Testing out a Polaris Slingshot before the Autocycle Bill passed the House Floor this week. The bill allows people to operate three-wheeled autocycles with a Minnesota driver's license instead of a motorcycle license.
Testifying about my Ka Joog Pilot Program Bill in the Jobs Committee earlier this month.
It has been a busy last couple weeks at the Capitol. Here is an update from St. Paul.
St. Cloud Airport Bill
On Monday, the Transportation Committee heard my legislation to fund an air transport optimization study of the St. Cloud Regional Airport. The bill would appropriate $500,000 to help develop models and strategies to maximize return on investments made to enhance the use and impact of our regional airport.
Brian Myres with the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation came down to the Capitol to testify on behalf of the bill. You can hear his testimony before the committee here.
Senate DFL Budget Targets and Transportation
Last week, the Senate DFL majority unveiled their proposed budget targets for the 2016 session, dedicating less than four percent of our state's $900 million surplus to transportation. With so little coming from the surplus, they are unfortunately joining Governor Dayton in a push for the largest gas tax increase in state history. The proposal would force drivers to pay a minimum 16 cents more on a gallon of gasoline, a tax that will increase as the price of gas goes up.
I have heard from numerous folks in my district opposed to this gas tax. Many fear the financial impact it would have on family budgets and for workers with long commutes. I am still supportive of the House Republican plan that uses existing tax revenue from transportation related taxes like car parts and auto repairs, coupling it with a portion of the $900 million surplus and bonding. In total, the plan would fix 15,500 lanes miles of road and 330 bridges statewide.
Last week, House Republicans unveiled a series of proposals to increase broadband access throughout Minnesota. The plan totals $35 million and combined with federal Connect American Funds, would be a historic broadband infrastructure investment in Minnesota.
Included in the plan is $7 million to improve broadband access for Minnesota students through new, innovative grant programs. It would also invest $28 million for rural broadband infrastructure investments which is important for families, small businesses, telemedicine and rural health care access in many parts of the state.
Our broadband proposal partners public and private dollars to expand access in unserved and underserved areas, and I am pleased House Republicans are advancing a comprehensive broadband proposal this session.
Fireworks Freedom Act
The House passed the bipartisan Fireworks Freedom Act recently which would make it legal to use bottle rockets, firecrackers and other aerial fireworks in Minnesota.
The bill differs from legislation passed a few years ago that was vetoed by the governor. To address some of Governor Dayton's concerns, this bill only allows for aerial and audible device fireworks to be sold from June 1 through July 10, and would give local governments to option to prohibit sales in their community or charge an annual license fee to sellers.
It's clear that Minnesota's prohibition on fireworks isn't working and every summer we hear people setting off fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July. What's more, our state loses approximately $5 million in sales tax revenue each year when people go across the border to neighboring states to buy them.
I voted in favor of the Fireworks Freedom Act and hope it is signed into law this year.
St. Cloud Day at the Capitol
The St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce put on a wonderful event Wednesday for St. Cloud Day at the Capitol.
Thank you to everyone who traveled down to St. Paul to share more about our community with state leaders! Your voices are instrumental in passing legislation that benefits our community at the legislature, and I appreciate you sharing your priorities with us.
It’s an honor to be your voice at the Capitol.