by Dennis Dalman – firstname.lastname@example.org
Incumbent Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) was one of 134 newly elected representatives (newcomers and incumbents) who were sworn in last week in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
In the House chambers, at the swearing-in ceremony, O’Driscoll was accompanied by his nephew, Grayson O’Driscoll of Woodbury, a senior at East Ridge High School.
O’Driscoll won the Nov. 6 general election by a hefty margin over Democrat challenger Shannon Schroeder. This is O’Driscoll’s second four-year term in the Minnesota House, representing House District 13B. A former Sartell mayor, he was first elected as a state representative in 2010. District 13B includes the cities of Sartell, St. Stephen and Holdingford and the townships of LeSauk, St. Wendel, Holding, Avon and Brockway.
O’Driscoll said the 2013 legislative session, which began after the swearing-in ceremony, is concentrating mainly on two important issues – the state budget and school funding. Legislators, he said, are working out a plan to repay school districts for money used by the state to help try to balance the state budget during the economic crunch of 2011.
In the new legislature, which is now controlled by Democrats, O’Driscoll was appointed to the following committees: Government Operations, Elections, State Government Finance, Veterans Affairs. He is the leading Republican on the Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries Committee. And he was also appointed to serve on two commissions: the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement and the Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission.
The latter commission is one that came about because of a bill mainly authored by O’Driscoll and approved last year in the Minnesota Legislature. The bill is the School Land Trust Reform, which revoked management of school-land trusts from the Department of Natural Resources and put those lands under the management of a School Fund Board and the Legislative Permanent School Fund Commission. Based on a similar law in Utah, the school-land trust reform aims to increase the amount of money on those lands realized through a wider effort in land investments. The resultant funds are then divided up among school districts to be used for education. In 2012, the Sartell-St. Stephen School District received $104,349 in school-land trust funds. O’Driscoll and others are hoping that amount will increase as investments in the school lands increase. School trust lands are those that were put aside more than 100 years ago for the express purpose of use by school districts in the state and a way to raise money for schools, such as through renting the lands for farming. Throughout the decades, such lands have mostly been repurposed, and most of the land still remaining as school-trust lands are in northeastern Minnesota where they generate income from such uses as forestry and limited mining.
Another of O’Driscoll’s legislative accomplishments was the elimination of a “Tiered Water System.” That was a plan by the state to require cities to charge larger users of water more per unit of water, which was meant to implement water-conservation measures by the users. Such large users included such entities as schools, hospitals, hotels, beverage bottlers and other industries. O’Driscoll maintained such a tier system would be unfair, putting an economic burden on large users. His bill effectively eliminated that mandate, which would have gone into effect Jan. 1.
O’Driscoll received an award from the League of Minnesota Cities for his work to eliminate the tiered-water system mandate. He also was honored with other awards for his School Land Trust Reform bill and his ongoing work on behalf of veterans.