Greetings as we put the wraps on another busy week at the Capitol. Before we get to official business, I want to send out a big “attaway” to the Zwilling family and ICE Fest for raising $15,000 for the Flyer Pride Pack weekend food program.
Here’s the latest from this week in St. Paul:
Bill to fund broadband expansion
I am authoring a bill this session that would provide $100 million to improve high-speed internet access for unserved and underserved areas of the state. I have been a strong supporter of broadband expansion throughout my first six years in the House and have successfully authored previous legislation to fund Minnesota’s Border to Border Broadband Development Grant Program.
We’ve had great success with this Border to Border program and I am optimistic that we will be able to provide even more to expand rural internet service. Sometimes metro legislators seem to forget there are areas of the state such as ours that still are lacking in terms of access to high-speed internet. That makes it difficult for us to keep up with the rest of the world in this era of technology and it’s why I have been working so hard to expand broadband and patch up those black holes in service.
Students, local governments, the health care industry and Main Street businesses are just some of the entities which need fast, reliable internet connections to succeed.
The Border to Border program was launched in 2014 and covers up to 50 percent of a project’s infrastructure costs, with a maximum amount of $5 million per request. Reports indicate that, through the 2017 grant cycle, $85 million from the state program has invested $85 million in broadband improvements, providing service to nearly 34,000 households, almost 5,200 businesses and 300 community institutions.
Funding the Legislature provided for this program in 2018 fell victim to then-Gov. Mark Dayton’s veto of an omnibus bill.
Line 3 in court
Governor Tim Walz announced this week he is challenging the Enbridge Line 3 replacement pipeline in court. He filed a petition for reconsideration against the unanimous decision by the Public Utilities Commission to grant the certificate of need for the pipeline.
It is disappointing the governor is not taking a stand in support of replacing this aging pipeline. Just this week, the Star Tribune reported that safety officials are concerned by increased oil train traffic coming in from Canada. The article specifically cited "pipeline limbo" as a factor that is partially to blame for the increase in rail traffic.
I was happy to support 2017 legislation which successfully lowered premiums on the individual markets two years in a row thanks to our reforms and nation-leading reinsurance program. Although members of the previous minority were critical of this plan before, I am pleased to see they have come full circle and are proposing to extend reinsurance for three years.