First, I want to invite you to my Town Hall Meeting on Saturday, April 29th at 10:30 a.m. at the Shoreview Library (4560 Victoria Street North, Shoreview, 55126)! I hope you will be able to attend!
Legislators have returned to the Capitol this week from our spring recess. We have less than five weeks until the legislature must adjourn. Here’s an update on what’s been going on and what to expect:
Funding for Replacement of Rice Street Bridge
In the first days of session, I introduced a bill House File 125 that would secure the bonding dollars to replace the bridge at Rice Street and 694. This project has been in the works for years and been included in several previous bonding packages. Despite the hard work of previous legislators, the project has not yet become reality. Earlier this month, the bill received a hearing in the Transportation Finance Committee. I was excited to make the case to the committee about how important this project is for our community, as well as the entire region. Replacing the bridge is one of the last steps in a years-long effort to update and modernize the 694 corridor that is so vital to our area.
Beth Engum, Project Manager and Engineer from Ramsey County, presented HF 125 with me.
So Where is the Bonding Bill?
It’s been nearly two years since the legislature passed a statewide bonding bill for jobs and infrastructure. This is unfortunate, as the many bonding projects throughout Minnesota only become more expensive the longer we wait. Governor Dayton and the Senate have both released their bonding proposals this year, but with mere weeks left in the legislative session, House Republicans have yet to put forward any proposal. The bonding bill requires a supermajority, so it needs bipartisan support. I am concerned that we are running out of time this session and the bonding bill may be used as a bargaining chip in last-minute budget negotiations. I think this is a risky strategy and I will continue to push for a jobs and infrastructure bill that helps everyone in Minnesota.
Status of REAL ID Legislation
As you know, Minnesota is one of a few states that is not yet in compliance with federal REAL ID requirements. If we don’t pass legislation to bring our state’s driver’s licenses into compliance soon, Minnesotans will need a passport for air travel starting in January 2018. I have heard from many of you who are concerned that time is running out to get this done. I share your concerns!
This legislation is currently in conference committee. Prior to conference committee, several weeks ago, the House had the opportunity to accept the Senate version of the bill. The primary difference is that the Senate version does not include any language that is considered controversial regarding immigrants. I voted in favor of accepting the Senate version so that the bill could be sent to the Governor for signature. Unfortunately, this did not prevail and we now must wait for the conference committee to complete their work.
Conference Committees and the Legislative Session
The two weeks prior to our spring recess were filled with committee hearings and long nights of debating and voting on omnibus bills. This week joint House and Senate conference committees are getting together to work out the differences between their respective bills. As a starting point, I am hoping to see the House and Senate at least agree on “budget targets” as soon as possible so more meaningful negotiations can begin with specific details about what will be funded.
Here is information about and a list of all of the conference committees. The website includes links to the documents reviewed comparing the House and Senate versions (called “side by sides”). The website also includes the schedule for upcoming meetings and links to video and audio of past meetings.
If you haven’t done so yet, please make sure you participate in my online constituent survey! Here is the link, I really appreciate knowing your thoughts and priorities:
It is an honor to be your voice at the Capitol. Please do not hesitate to contact me about any issues or concerns you may have.
P.S: Don’t forget to forward this update to your friends and family. They can sign up to receive these updates here.