As we slowly transition to Spring, we’re approaching the midpoint of the 2021 legislative session. It’s been extremely busy at the Capitol (through virtual means) as we work to help Minnesotans recover and rebound from COVID-19. In Washington, President Biden signed the American Recovery Act, which includes resources to complement our efforts in Saint Paul. Here’s an update.
On Saturday, March 27 at 10 a.m., you’re invited to join fellow Iron Range Representative Dave Lislegard and me for a Virtual Town Hall & Community Conversation. We’ll plan to give a brief update on the status of the legislative session, and after that, answer questions from constituents about issues that matter to you.
The event will be held virtually on Facebook Live. The event is nonpartisan and all of our Iron Range constituents are welcome to join us. Attendees are strongly encouraged to submit their questions ahead of time on the form accessible here.
We’re looking forward to a respectful and informative conversation as we look ahead to the final weeks of the legislative session. I hope you can join us!
All session, I’ve been working on legislation to help more businesses and industries safely resume operations again with restrictions removed. Late last week, the House Subcommittee on Legislative Process Reform approved my legislation to help restaurants, event centers, bars, and other businesses open up with restrictions eased. The bill sets risk factors that correspond to various levels of restrictions based on COVID-19 metrics. The risk levels would be updated every two weeks based on health care data. This legislation will help put our businesses on the path to economic recovery from the impact COVID-19 has had over the past year.
Today, Governor Walz is set to announce a significant “turn of the dials” regarding capacity limits and other restrictions. We will continue to work on solutions to help small businesses, workers, and families have the opportunity to once again thrive.
The news regarding the COVID-19 vaccine continues to get better all the time. This week, the governor announced we’ve surpassed the 70 percent benchmark of seniors receiving the vaccine and the next phases of groups eligible to receive their vaccine.
In total, about 1.8 million folks will be eligible to get their shots including these priority groups:
Minnesotans in the next tier group will also be eligible:
If you haven’t yet, be sure to sign up to the state’s Vaccine Connector to receive an alert when you’re eligible and connect you to vaccine opportunities. Demand continues to exceed supply, but as we receive more doses, more Minnesotans will be able to get their shots, and we can hopefully return to normal soon.
Here are updates on some of the bills I’ve offered that have received recent committee hearings:
Last Thursday, the House Education Finance Committee held a hearing on my bill to clarify the statewide concurrent enrollment teacher training program, and increase its funding. Minnesota’s Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) programs take a number of forms, including concurrent enrollment, which often goes by the name of “college in the schools.” Instructors in these programs are most often high school teachers specially trained by the sponsoring college or university. This legislation will ensure Minnesota students can take the path that’s best for them in high school, and will ensure teachers are qualified to deliver lessons at the level required of them.
Also last Thursday, the House Property Tax Division held a hearing on legislation I’ve authored to the city of Floodwood to impose a half-percent local sales tax to fund their city-wide street and infrastructure project. The proposal would be put before voters, and if approved, would enable the city to raise up to $1.25 million to improve streets and related infrastructure. Floodwood is a small community, without a large property tax base, and while there aren’t any great options, a small local sales tax will help the city fix deteriorating roads and meet the needs of the community.
This past Tuesday, the House Education Finance Committee held a hearing on my bill to update transportation sparsity revenue. The state’s pupil transportation sparsity formula is based primarily on students per square mile. As a result, some districts with significant populations in their cities, but with a relatively large total area to serve, find that their pupil transportation expenses significantly exceed their transportation sparsity aid. The bill increases the portion of a school district’s unfunded pupil transportation expenses that are funded through state aid from 18.2 percent to 70 percent of the unfunded amount.
Wednesday, the House Taxes Committee held a hearing on my bill to provide sales tax exemption on materials, supplies, and equipment for the Hibbing Public Schools’ ECFE center and Cheever Field athletic center construction projects. Our school districts have been greatly impacted during COVID, and while it’s important to help our learners rebound now, we also need to look ahead to ensure we can deliver the best experience possible for students, which includes important capital investments like these two.
Please continue to contact me with your input, ideas, or if I can ever be of assistance. It’s an honor to represent you.