Dear Friends and Neighbors,
We survived the extreme temperatures this week and I look forward to this weekend when temperatures are forecasted to increase by some 70 degrees!
The cold didn’t stop legislative activity in St. Paul this week as committees continued meeting and hearing proposals. In this week’s update, I’ll touch on the latest news with the Mesabi Metallics project, fill you in on a few bills I am coauthoring, and highlight local visits to the Capitol.
DNR to ban Essar
The week started with a briefing by the DNR to our Iron Range legislative delegation regarding Mesabi Metallics. Last week the DNR notified Mesabi Metallics they are in violation of the lease agreement with the State which called for the commencement of construction of the HBI plant in Nashwauk by the end of 2018. Penalties call for a doubling of rents, royalties, and minimum base payments.
And, on Monday, newly appointed DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen notified the company that the state is beginning the process of banning the Essar mining company and its affiliates from doing business in the state of Minnesota. In the letter, the DNR cited a long and troubled history working with Essar, including its failure to meet milestones mandated in state mineral leases, its failure to pay contractors, and unpaid debt to Itasca County and the state. As you may have read in recent news reports, Essar Global had been seeking to become involved in the Nashwauk project once again, causing concern among local contractors and officials.
In my conversations with people in our communities, I’ve heard from many of you about the need for further tax relief and this continues to be a priority for me here at the capitol. Minnesota is a highly taxed state and people are making decisions to move elsewhere, especially in retirement.
A priority of mine in this area is eliminating state taxes paid by senior citizens on social security benefits. We’ve taken promising steps in the past to phase out taxes on social security benefits and this year, I am coauthoring legislation to completely eliminate these taxes. I will be a strong advocate for this bill this session as it is important that we join the many other states that allow seniors living on a fixed income to keep more of their social security benefits.
I am also coauthoring a bill to eliminate the state property taxes paid by commercial and industrial taxpayers. This bill would provide a boost to local economies and is a key component to lessening the tax burden faced by businesses and industry in our community and across Minnesota.
As always, it was great to spend some time meeting with folks from our area during their visits to the Capitol this week. Thank you to everyone who braved the cold and made the trip down to St. Paul!
Itasca Community College Provost Bart Johnson stopped by during Minnesota State Colleges Day at the Capitol.
Senator Eichorn and I sat down with Grand Rapids City Councilman Rick Blake, City Administrator Tom Pagel, and City Engineer Matt Wegwerth to discuss Grand Rapids’ legislative interests.
Constituents from Grand Rapids joined me to discuss issues facing motorcyclists during the annual Biker Day at the Capitol put on by ABATE (American Bikers for Awareness, Training, and Education).
Constituents from Grand Rapids came by to discuss parental choice issues.
Please Contact Me
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions or concerns on any legislative issue. I value your input and enjoy hearing from you.
Have a great weekend,