Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Happy Spring! We could finally see temps hit the 60s in the next few days. It’s been a long time coming and I’m sure most of us are anxious to put those winter coats away for a few months.
In St. Paul, things continue to move quickly. We have just over a month left in the legislative session, and today was the third and final deadline to wrap up our large (omnibus) bills. In this week’s update, I wanted to keep you informed on my provisions in these bills, as well as a few other items.
Helping Local Registrars
Yesterday, the House passed an important bill to aid deputy registrars who’ve incurred numerous costs following the failed rollout of the new vehicle licensing system, MNLARS. The bill from Rep. Dave Baker utilizes $9 million to help registrars recoup these costs that came about through no fault of the registrars. This will have a big impact in our area as registrars in Deer River, Grand Rapids, Pine River, and Remer will see some much-needed relief.
Jobs and Energy
We’ve been working for months on our individual bills, and now is a time of session where some of these smaller provisions are put into larger proposals called omnibus bills. These vary by subject area from agriculture, to education, to taxes and everything in between. I’m happy to see a number of my bills included in these proposals.
Our Job Growth and Energy bill has a number of my provisions in it. 2018 is not a budget year and so there is very little new money available and lots of demand for the surplus that we do have. And so I am especially pleased that, while the Jobs and Energy Committee was allocated just $15 million in new general fund money, the entire $15 million will go toward expanding broadband connections across Minnesota. Broadband through fiber, wireless and other technologies provides the means to engage and compete globally. And, let’s face it, today much of our lives is lived online. Those who are not connected are sidelined. We’re seeing significant steps in the right direction, and the $15 million in our bill will help to continue our push for increased internet access.
Also included in our jobs bill is non-general fund appropriations for two important initiatives in our area that come from legislation I authored. The first is $600,000 from the Renewable Development Account for NRRI to develop and demonstrate bio-mass conversion technology and advanced biogas technologies from their Coleraine lab. The second is $750,000 for the City of Deer River to improve their sewer and water system which is essential for any future development to occur within the city. This funding was made available by reducing funding in other areas.
My bill to provide more dollars to grant-in-aid snowmobile trails is included in our Environment and Natural Resources bill. This legislation would use existing dollars to direct more funding support to maintaining our state’s snowmobile trails. Snowmobiling is such a popular recreational hobby and important tourism industry - especially in our area – and I know my bill could help improve Minnesota trails for all.
As Vice Chair of Legacy, I have the opportunity to work in the areas of arts, culture and history in addition to preservation and enhancement of our great outdoors. As we finalized our Legacy bill this week, I offered and passed an amendment to the bill which will provide the funding and leadership over the next two years to commemorate and celebrate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment in the year 1920. What is the 19th amendment? It was the amendment that allowed women the right to vote! It is hard to believe that just 100 years ago I would not have had the privilege of voting in Minnesota or in any other state. Minnesota’s celebration will place special emphasis on the role of Minnesotans in the Suffrage movement.
This Week’s Visits
As always, thank you to everyone who came to St. Paul to visit. This week, I, along with several of my northern Minnesota legislative colleagues, met with business and industry leaders from Grand Rapids and Bemidji who organized Forestry Day on the Hill. I also got to chat with Jennifer Tepley of Remer who was here with Moms Demand Action and with Itasca County Administrator Brett Skyles who was helpful in reviewing a number of timely issues facing us here and in Itasca County. What a great week to hear new ideas and talk about issues facing Minnesota!
Please Contact Me
If you have any questions or just want to share your ideas, please call or email my office; I enjoy hearing from you.
Enjoy your weekend!