Falk Receives Endorsement For Third House Bid

CLARA CITY — Rep. Andrew Falk, DFL-Murdock, received his party’s endorsement unanimously on April 12th at the District 17 DFL convention in Clara City.

“I am incredibly honored and humbled to be entrusted with the opportunity and responsibility to represent the citizens of District 17A in the Minnesota House of Representatives,” said Falk.

Falk actively farms on a fifth-generation family farm north of Murdock and was first elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2008 and re-elected in 2010.  During his time at the legislature, Falk has served on the Agriculture and Rural Economies committee, the Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources committee, the Veterans Affairs committee, and the Legislative Energy Commission.

Falk has been a strong voice for our rural communities fighting for fairness for our rural schools, rural health care, and lower property taxes.  He is one of only a handful of legislators that actively farms.  In addition, Falk has been a strong consumer advocate passing laws to protect Minnesotans from fraud, waste, and abuse.

Falk is running for the District 17A seat that consists of Chippewa, Swift and portions of Renville and Kandiyohi Counties

“I look forward to a positive campaign focused on the issues that Minnesotans care about:  jobs, the economy, education, property taxes, and our overall quality of life in Minnesota,” said Falk.

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Budget Forecast: The state is facing a fiscal storm, once again, of epic proportions

On February 29th, State Economist Tom Stinson and Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter reported an additional $323 million for our current two-year budget cycle. These added resources stem from better-than-expected general fund revenues for fiscal year 2012-13 in the amount of $93 million and $230 million less in anticipated spending from the previous forecast. Most of the spending reductions are the result of significantly lower than projected enrollees in the early expansion of Medical Assistance (MA) for adults without children.

While the overall economy is improving, and the Republican leadership in the House and Senate has been quick to take credit for solving all of the state’s fiscal issues, the rest of the story needs to be told. No doubt about it, an additional “$323 million surplus” makes for a great forecast headline. To put this in context, let’s try a little weather analogy. “While the afternoon weather forecast says clear and sunny. Come the end of the week; look out! A severe thunderstorm is headed your way!”

That is what our state is facing from a fiscal standpoint; a storm, once again, of epic proportions. First and foremost, how much of that “$323 million surplus” actually exists? Give up? Zero. Of the $323 million, $5 million has been added to our depleted budget reserve account (one of the accounts Governor Pawlenty had to spend down to zero in-order to unallot). Next, the remaining $318 million must be used to start repaying the funds that were taken from our schoolchildren. In order to balance the budget last year and end the government shutdown, instead of asking individuals earning more than one million dollars per year to pay a penny more in taxes, the Republicans in the legislature voted to withhold more than $2.7 billion from our schools. By law any surplus most go towards making our kids whole.

Going forward, our state faces a projected $1.1 billion deficit for the next biennium. At first glance, that may not sound half bad. However, when the remaining $2.4 billion owed to our schools is factored in, and the $1.5 billion cost of both interest and principle to repay the one-time money from the tobacco bonds is accounted for, our state is right back where it started. With a $5 billion deficit. The republicans have nothing to take credit for. No changes have been made. No structural reforms. Just more smoke and mirrors.

Real fiscal stability is going to require tough choices. It is going to require both cuts and revenue. I’ve voted for both in the past and continue to support a balanced approach going forward.

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News Column 2-24-2012: It’s time to focus our work on the common goals of improving our economy and putting Minnesotans back to work!

I wish there was good news to report. We are now in our fifth week of the 2012 legislative session and not much is getting done. As I have said time and time again, our entire focus for this legislative session needs to be on jobs and a bonding bill.

I am extremely disappointed that not a single bill to create one job has been heard on the House Floor. I along with many of my colleagues have authored jobs legislation that should pass overwhelmingly (in a strong-bipartisan manner) if the Republican leadership would just put aside their petty politics and allow the issues that both Democrats and Republicans agree on to move forward. Jobs proposals like Bridges to Work or offering a $3,000 tax credit to any business that hires a veteran, recent college graduate, or person who has been long-term unemployed should be passed immediately. We agree on many things. Let’s make it happen!

