Before we get to this week's highlights from St. Paul, I want to remind people tomorrow (April 15) is the deadline for participating in a legislative survey I am conducting.
Please take a moment to weigh in on the issues if you haven't already done so. Here is the link. Submissions from the survey will be helpful in preparing for this session's bills that will come to the floor for a vote in the coming days and weeks. The questions touch on everything from the $900 million surplus to pipelines/mining, roads and bridges and more.
On Wednesday we unveiled a series of proposals that would increase high-speed Internet access throughout Minnesota, something that would be especially helpful in underserved regions of Greater Minnesota such as ours.
The proposal totals $35 million, including $7 million dedicated to improving broadband access for Minnesota students through new grant programs. School districts statewide could receive up to $100,000 for equipment and operating costs to improve broadband connectivity.
Along with broadband education related funding, we propose to spend an additional $28 million for rural broadband system expansion and upgrades. The funding focuses on unserved and underserved areas, as well as areas with large number of low-income households.
Coupled with the annual $85 million of federal "Connect America Funds" coming to Minnesota, this proposal will allow us to take a significant step forward in providing state-of-the-art broadband access to the residents of our part of Minnesota.
I also want to mention the Department of Commerce recently issued notice a series of public meetings will take place regarding the Sandpiper Pipeline and Line 3 replacement Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) scoping. A dozen meetings are scheduled so far, including one in District 10B (East Lake Community Center in McGregor 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 11).
This is an important issue to our region and I encourage citizens to attend to learn more about the proposed project and provide input. Staff from the Department of Commerce, PUC, and Enbridge/NDPC are scheduled to be available to answer questions. More information on this series of meetings is available at this link.