities prevailed.

Senate File 1 provides $6 million in flood relief from last year's storms, while House File 2 is a bill that offers two years of free tuition for high school seniors that enroll in tech schools.

Senate File 3 offers student loan forgiveness for doctors who practice in rural Minnesota, and Senate File 4 is a bill strengthening child protection laws.

Senate File 5 is an "earn while you learn" apprenticeship program for specialty skilled jobs, and finally, Senate File 6 offers free preschool for 4-year-olds.

It's no accident that many of these bills aid outstate Minnesota.

"There is critical infrastructure that is necessary for those areas to participate in the recovery," Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (D-Duluth) said. "And that critical infrastructure is the availability of health care. It is workforce development and skillsets that match the needs of those employers, and I probably don't need to remind you, most of those vocational colleges are in rural Minnesota."

House Speaker Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) said he actually sees areas where Republicans and Democrats can work together.

"I look forward to the next couple years," Daudt said. "I think it's a time when we can put our focus on Minnesotans... all Minnesotans."

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