The job of the legislative leadership is to both lead and govern not just for one particular party or set of special interests but for the benefit of all Minnesotans. Unfortunately, the current legislative leadership in both the House and Senate is made up of Republican Tea Party extremists who want to see nothing get done. And here’s why. When their political philosophy says that government is bad and public services are intrusions into people’s lives, they have an incentive to keep government from succeeding. This is exactly what is happening.

Ronald Reagan once said, “Government is not a solution to our problem, government is the problem,” and I know full well that government cannot and should not be a solution to every problem. But this statement, taken to the extreme, implies government cannot do anything. What does that mean? No roads, no bridges, no public education, no Social Security, no Medicare, no colleges or universities, no protecting our air and water, no law enforcement, no assistance for those less fortunate, no government or public service anything.

Government is not some amorphous evil entity. The government is us and we are the government. Public services are all of us coming together as a society to combine our resources to accomplish collectively what cannot be done individually.

My hope is that the Republicans will put aside some of their blind adherence to the philosophy that “all government is bad” and start governing responsibly. Heck, they’re serving in the government; if they don’t think government can solve any problems, then move aside and let somebody else lead.

Let’s focus our work on the common goals of improving our economy and putting Minnesotans back to work.

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Education and Property Taxes Update

September 16, 2011

Dear friends and neighbors, As more outcomes from the state budget resolution become known, the less Minnesotans approve of the deal that was offered by the Legislative Republicans and accepted by Governor Dayton to end the state government shutdown. Now, the same legislators who pledged to cut their way to a balanced budget regardless of the impacts are now running from their budget solutions.

With respect to education funding, forty percent of the funding promised to our schools has been withheld. This is the so-called “school shift.” The result. Schools are forced to borrow for operations and must decide which programs to fund and which to cut. Currently, Minnesota has the largest education shift in the nation at 40%. The next closest education shift was enacted by California at 18% (remember their financial situation).

Recently, many Republican legislators have been touting an increase in education funding. While it is true that the per pupil funding formula increased by $50, it is a pittance compared to the $4,168 owed to our schools per pupil as a result of the $3.45 billion “shift.” Furthermore, the $50 per pupil funding increase only came about because Governor Dayton fought for it as a condition of agreeing to the Republican budget, that included the shift, and his rationale was that $50 per pupil was necessary to offset the borrowing costs (interest payments) that would be required to keep our schools’ doors open.

A shift is only a shift if there is a mechanism to repay the shift. Currently, none exists. If the shift cannot be repaid, it’s not a shift. It’s a cut. Simply put, to fulfill the promise made to our schools, we need to raise revenue. Nearly all schools already know this. At least 133 school districts are asking voters for funding this year. Many of these levies are renewals; not increasing property taxes but merely keeping operational funding at a level where schools won’t have to lay off teachers or cut more sports and activities. Some Republican legislators are actively campaigning against local control and these local levies, accusing school districts of being greedy. I find it hard to believe that a suburban legislator knows what’s best for any of the school districts in Greater Minnesota.

Another budget solution that was pushed by the Republican majority (which they are now running away from) is the elimination of the homestead credit. Last session, they pushed hard for and won, taking away a tax credit which 95 percent of Minnesota homeowners currently receive. Look at your recent property tax statements to see how much this credit saved you. The average credit was $202 this year, meaning Republicans raised taxes by this much on every Minnesotan who owned a home valued up to $414,000. In fact, homeowners in rural areas will see three times the property tax increases compared to some suburban areas. Like many of my constituents who have contacted me, I too am outraged at this hidden tax increase. I voted no on its elimination and have co-authored a bill to re-instate the Market Value Homestead Credit.

I can’t say I’m surprised that the folks who proposed and passed these cuts, shifts, and middle class tax increases are now running away from them. They are bad ideas and Minnesotans are not being shy in telling them what they think. Please continue to contact me with your ideas and solutions to the problems facing the state. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at rep.andrew.falk@house.mn.

Andrew Falk
State Representative
District 20A

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Skewed Budget Numbers Hamper Debate

July 13, 2011

Skewed Budget Numbers Hamper Debate

I must respond to some of the comments made by my friend and colleague, State Representative Dean Urdahl, on July 7.

