Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I write to you this week with some legislative news from the Capitol, including info on the governor’s State of the State address, Broadband Day at the Capitol, and this year’s bonding bill.
State of the State Address
On Wednesday evening, Governor Walz delivered his first State of the State Address. His speech called for compromise in order to deliver results for Minnesotans. We both share the same goal of making Minnesota a better place to call home, and I look forward to finding common ground as we work to assemble a responsible state budget that respects taxpayers’ pocketbooks. I’m also hopeful he will understand the importance of the Line 3 replacement pipeline and drop his challenges to this hugely beneficial project.
I was joined by Senator Justin Eichorn (both of us wearing our Go Line 3 buttons) at my desk for the speech.
Broadband Day at the Capitol
Wednesday was also Broadband Day at the Capitol. It was great seeing so many energized broadband advocates from around the state visiting the Capitol to show their support and communicate to lawmakers the importance of broadband expansion. I’m championing legislation this year to provide $70 million over the next two years (and $15 million this year) for rural broadband funding around the state.
Access to quality broadband is a critical infrastructure need for rural communities like ours. Broadband expansion will help small businesses grow, allow residents to work from home, and expand educational opportunities in rural schools. This is a high priority for me this year, and I am hopeful we’re able to secure this crucial funding before the end of session.
I serve on the House Capital Investment (bonding) Committee, which is tasked with assembling legislation to help local communities statewide fund needed construction projects, such as roads and bridges or water infrastructure. Bonding bills are usually the focus during non-budget years. This year is a budget year, meaning the legislature’s main priority is assembling a state budget for the next two years. During budget years, if the legislature passes a bonding bill at all, it’s generally much smaller than the upwards of $1.5 billion bonding bill we’ve heard the governor and House Democrats talk about.
Bonding bills are an important part of helping communities in rural Minnesota fund their priorities. However, such a large bonding package – especially in a non-bonding year – would be irresponsible spending. In addition, the governor has already signed into law a smaller bonding bill of $102 million this session. It’s imperative that we account for these dollars as we consider another bonding bill in these finals weeks.
Passing a bonding bill this year will require bipartisan support. Once both parties’ legislative leaders agree on spending targets, I look forward to working with Democrats to identify priorities and agree on a responsibly-sized bill that helps fund needed projects while keeping government spending and borrowing under control.
Drivers Licenses for Undocumented (illegal) Immigrants
Up until now, we have avoided meeting in floor session on Fridays. Today that changes as we meet on the floor at noon to hear HF 1500 which proposes to provide Minnesota drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. This is the only bill on the calendar. It is highly controversial and will receive a thorough vetting on the floor.
At the Capitol
So cool to have Erik George (son of Tim and Beth George), high school junior from Grand Rapids, at the Capitol this week serving as a page on the House floor. Interesting side note: Erik is the nephew of Rep. Mike Sundin
Gary Wargin and Guy Priley from Verso in Duluth stopped by today to tell me about a promising opportunity for the paper mill to expand its product mix.
Great conversation today with this group from the Grand Rapids FFA.
Distracted drivers will become a thing of the past with driverless vehicles! On Tuesday MnDot was at the Capitol providing automated vehicle rides. This automated research vehicle is from VSI Labs in St. Louis Park.
Had an energetic discussion Wednesday with the International Union of Operating Engineers.
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 would love to hear from you.
Have a great weekend,