This week will complete the processing of legislative bills, with the governor having to act on the last of the bills that were sent to his desk at the close of the 90th Legislature. Yesterday, I was pleased to learn that Gov. Dayton signed the bonding bill into law.
The bill contains significant capital investment projects of statewide, regional and district importance. On a statewide basis it provided $25 million in school safety aid, which in view the governor’s vetoes last week of several hundred million dollars in other financial aid to schools. This funding will at least provide some assistance in improving school safety.
The bonding bill also included $28 million for up to six regional mental health crisis centers. We must rebuild our ability to deal with mental health issues. The $28 million will be available on a competitive basis to local governments that are willing to step forward and help establish regional level mental health service facilities.
Another $123 million was invested in clean water related projects that will allow our Public Facilities Agency (PFA) to provide grants and low interest loans to local communities to update their waste water, storm sewer and flood control systems.
There also is $416 million included for transportation. It is imperative that we continue to invest in bringing our roads and bridges up to the standards we expect as Minnesotans.
On the local level I was able to secure $1.5 million for a project to add a 58-mile Mille Lacs-Malmo East Loop to the Northwoods regional ATV trail system. That new ATV trail will add much needed diversification of the recreational opportunities on the east side of Mille Lacs Lake.
Despite having moved a second bill through the legislature to the governor’s desk in an effort to update the 45-year-old water quality sulfate standard that has never been implemented, the governor again vetoed this important legislation.
However, I was encouraged that on the same day of his veto the governor issued an executive order establishing a short-term Governor’s Task Force on Wild Rice that included a few elements of my bill.
I appreciate that executive order 18-08 does not leave us completely dead in the water, but my preference remains for a much more aggressive long term approach to providing both regulatory certainty and protecting wild rice.