Like Rep. Urdahl, I too regret the failure of the Minnesota Legislature to pass a balanced budget that could be signed by Governor Dayton. However, this budget situation is no accident. It is a result of Rep. Urdahl and his partisan colleagues’ inability to do their job. It is the Legislature’s job to pass a budget that the Governor is willing to sign. For four years, the DFL-led legislature met that deadline on time, enacted a budget, and avoided a shutdown while working with a Republican governor.

What about the “6% increase in spending” Rep. Urdahl mentioned? That statement is simply not true. The 2010-2011 biennial budget, which we are operating under currently, was $34.337 billion. This number includes the federal stimulus money and the K-12 education shift. Republicans often conveniently forget those details, but those dollars were appropriated just like every other dollar. The budget for 2012-2013 passed by the Republican majorities is $34 billion. The last time I checked, $34.337 billion was greater than $34 billion. So, logic would dictate, that passing a $34 billion budget is not a 6% increase; actually, it’s no increase at all, which is a cut. Furthermore, the Republican budget has no means to repay the $1.9 billion K-12 education shift (which was supposed to be paid back in the 2012-2013 biennium) and if there is no means to repay the shift, it is a cut. For comparison’s sake, the 2008-2009 budget was $33.9 billion; essentially a flat state budget six years in a row.

What about taxes? Rep. Urdahl claimed Governor Dayton’s plan would raise taxes on everyone. Unfortunately, this is once again not true. Governor Dayton has proposed raising revenue from the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans (who consequently pay lower effective tax rates than the remaining 98% of Minnesotans). The Governor’s proposal would only apply to income earned in excess of almost $180,000 ($150,000 taxable income) for a typical single filer or joint-filers making more than $300,000 ($250,000 taxable income) per year. What Rep. Urdahl failed to mention was how the Republican budget would raise property taxes by more than $1.3 billion over the next four years as evidenced by the MN Department of Revenue. This would be on top of the $3 billion in property taxes already raised under the eight years of Governor Pawlenty and the Republican’s “No New Taxes” mantra.

The Republicans have offered one proposal of $34 billion packaged in different wrapping paper. Governor Dayton has offered eight compromise offers to resolve the budget. In response to Governor Dayton’s last offer before the shutdown, the Republicans went so far as to say that in order for them to accept any revenue or “compromise,” the bill must include all of their social issues including bans on reproductive health rights, a ban on stem cell research, anti-union policies, and a number of other divisive issues including their partisan redistricting map. These policy issues have nothing to do with the budget and including them in the negotiations shows a lack of seriousness. Getting this budget done is going to require shared sacrifice and compromise from all sides.

Accuracy of the facts and a willingness to be open and transparent with Minnesotans will go a long ways towards resolving the budget and ending the shutdown.

Sincerely,

Rep. Andrew Falk
Murdock

p.s. It was a shameful political stunt for Republican legislators to sit in the House and Senate Chambers on the eve of a state government shutdown in hopes that the Governor would call a special session when their leadership had walked away from the negotiations and refused to compromise thus ensuring a shutdown would occur.

July 7, 2011

Letter: Shutdown is unnecessary

By: Rep. Dean Urdahl, Grove City, West Central Tribune

I profoundly regret that our budget situation came to a state shutdown. Gov. Mark Dayton did not need to do this. We offered three major compromises to him that he rejected.

The governor demanded that we raise taxes. Please understand these tax increases would impact everyone, not just the “rich.” The Department of Revenue even issued a report that said, “Some of the burden would be borne in higher prices, some in lower wages, and some in lower returns to business owners.”

The Legislature passed a balanced budget in May without raising taxes. It amounted to a $34 billion package, which was $3 billion more than last year and a 6 percent increase in general fund spending. We proposed $500 million more in health and human services and increased state education funding by 3.2 percent compared with the last biennium.

The deadline for putting a new budget in place to avoid a shutdown was June 30 and we were in virtual agreement with Gov. Dayton on six of the nine unfinished budget bills.

