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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Cal Bahr (R)

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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE FROM REP. CAL BAHR - DISTRICT 31B

Friday, April 09, 2021

Omnibus Bill Process

This week was "Final Deadline" week - which means all the Finance Committees presented their wish list/compilations from their collected works of the session for mark-up and submission of the final Omnibus bill to the Ways & Means Committee.

If you find this confusing, I put together this video explainer:

Omnibus Bill Video

 

Transportation Issues

While various committees had different levels of member participation in bill assembly and editing, the Transportation Finance & Policy Committee had nearly 9 hours of discussion this week focused on the DE2 Amendment to HF 1684 presented by Chair Hornstein.

I offered several amendments to try to highlight some of the most egregious problems in the legislation as presented. The first was the A4 Amendment to remove the gas tax escalator that Chair Hornstein included due to his frustration over the lack of support for a gas tax increase. This language would shift responsibility for assigning revenue increases from the Legislature to the Commissioner of Transportation via an automatic annual adjustment based on the cost of road construction projects. This cannot be considered a 'compromise position' as the Chair insisted as it is actually WORSE than a one-time vote to increase a tax. It is the perpetual abdication of the responsibility to budget that is assigned to legislators. Democrats have never made the connection that the refusal to assign additional funds from gas taxes is due to their lack of responsible budgeting with what has already been given. My amendment would have removed that change in revenue escalation and returned that responsibility back to legislators. You can click the image below to listen to the full discussion of the A4 amendment.

gas tax escalator


My second amendment was the A11 Amendment that would specify the decommissioning of the Northstar Commuter Rail line. Any attempt to defend continued spending on this boondoggle - not to mention EXPANDING it to St. Cloud - at this point, shows how little Democrats care about how much of your money they will spend to benefit the few - and fewer and fewer. This conversation will definitely be ongoing as the Senate has included a similar provision in their Omnibus Transportation package. Again, click the image below to hear the entire discussion on this amendment.

Decommission NorthStar Graphic


My last amendment for this bill was in regard to the provision to include the construction of a "land bridge" to reconnect the Rondo Neighborhood of St. Paul. Testimony on this proposal was heard several weeks ago about how the construction of Interstate 94 through downtown had decimated a once highly prosperous, mostly black commercial and residential area by condemning a huge portion of generational businesses and dividing the neighborhoods in half. It was actually a very stark depiction of how destructive the power of government can be.

No matter how many 'rebuilding' projects we funded, or bridges put in place after the fact, the truth is that we can NEVER restore what was taken away from those families, from that community and from the experience of the St. Paul and, even greater, Minnesota history. But we can try to make sure it can't happen again.

What was missing from this proposal was language that would restrict the use of Eminent Domain in these type of transportation & transit projects to only those that would be supported by the representative government assigned the responsibility of being a voice for the people. Administrative bureaucracy is not elected and is not beholden to the voters in that way. I presented the A12 Amendment as a method that would leave the Eminent Domain process intact but would provide an upper threshold for how much the tool could be used by transportation and transit planners on a single project before they would need to receive approval from legislators to continue. The immediate push-back from those agencies in attendance despite how few situations they presented where it would be a factor shows exactly how ingrained this process is in the thinking of the bureaucracy. For them, it is purely property acquisition without any thought of the livelihoods and histories that are destroyed in the process. If we don't assign some sort of boundaries, this situation could and WILL happen again to some other community.

Click the image below to hear the committee discuss the amendment.

Condemned Graphic


My amendments may not have passed, but we had important discussions about the direction that this work needs to go. Chair Hornstein provides a forum for much more discussion than many of the other committees assembling omnibus bills - by contrast, the Commerce Committee had one day of bill language presentation from staff and 10 minutes of 'mark-up' when one attempted amendment from the committee was immediately shot down and no further discussion was even broached.

And rest assured, I will be offering these amendments again on the House floor when these bills are brought to the entire body for approval.

Choose Freedom,

CalSig

Cal Bahr
State Representative, 31B

Coming up Next Week

  • As the majority of the Committee work is completed for the session, we will now begin bringing the Omnibus spending bills to the floor for debate. This will all start next week and then, whichever bills are approved by the House will move into Conference Committee discussions with the Senate.
  • Speaker Hortmann is increasing the number of bodies she will allow to be on the House floor during debate. I would say she is "loosening the reins" but in fact, she is maintaining as tight a hold as ever and merely granting us minor bodies the privilege to leave our homes or offices in slightly more numbers than before. If you had ever wondered why there were so few people on camera during floor debates, it is because we aren't allowed to be there.
  • I have received a lot of calls and emails from my community about HF 604 - the mask mandate. Let me assure you that I do not support the mandatory wearing of masks and will be voting against any bill that would require you to wear one.

Contact:

We are still attempting to provide regular contact remotely regardless of our COVID-19 restrictions so If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us - please email my Legislative Assistant, Barbara, at barbara.smith@house.mn.

Watch the Minnesota House on Public TV

Video: Streaming Website. Also you can watch committees and Floor Sessions on YouTube.