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State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
651-296-7807

For more information contact: DJ Danielson 651-296-8879

Posted: 2016-05-12
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Legislative Update

Legislative Update - May 12, 2016


Dear Neighbors,

As it’s warming up outside, the time left in this legislative session is running out.  I had hoped that we might come close to a reasonable agreement on the issues before us. Unfortunately, we are barely any closer than when we started session back in February. While this session is a shorter one, our $900 million budget surplus presents an opportunity to do important and necessary work for Minnesotans.

Bonding

What is bonding, anyway? A few years ago, former 53A Representative Paul Gardner wrote an excellent explanation of Minnesota’s bi-annual bonding session:

Every two years the Legislature and Governor work on this bill to provide funding for publicly owned buildings, property, and land. In particular, state agencies have buildings or property that are in need of repair, renovation, or replacement.  . . . To be "bondable" the project has to be publicly owned, be of state or regional significance, and be a capital project--meaning it has to be "bricks and mortar" and not for ongoing operation costs. The state raises money for these projects by selling general obligation bonds on the bond market. The state then pays the debt service to pay off the bonds over time. Read more . . .

With interest rates currently at historic lows, Minnesota has a tremendous opportunity make sorely needed investments in public infrastructure. As I’ve mentioned before, wastewater infrastructure has aged beyond its lifespan and our systems are on the brink of failure. The Legislature has received urgent and appropriate requests for our state colleges and universities, for our parks and trails, and for our correctional facilities. Notably, the Anoka Metro Regional Treatment Center and Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter – where some of the most vulnerable Minnesotans are treated – are due for major safety upgrades.

In January, the Governor recommended a package of projects valued at $1.4 billion, and recently the Senate recommended a bonding bill of $1.5 billion. Last week the Senate bonding bill failed by one vote. Bonding requires a three-fifths majority in each chamber of the Legislature to pass. The House majority has announced that their bill will total just $600 million but, inexplicably, they have yet to announce which projects are included in their proposal. With such a big gap between the Senate and House numbers - and without knowing what the House proposal even contains! - I have no idea how we're going to reach an appropriate compromise in a pubic, open, transparent way in the less than two weeks remaining in this session.

Transportation

I wish I had more to report on the issue of transportation. We’ve known for years that we needed to bring our system of roads and bridges up to standard for the next generation. We will spend around $6 billion over the next decade just to keep up repairs to our current infrastructure. Unfortunately, the House/Senate conference committee responsible for initiating work on these plans has devoted little time to its work. I will continue to advocate loudly for the roads, bridges, and public transit that we all rely on every day, and to shine a light on its insufficiencies and lack of foresight. It’s time we stopped bailing the boat and started working strategically for 21st century transportation.

Mental Health Month

May is National Mental Health Month; this observance to raise awareness and combat stigma was started in 1949 by Mental Health America. Many other mental health organizations now participate, including National Alliance on Mental Illness, the National Institutes of Health, and the American Psychological Association.

This year, Mental Health America is calling on individuals to share what life with a mental illness feels like for them (in words, pictures and video) by tagging their social media posts with #mentalillnessfeelslike. Tagged posts can be read (or shared anonymously) here: mentalhealthamerica.net/feelslike. Additionally, all month long, NAMI Minnesota is hosting a series of awareness events; check out their online calendar here.

As always, please send me your comments and questions about what’s happening at the Legislature. I love hearing from you.

Best regards,

JoAnn Ward

Minnesota House of Representatives  ·   100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Saint Paul, MN   55155   ·   Webmaster@house.mn