We asked the governor to call a special session so we could pass the bills where we are in close agreement and also to enact a “lights-on” bill to keep government running until the details of a total budget could be put in place.

The governor denied our requests and shut down state government. This was unnecessary and will result in unneeded pain for many Minnesotans.

I held out hope until the very end that we could take action to avoid a shutdown, or — at the very least — mitigate the impact caused by one. I joined other legislators and sat on the House floor late into the night on June 30 as we awaited word the governor was going to call a special session. Word never came.

I pray that this is a short crisis and that the governor does what he should have done in the first place: Call us in now for special session.

Rep. Dean Urdahl
Grove City

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Rep. Andrew Falk 7-12-2011 Legislative Update

Dear friends and neighbors,

After nearly two weeks of state government shutdown (at the time of writing this), I along with many of my DFL colleagues stood on the Capitol steps and made a call for courage. We asked for six reasonable and responsible Republicans to put the needs of Minnesotans before partisanship and politics and vote for a fair and balanced budget. In the House, we only need six Republicans to be willing to not toe the party line and do what is right for Minnesota to pass a bill asking the wealthiest Minnesotans to pay their fair share.

Governor Dayton has gone so far to compromise as to only propose an income tax increase on individuals making more than one million dollars per year. Under this scenario, less than 7,700 people would pay the higher tax and of that number, less than 3,900 are actually Minnesota residents. Bear in mind, even if you made $1,000,000 in income last year, you wouldn’t pay a penny more in taxes. The increase is only on the income earned above one million dollars per year; furthermore, that increase is only a change of 3.1%.

Without new revenue raised in a fair manner, property taxes will increase by $1.3 billion dollars, 140,000 Minnesotans will lose their health care, 30,000 Minnesotans will lose their jobs, education funding will be cut, tuition will increase to levels that are unaffordable for many Minnesotans, road and bridges will continue to crumble. All so that people making more than a million dollars per year (many who are not even Minnesotans) continue to pay a lower effective tax rate than all other Minnesotans.

As part of shared sacrifice, I have refused to accept my salary during the government shutdown. I feel it is important to lead by example. However, I also feel that I have done all that I could do to avoid the shutdown. I’ve supported and still support a balanced approach of cuts and new revenue to resolve the budget. As always, please feel free to contact me by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at rep.andrew.falk@house.mn. I do appreciate hearing from you and will continue to work to get our state back to work.

Sincerely,

Andrew Falk
State Representative
District 20A

 

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Rep. Andrew Falk 6-27-2011 Legislative Update

Dear friends and neighbors,

Last Friday I sent out an email to constituents asking for input about how the budget should be resolved. Thus far, I have received nearly unanimous support (about 96%, out of more than two hundred responses) for a balanced approach of cuts and new revenue from the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans. It’s important to note these responses came from Democrats, Republicans, Independents, and people who have no particular political affiliation. Minnesotans get it. Resolving this budget crisis is going to require both cuts and new revenue. Seemingly the only people that don’t get it are the Republican legislators in Saint Paul who are willing to shut down state government to protect the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans from paying one penny more in taxes. To illustrate this extremist position, and I’m not making this up, there was a “Not A Penny More”caucus in the House of Representatives comprised of more than twenty Republican members who would not accept/compromise for even a penny more in taxes. To show their solidarity, they affixed pennies onto their jacket lapels or other upper-body clothing. Unbelievable.

What about the “6% increase in spending” the Republicans keep talking about. I don’t want to call anyone a liar, but that assertion is simply not true. The 2010-2011 biennial budget, which we are operating under currently, was $34.337 billion. (This number includes the federal stimulus money and the K-12 education shift. Those details are often conveniently forgotten, but those dollars were appropriated just like every other dollar.) The budget for 2012-2013 passed by the Republican majorities is $34 billion. The last time I checked, $34.337 billion was greater than $34 billion. So logic would dictate, that passing a $34 billion budget is not a 6% increase; actually, it’s no increase at all, which is a cut. Furthermore, the Republican budget has no means to repay the $1.9 billion K-12 education shift (which was supposed to be paid back in the 2012-2013 biennium) and if there is no means to repay the shift, it is a cut.

