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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL)

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Legislative Update-March 1, 2019

Friday, March 01, 2019
Dear Neighbors,
We have now reached the end of week eight of the legislative session, and time is flying by at the Capitol! Here are a few updates from this week:

Local Transportation

Friday morning was a big moment for several transportation projects that are critical for Champlin and Coon Rapids.  The House Transportation Committee had hearings on my bill to add a third lane to Highway 10 between Hanson Blvd and Round Lake Blvd, as well as my bill to take the first steps towards building a new bridge over the Mississippi River between Dayton and Ramsey.  Highway 10 has been in desperate need of improvement for years.  Traffic between Anoka and Blaine is a nightmare. 
I am particularly pleased at the progress we are making on the bridge bill.  For those who don’t know, this project has seen no movement at all in the last few decades.  In fact, the city of Dayton didn’t include the project in the first draft of their comprehensive plan last year!  But this is a priority for me and our community.  The 169 bridge over the river is already overcrowded and Dayton and Ramsey are both set to add thousands of new homes in the next few years.  

Pharmaceutical Bills

On Wednesday, the House Commerce Committee considered a number of bills related to the rising costs of prescription drugs.  I was particularly pleased to vote for bills that would make sure that pharmacists have the ability to tell consumers when they have the option of purchasing a cheaper generic.  Right now, pharmaceutical companies and PBMs will enter into contracts with pharmacists that prohibit the pharmacist from informing consumers that they could buy a cheaper generic.  These contracts are anti-competitive and should not be permitted.

Community Initiatives

In the State Government Finance Committee Tuesday morning we had a couple bills important to the city of Champlin, as well as communities around the state. I was very pleased to welcome Champlin City Administrator Bret Heitkamp to the Capitol to testify in favor of the bills.
The Champlin Ice Arena currently uses R22 as a refrigerant. The EPA has banned the sale of R22 effective in 2020. As a consequence, Champlin will need to replace its cooling systems in the Ice Arena at a cost of $1.8 million. The city has been budgeting for this for years, but that is still a very hefty burden for our community to bear. As I said many times this fall, we need to be doing a better job of getting our fair share of state support so we can keep local property taxes down.
The bills heard would allocate a total of $7 million to a state grant program that would help cities around the state make the transition away from R22. Statewide, there are over 20 community ice arenas that will have to make similar transitions.
I’m pleased to report that the committee had a positive reaction to the bills, in part due to Mr. Heitkamp’s compelling testimony. There is still a long road ahead, but this is a good first step.

Zack Stephenson
State Representative
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