Minnesota House of Representatives


State Representative JoAnn Ward

231 State Office BuildingState Office Building
100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

For more information contact: Susie Merthan 651-296-2955

Posted: Mar 16 2015 2:43PM
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Legislative Update - March 16, 2015

Dear friends,
Railroad Oil Disaster Act
As the oil boom continues in North Dakota, more and more oil from the Bakken makes its way through our backyard as it is shipped to the Eastern and Southern US. This boom has created a danger for Minnesota communities that are along oil train lines, some running through St. Paul.
Oil trains traveling through our communities present a growing public safety concern that we need to address quickly. Last month, a train that had traveled through Minnesota spilled nearly three million gallons of oil in a train derailment in West Virginia, leading to major fires and the evacuation of hundreds of families. Just last week, another train that had run through Minnesota derailed and exploded in Illinois, leading to major fires. There have been five oil train explosions in the last five weeks in the US and Canada. According to the US Department of Transportation, these accidents are likely to become more frequent, as more and more oil is shipped by rail.
Legislators recently introduced the Railroad Oil Disaster Act to reduce the likelihood of an oil train disaster, improve public safety and fire preparedness along rail corridors, and provide property tax relief to communities confronting issues of rail safety. I strongly support this legislation, and hope that we can move quickly with bipartisan support to address this serious threat to public safety and the environment.
Invasive Plant Feature: Oriental Bittersweet
The spread of invasive plant species poses a serious threat to Minnesota’s environment. Non-native species threaten Minnesota’s native plants and animals. One of the most dangerous non-native invasive plant species in Minnesota is the “Oriental Bittersweet.” This vine spreads rapidly, wrapping itself around trees and choking out native species of plants. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources lists Oriental Bittersweet as a “Prohibited Noxious Weed,” which means that the plant must be destroyed wherever it is found. You can find more information on identifying and reporting this dangerous threat to the environment at
Christopher Columbus Bill
A bill has been introduced to change the inscription on a statue of Christopher Columbus outside of the Capitol to “Landed in America.” The inscription currently reads “Discoverer of America,” but some groups want to remove the entire statue. They argue that Columbus didn’t “discover” America, as there were already Native Americans here. However, some people feel that it is disingenuous to our history to change the inscription, and want it left as is. Clearly there is not agreement on the issue, but the bill was generated by Native Americans who simply want this change to clarify Columbus' place in history. The changing of the inscription is just on one statue, but proponents say that getting this conversation started is important.
As always, please contact me anytime with comments, concerns or questions you may have. I can be reached by phone at 651-296-7807 or by email at rep.joann.ward@house.mn.
JoAnn Ward

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