Republican legislators are currently in a bind. To appease their base:  the fringe-right and the Tea Party they need to say they cut government and they refused to compromise with Governor Dayton. To appease typical Minnesotans, they need to make up numbers like their budget is a “6% increase in spending.” When the party that passes the budget must call their proposal both a cut and an increase depending on the audience and a refusal to compromise is valued above all else, should anyone be surprised that a government shutdown is looming?

As always, I do appreciate hearing from you. Please contact me with your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and questions by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at rep.andrew.falk@house.mn.

Andrew Falk
State Representative
District 20A

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Rep. Andrew Falk 6-20-2011 Legislative Update

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

With less than two weeks to go before a state government shutdown, the Republican leadership and majorities in the Legislature still refuse to compromise with Governor Mark Dayton to enact a budget. To say the least, I’m absolutely disgusted. It’s important to understand how this situation came to exist. Under current law (signed at the time by Governor Pawlenty), appropriations for the 2012-2013 biennium total more than $39 billion; this number includes many shifts, deferrals, and accounting gimmicks that Governor Pawlenty used “balance the budget without raising revenue.” In all honesty, Governor Pawlenty simply did not pay his bills in the biennium they were due and instead passed them on to the next biennium and the next Governor.

When the February 2011 economic forecast was released, the state’s projected budget deficit was $5 billion. In order to resolve the budget, $1.4 billion dollars of the school shift would be continued (this seemingly has been agreed to by both sides). That leaves a remaining shortfall of $3.6 billion. Governor Dayton proposed to meet the Republicans halfway with $1.8 billion in cuts and $1.8 billion in new revenue from the wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans (who consequently also pay the lowest effective tax rates in Minnesota at about 9% compared to more than 12.5% paid by middle-class Minnesotans).

So who loses under the Republican budget? 98% of Minnesotans including students, seniors, the poor, the disabled, small business owners, middle-class Minnesotans, pretty much everybody. These Minnesotans will see the greatest reduction in services (including education and health care), the greatest increases in property taxes, the greatest increases in fees, the greatest increases in tuition, to name a few.

Who benefits? The wealthiest 2% of Minnesotans. The Republicans refuse to compromise one cent to protect the most affluent Minnesotans and special interests from paying their fair share of taxes.

When the government shuts down and services come to a halt, when no roads or bridges are repaired, when all the state parks are closed for the summer, remember this was done to ensure that the millionaires wouldn’t have to pay one penny more.

As always, I do appreciate hearing from you. Please contact me with your thoughts, comments, suggestions, and questions by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at rep.andrew.falk@house.mn.

Andrew Falk
State Representative
District 20A

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FALK WARNS RESIDENTS TO PREPARE FOR SPRING FLOODING SENDS FLOOD PREP TIPS TO AREA RESIDENTS

(ST. PAUL) – State Representative Andrew Falk today warned Western Minnesotans to prepare for spring flooding across the region. “Minnesota’s state government has been preparing for various flooding scenarios,” said Falk, noting Governor Dayton and his administration have held meetings across the state. “I encourage residents in Western Minnesota to be prepared for the spring thaw and take action to protect their assets. If your property is at risk of flooding, I encourage you to look into a flood insurance policy immediately.” Flood insurance policies are not activated until 30 days after the premium is paid in full.

The Minnesota Department of Commerce has prepared the following flood preparation tips in advance of flood season:

Is My Home or Business At Risk?
The best way to know if your home or business is at risk for flooding this spring is by logging on to www.floodsmart.gov. By inputting your address into the Flood Risk Profile, you can find out if your property is in a low, moderate, or high risk flood area. The Flood Risk Profile will also estimate your annual premium cost and suggest local insurance agents serving your area.

What Should I Do Next?
If you already have flood insurance for your home or business, contact your insurance agent to discuss your policy and ensure you are prepared for any possible flooding. Then, take a photo inventory of your building and its contents to properly document your assets. This will save you time and headaches after a flood. You can find out more about home inventory checklists on the Department of Commerce website at: http://tinyurl.com/4bh8y83. If you do not have flood insurance, use the Flood Risk Profile to determine the threat of flooding in your area and identify local insurance agents who can help you purchase flood coverage.

