Greetings from the Capitol. Before we look at this week’s developments in St. Paul, I’d like to congratulate the Paynesville High School speech team for taking first place among small schools at a recent Maple Lake meet. Nice job, PHS speech team!
Fixing Highway 23 funding holdup
One of the biggest headlines from the Capitol this week has some local ties: A bill has been enacted which provides $105 million to make Highway 23 a continuous four-lane road between St. Cloud and Willmar, closing two gaps between the cities.
This Corridors of Commerce project initially was approved during the 2018 session and was to be financed by Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources bonds. Construction has been delayed as a result of bill language issues the new legislation (H.F. 80) rectifies by sourcing traditional general obligation bonds.
I was not yet a member of the House when the 2018 legislation was approved, but was pleased to be part of putting forward a solution this year. Highway 23 is such an important roadway for not only the citizens who live here, but also for freight haulers, people traveling through the area for recreational purposes and others. These bottlenecks on 23 have caused headaches for travelers and pose serious safety threats. I am happy we were able to move this bill forward and make this technical fix so we can finally start moving dirt on this project.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation indicates all but 15 of the 53 miles Highway 23 stretches between St. Cloud and Willmar have been constructed as a four lanes. The two exceptions are where the road shrinks to two lanes between New London and Paynesville, and between Paynesville and Richmond.
Supporting mental health for farmers
The full House also approved a bill (HF 232) to provide $100,000 in additional funding to support mental health initiatives for farmers. Recent suicide attempts created urgency in providing this additional funding for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. At that point, a new two-year budget is set to be enacted to provide further resources. Farming is a stressful business and that can take a toll on a person directly as well as their family. I am pleased we took this step.
Assisting child care providers
Bills I have personally authored continue making their way through the committee process, including a bill (H.F. 1665) which establishes an Office of Ombudsman for child care providers to address concerns and assist child care provider.
The gist of this bill is that child care providers face many obstacles to providing quality care – especially when it comes to government regulations and oversight. In the vast majority of cases, our providers intend to comply with regulations. Sometimes those rules set by government are unclear or specific cases may need further review.
We can’t afford to regulate our child care providers into extinction and, while there certainly are questions that could be raised over regulations that may be unnecessary/overly burdensome, the least government can do is provide a better line of communication for rules that are on the books today. That is what my bill accomplishes, helping providers understand regulations and allowing our government to deliver a better brand of customer service. This bill was the subject of a committee hearing this week. It was a good discussion with solid feedback and now we are on to the next committee. Stay tuned…
Closing criminal sex loophole in schools
Another bill (H.F. 491) I have authored which continues through the committee process would close a criminal sex loophole in our schools. Click here for more on that bill, which received an Education Policy Committee hearing and has been referred to the next committee stop. I will keep you posted on this bill’s progress.
Have a good weekend and, as always, your input on the issues is welcome.