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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Paul Torkelson (R)

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Friday, June 19, 2015

After years of being left behind at the hands of big city lawmakers, Minnesota House Republicans insisted on prioritizing Greater Minnesota this session while crafting a new state budget. You can see the results in nearly every budget bill that has been signed into law, including our agriculture, environment, capital investment, and jobs proposals.


The greatest call for help we heard this session was from our poultry farmers. The avian flu outbreak has devastated those who raise turkeys and chickens as more than nine million birds have been impacted on farms across 23 Minnesota counties.


The legislature acted by allocating nearly $23 million to state agencies in order to better prevent and respond to this epidemic. It also provided resources to create a poultry testing laboratory in Willmar and a veterinary isolation facility in St. Paul, which will be critical in helping our state address future diseases that are spread among animals.


We also heard from Greater Minnesota job providers who have employment openings but do not have the qualified workers needed to fill those positions. Their communities are also struggling to offer them a place to live.


In response, we allocated millions of dollars to jumpstart the workforce housing market, fund broadband grants, and provide job training. We also provided funds to create rural career counselors in Greater Minnesota, ensuring that education and training investments meet the needs of community employers.


In the environment area we were told by business owners and residents alike that overbearing state government agencies were making it difficult to conduct business. This is why we made changes to the way the DNR and MPCA interacts with regulated parties on the environmental review and enforcement process.


There's also funding to incentivize cities with fewer than 45,000 residents to implement single-stream and other recycling programs, and revenue for counties to help treat, enforce, and prevent aquatic invasive species in their waterways.


The House also prioritized the continuation of a clean water pipeline in the southwestern corner of the state, flood prevention measures near the northwestern region, unemployment benefits for the steel workers on the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota, and the progression of an economic development project in Rochester that will ultimately benefit tens of thousands of workers in southeastern Minnesota. Plus, rural communities with fewer than 5,000 residents will soon have a new statewide revenue source to assist them with street repair projects.


While significant funding increases for rural schools and nursing homes will rightfully receive most of this session's accomplishment headlines, there are many provisions within all of our budget bills that positively impact Greater Minnesota. And after years of focusing solely on the wants of the Metro Area, House Republicans have begun to enact an agenda that prioritizes the needs of rural Minnesota.