When Should I Start Preparing?
It is important to act now, and take easy, affordable, preventive measures to avoid devastating losses in the upcoming flood season. Flood coverage doesn’t become active until 30 days after your premium is paid in full. It may be better to pay a few hundred dollars for an affordable flood policy now than pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages after it is too late. Remember, even if your property has never flooded before, 25 percent of all flood insurance claims are in areas where residents and business owners never expected a flood to occur.

Who Do I Contact With Questions?
You may call the Commerce Department consumer helpline with any questions you have regarding flood insurance at (651) 296-2488. You can also find more information about residential and commercial flood insurance on our website at www.commerce.state.mn.us.

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WORKING FOR THE PEOPLE OF 20A – February 18, 2011

February 18, 2011 (ST. PAUL) — On Tuesday, February 15, Governor Dayton presented his budget with his proposal to close the state’s $6.2 billion deficit. I deeply appreciate the fact that he honored his campaign promises to support local government aid — thereby protecting property tax payers across our district — funding education and promoting tax fairness.

While Governor Dayton’s budget does contain painful cuts, including a 6 percent cut to the state workforce, a 6 percent cut to higher education, and a 2 percent cut to nursing homes; it’s a far cry from what any Republican all-cuts budget proposal would include. Their budget – when they offer it – will no doubt contain millions in cuts to health and human services throwing tens of thousands of vulnerable Minnesotans off public health insurance programs, significantly deeper cuts to higher education, driving up tuition right when students and families can least afford it, decimate our E-12 education system, all while raising property taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars so they can offer the wealthiest Minnesotans and corporations a tax cut.

We need to have an honest discussion about what direction we want to take as Minnesotans. We need to talk about what we value as Minnesotans, what services we believe government should provide, and then how we should pay for them. I look forward to a complete budget proposal from the Republican leadership and a vibrant discussion about the future of our state.

This week also saw the introduction of a bill by Rep. Steve Smith (Republican – Mound) that would prohibit the state and counties from contracting with private prisons, with a specific clause prohibiting any contract renewal for the Prairie Correctional Facility in Appleton.

I find this bill to be absolutely absurd. For a party that supposedly cares about job creation, this bill completely contradicts that philosophy. At its peak usage, the Prairie Correctional Facility employed nearly 400 full-time people, and those people in turn spent money in the local Appleton economy.

If you believe as I do that we need to help foster job growth, and that leaving the potential for this prison to be operational again would benefit Appleton and our district, please call Rep. Smith at 651-296-9188 or email at rep.steve.smith@house.mn and voice your objections to his bill.

Finally, on February 17, the House voted to pass the repeal of the nuclear moratorium. DFLers offer several amendments on the floor to protect ratepayers, prevent taxpayer bailouts, prevent the permanent storage of high-level radioactive waste in Minnesota, and ensure that a nuclear plant would not endanger the health of Minnesotans. Republicans chose to adopt none of these amendments.

I specifically offered an amendment that would require high-quality radiation-monitoring systems be installed to alert government officials and the citizens in the surrounding area when radioactive gases and liquids are discharged. I believe this is a common-sense measure that would ensure the citizens most likely to be affected by the harmful affects of radiation would at least be notified. Unfortunately, Republicans disagreed and the amendment did not pass.

In my personal opinion, lifting the nuclear moratorium is bad public policy. It is not only the most expensive form of energy (the only reason people think it is inexpensive is because it is the most subsidized), has the potential for devastating health risks, and has no solution for the waste that will continue to increase in volume and remain highly radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years.

As always, on these issues and the any others confronting us this legislative session, I’d appreciate your input. Please don’t hesitate to send me your comments, concerns, suggestions, and questions. You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4228 or email at rep.andrew.falk@house.mn.

Thank you again for the honor of serving you in the Legislature.

Andrew Falk
State Representative
District 20A

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