Greetings Friends and Neighbors,
The focus at the House this week has been on conducting committee hearings in advance of today's deadline for legislation to make preliminary progress in committees in order to remain viable for passage later this session.
This includes a hearing for H.F. 2847, a bill I have authored to conduct safety improvements on U.S. Highway 12 in our area. The turnout of citizens for the bill's hearing was tremendous – the committee room was overflowing with supporters – and I thank all the people who took time out of their busy schedules to come to the capitol to testify, or to simply be engaged observers on this important matter. The presence of everyone who attended was impactful and stunned committee members.
As I mentioned in a previous update, a recent safety audit report conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) highlights the importance of this legislation. Crash data for 38 miles of Highway 12 shows an extraordinary quantity of severe and fatal crashes on the most eastern five-mile portion of the study area between Wayzata and Delano. This includes 21 fatalities during the preceding 62 months and hundreds of severe-injury crashes during the study period.
The bill was received well by the committee and has met all the requirements for inclusion in a transportation omnibus bill that is expected to take shape as the session progresses. The session is scheduled to adjourn in approximately six weeks, so we will know more about this bill's fate as we head into the final stretch in May. I will follow up as warranted. Thank you again to all the people from our region who attended the meeting and you can click here for more coverage from the Star Tribune.
Sophia's Law is another bill I chief-authored that received a committee hearing last week. The bill proposes to make available warning labels for used watercraft with enclosed cabins that pose a risk to its occupants from carbon monoxide poisoning. The bill also requires CO2 detectors on new watercraft with enclosed cabins. This applies to water vessels 16 feet in length or greater. A clearly-defined definition of an enclosed cabin requires a sleeping area, a galley or sink and a restroom facility. This legislation is the result of the tragic loss of life to a young 7-year-old on Lake Minnetonka last summer. The bill next heads to the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee.
The biggest news from the floor this week was legislation the House passed to repeal a state law which prohibits the state from researching and planning Real ID in our state. The state law prohibiting compliance remains on the books pending further legislative action, but the legislation we passed – and the governor enacted – allows us to only study and gain information and act accordingly.
This legislation requires the Department of Public Safety to conduct a study detailing cost, recommended legislative changes, and other implementation steps, and report back to the Legislature yet this session.
Even though Real ID applies to, among other things, boarding commercial domestic flights, citizens are encouraged to make travel plans as usual while the Legislature combs through this issue. The Department of Homeland Security has announced that enforcement of new standards to fly in our country will take effect no sooner than Jan. 22, 2018. Extensions can be granted until October of 2020.
On another final subject, fishing season is just around the corner and legislation has been introduced to address a handful of lakes in which the DNR plans to stock muskies. It is important to note the legislation only applies to a few specific lakes:
Roughly one-third of Minnesota's surface waters – in terms of acreage – already is home to muskies. The bill does not alter stocking practices in the vast majority of lakes, just those aforementioned waters where citizens in those locales have expressed significant objections to muskie stocking.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus