Last spring, 6th grade students at Owatonna's Willow Creek Middle School and their teacher were discussing the renovation of the Minnesota State Capitol. The students wondered why there was not a plaque within the Capitol honoring those who had constructed it. During their class, they crafted a petition encouraging the creation of a plaque and when it was completed, contacted Senator Vicki Jensen and me to discuss it.
Based on their idea, I wrote legislation that would create a contest for 6th grade students from across the state to submit designs for the construction worker memorial plaque or marker which would ultimately hang in the Capitol.
On March 17, those students were able to testify about their idea before the Minnesota House Government Operations and Elections Policy Committee. They truly did an outstanding job, and the bill was approved and sent to the House State Government Finance Committee for continued debate. I will keep you posted on this bill's status as it makes its way through the committee process.
In other news, our transportation finance committee approved legislation that would allow Minnesota to prepare for the implementation of REAL ID. Currently Minnesota's licenses do not comply with the federal REAL ID Act, which is somewhat problematic as in 2018 our state will need to have REAL ID-compliant drivers' licenses in order for residents to board an airplane.
Feeling it was an invasion of privacy, Minnesota had previously approved a law barring Minnesota's Department of Public Safety from even discussing REAL ID compliance with Homeland Security. The measure approved in committee would simply eliminate that ban and allow the talking process to begin.
Speaking of transportation, the conference committee that will find a compromise on a long-term road and bridge funding solution met this week. We reviewed the two bills approved by the House and Senate and compared the differences, and discussed some of the changes that have occurred since we met last year.
But the biggest obstacle we will need to overcome is determining the funding source. In the House, lawmakers approved a plan that would provide nearly $7 billion to statewide road and bridge needs without raising anyone's taxes. Funding sources include reallocating revenue from a number of taxes that are already being collected, such as sales taxes on auto parts and rental cars; bonding, and general funds. Meanwhile the Minnesota Senate approved a plan that would ultimately raise the cost of gasoline by a minimum of 16-cents per gallon.
As session moves forward, I will be sure to keep you updated on our progress towards finding a long-term road and bridge funding solution.