It’s been another busy week at the Legislature as we approach the second of three deadlines for us to move bills through committees. Yesterday, the House Environment Committee passed this year’s funding for Explore Minnesota Tourism to support Minnesota’s tourism, hospitality, resort, convention, and campground industries. Over the past year, the Grand Portage band has been harshly impacted as 93% of their tourism usually comes from Canada, which has disappeared due to the border closure. I successfully amended the bill to include $250,000 for a grant to the Grand Portage band to help them navigate these difficult times.
Earlier today, the House Industrial Education and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee approved my bill to invest $120 million over the next two years in Border-to-Border Broadband Grants. Over the last year, we’ve seen how much Minnesotans depend on reliable, high-speed internet access, including students, business owners, and people accessing telehealth services, just to name a few. The bill now heads to the House Ways and Means Committee for consideration.
The sudden closure of the Verso paper mill in Duluth last year devastated our logging industry. About half of all spruce and balsam harvested through DNR timber permits had previously been destined for Verso to be processed, so when the mill closed, demand for wood fiber products plummeted overnight. To add insult to injury, loggers were already on the hook for down payments they made for their DNR permits. To give this industry a helping hand, I have a bill to deliver over $1 million toward down payment refunds and to allow loggers to extend their timber permits two years.
Minnesota’s logging and paper products industries aren’t only important toward the success of northern Minnesota’s economy, they also play a key role in responsible forest management. KBJR recently aired a story about our efforts to help this critical industry recover.
Here’s a reminder about the Virtual Town Hall Meeting I’m hosting on Tuesday, March 30 at 6 p.m. via Facebook Live. This will be a good opportunity for everyone in the region to gather, albeit virtually, near the halfway point of the legislative session. Most of all, I look forward to answering your questions, which I invite you to submit ahead of time here.
Please join us over on my Facebook page for this nonpartisan event to discuss what’s happening in Saint Paul.
This past Monday, Governor Walz rolled-back a series of business and gathering restrictions aimed at mitigating COVID-19. This was a good step forward for Minnesota small businesses and will help them rebound from the hardship they’ve felt over the past year. Minnesotans have made some pretty big sacrifices to prevent the virus from spreading and to keep people safe, and now as we move into spring, it’s time to let more bars, restaurants, entertainment venues and other businesses freely operate and to allow more activities to resume. As COVID case numbers continue to drop and more folks receive the vaccine, I’m confident we can soon put this crisis behind us once and for all.
More information on the changes is available here.
Last year shortly after COVID-19 emerged, lawmakers quickly approved a package of emergency economic assistance. This legislation included emergency aid for veterans and their surviving spouses who have been impacted by the pandemic. There is still funding available, but the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has announced that it’s running out. If you are eligible, please contact your County Veterans Service Officer as soon as possible to apply.
Please continue to contact me with your feedback and ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.