I hope fall is treating you well. Here’s an update on some items I’ve been working on both at the Capitol and across the state.
Getting to Saint Paul to directly share input with legislators can be a challenge for many folks, and time and distance often prevents them from making the trip. With this in mind, last week the Minnesota House held a “mini-session” in southeastern Minnesota, in-effect bringing the State Capitol to them. Public hearings and site visits were held in Winona, Rochester, Austin and surrounding communities to hear directly from residents and experts on a wide variety of issues. The Health and Human Services visited Mayo Clinic, the Higher Education Committee met with faculty and students at Winona State University, the Judiciary Committee met with local court officials, and so forth.
The Environment Finance Division boarded the Cal Fremling, Winona State’s floating classroom. It gives students the opportunity to learn directly on the Mississippi River in areas like biology, history, photography, economics, and others. We also visited Garvin Brook, a trout pond just outside Winona. Following restoration investments from the state’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, it now has a thriving fish habitat, and it was rewarding to see this first hand.
Capital Investment Tour
Last month, the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee toured northeastern Minnesota. It was the second of five such tours across the state for the committee as they gather information in preparation for a Bonding Bill in the 2020 legislative session. There are $5.3 billion worth of requests from state agencies and local units of government for infrastructure improvements. With low interest rates and an excellent state credit rating, it’s a good time to make robust investments in our public assets.
I was honored to have them visit the area I represent, with stops at the Silver Bay Veterans Home, the Split Rock Light House, and Lake Vermilion/Soudan Underground Mine State Park. It was a real treat to show my colleagues and staff over 2,000 feet below the surface.
The committee also heard presentations from the city of Babbitt on their wastewater treatment and campground proposals, the Voyageurs ATV Club’s efforts to expand trails, and proposed upgrades at the International Falls Airport.
Joining us was International Falls Mayor Bob Anderson, and just two days later, we learned he had passed away. I greatly enjoyed partnering with him as we worked together to deliver local priorities at the State Capitol. He was a consistent, effective advocate for International Falls who will be sorely missed.
The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) is seeking public input for a strategic plan that will guide funding from the state’s Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (state lottery proceeds) for the next six years. As a member of the LCCMR, I enjoy touring the state to visit proposals to restore habitat, protect water, and more as we work to allow our outdoor heritage to flourish while preserving our environment. Please take this short survey and share your thoughts; it's anonymous and takes less than five minutes. Your input will help drive this work as we invest approximately $61 million each year.
CWD Public Hearing
As we approach the deer hunting opener next month, we need to keep in mind the impact Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a fatal neurological disorder, is having on our state’s deer population. This past legislative session, lawmakers took some bipartisan steps to combat CWD, including additional inspections of deer farms, funding for additional research, and protocols outlining steps to take when CWD is discovered in a herd, but we still need to develop a comprehensive solution to address the disease. We also need to move forward with everyone’s voice at the table, and on Tuesday, October 29, the Minnesota House and Senate Environment and Natural Resources Finance Committees will jointly meet to get an update on the topic. We’ll also receive an update on Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD), another condition which this September has been discovered in deer within Houston and Stearns counties.