We made progress in several areas this week. The House/Senate transportation conference committee continues to work on a long-range transportation funding plan. Dogged attempts to impose a major new gas tax remain a stumbling block, as well as determining how and who should pay for the mass transit element of metro transportation needs. We are not there yet, but making progress. The governor indicated today he will be releasing his revised transportation proposal on Monday.
My bill to allow the Aitkin County probation officer team to remain in place under the Community Corrections Act program was signed into law by the governor yesterday.
The House passed legislation I authored allowing Crow Wing County to place several parcels of tax-forfeited riparian land up for public sale. We also streamlined the ability to exchange or sell parcels of school trust land that are not producing appropriate revenue for our school trust fund. That should help facilitate exchanging thousands of acres of landlocked school trust parcels within our federal forests for other federal lands that we can better manage for income for our schools.
The Sunday off-sale liquor question came up this week. I voted for an amendment that would have allowed local units of government to make the decision on Sunday sales. After a lengthy floor debate the measure failed. I received a lot of advice both pro and con on this issue and greatly appreciate that. Based on that input, I supported the approach that Sunday sales should be decided by county boards and city councils.
That same day I found myself on the losing side of another issue. A bill to create a new state-appointed commission to oversee the Iron Range Resources & Rehabilitation Agency passed the House. A recent auditor report questioned the constitutionality of how the IRRRB is organized. The IRRRB is a state agency, however, area legislators, myself included, currently have a direct say on how some of that agencies funds are allocated and spent.
The reorganization proposal remains in doubt as the Senate still has a say in what happens on that issue. I opposed the bill not because we don’t need to make changes in this area, but rather because it makes no sense and further complicates the situation by creating a new appointed commission to oversee this agency. Adding more government to an already unwieldy and complicated structure is not going to resolve the issue of how this agency functions.
I hope you can join me at Big Sandy Lake and McGregor as our region hosts the Governor’s Fishing Opener this weekend. Here is a link with a rundown of this weekend's events. This is a great event that shows off our wonderful community. My thanks to all the volunteers that have worked so hard to make this a success.
Look for lots of news next week. Good luck fishing and please be safe!