We began this week with a hearing to discuss a local bill before the House Property and Local Tax Committee. The bill would allow the voters of Crosslake to decide by referendum if they want to put a half cent sales tax in place. The funds would go directly to upgrade the existing wastewater treatment plant and allow further extension of the municipal waste treatment system within the city limits.
I am pleased with the progress on this bill so far. Mayor Nevin and City Administrator Lyonais did an excellent job in making the case for this important project.
In other news, I joined Rep. Marion O’Neill as a co-author on HF2983, her “Mandatory Rape Kit Testing Bill.” Recent audits of untested rape kits across the state revealed thousands in storage at various police agencies. The Minneapolis Police Department alone recently reported discovering more than 1,700 untested kits in their custody.
This bi-partisan bill provides uniform standards on how these kits are handled and includes a provision that makes the State Bureau of Criminal Apprehension the responsible agency for management of the data generated related to these rape test kits. This will allow rape victims to track the status of their test kit and allow law enforcement to look across a centralized data base with respect to dealing with the crime of rape.
An attempt to replenish the Rural Finance Authority loan account was blocked by my DFL colleagues in the House on a strictly party line vote this week. We were notified the RFA account would run out of funds this week. The Rural Finance Authority assists farmers with operating loans that often part of the process of purchasing seed and fertilizer for the up-coming growing season.
This adds unnecessary financial stress to an industry already under extreme pressure from historically low market prices and an exceptionally harsh weather conditions during the 2019 harvest season. The RFA funding bill is currently plodding along with additional hearings scheduled and risks being lumped into the larger state bonding bill which will likely not be voted on until the end of May.
May is long after most farmers have planted their crops. I will continue to work to move this legislation forward. Like the rape test kit matter, immediate funding of the RFA should not be a partisan issue and left plodding along here in St. Paul.