As we turn the calendar from the holiday season, we can see that the 2012 Legislative Session is right around the corner. This year's activity at the capitol is scheduled to be shorter; we are set to convene on January 24th and wrap up near the end of April.
As you may know, the majority party in the Minnesota Senate recently made a series of adjustments in our caucus leadership. I am optimistic that our new leadership team's approach and actions will build Minnesota's confidence. We are proud to have Senator Dave Senjem of Rochester reprise his role as caucus leader and look forward to working alongside the new assistant majority leaders as we continue to advance our primary objectives of private sector job growth, state government reform and limiting spending.
Senate Republicans made a major difference in 2011; we achieved a balanced budget without raising taxes and exercised spending restraint that has helped lead to an $876 million surplus.
As chair of the Senate Environment Committee, I am currently planning the full committee's agenda for the upcoming legislative session. We must continue to work together to provide common sense legislation that allows for job growth while also providing protections so future generations can enjoy our pristine natural resources and wilderness.
We will certainly continue to build on the successes we had last session by moving further ahead on streamlining the permitting process to bring about more efficiency for businesses and individuals. A number of businesses and job creators around the state have appreciated our common sense, bipartisan reform efforts to get Minnesotans back to work. We must continue our work and move forward on our efforts streamlining government and creating private sector job growth
I expect the environment committee to continue the aggressive work we have done to fight aquatic invasive species. I consider aquatic invasive species, Asian Carp and Zebra Mussels in particular, to be a serious threat to our natural resources across the state, and we must have a sense of urgency in dealing with this issue.
The legislature passed a number of policy changes last session that I believe will help combat the spread of aquatic invasive species. The legislation provided more authority for inspections and enforcements, restricting use in infested waters and providing education to service providers and the general public. We also increased AIS funding by 97.7% from $8,332,000 in the 2010-11 biennium to $16,472,000 in 2012-13.
Next session, we will again look at AIS and look for ways to improve current policies to prevent their spread. We must also look into promoting research to devise scientific methods to control or eliminate aquatic invasive species from infested lakes, rivers and streams.
I look forward to working together with the public, stakeholder groups, and government agencies in promoting policies that create jobs, streamline government, and save taxpayers money while also ensure our resources are maintained for future generations to enjoy.
Please feel free to contact me at the State Capitol; I encourage your feedback and suggestions.
Have a Happy New Year and a prosperous 2012!
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