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

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Legislative Update- March 22, 2019

Friday, March 22, 2019
Dear Neighbors,
Another busy week at the Capitol!  Here are a few highlights:

Working Towards a New River Crossing

One of my goals for this year is to make some meaningful progress on the longstanding need to build a new Mississippi River crossing between Ramsey and Dayton. Everyone in the northwest suburbs knows that a new river crossing is needed, but no progress has been made on this issue for almost 20 years.

This week, we took a big step forward. At my request, representatives from the cities of Champlin, Dayton, Ramsey, and Anoka, as well as Hennepin County, Anoka County, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation all sat around the same table to discuss the path forward. It’s going to be a long road, but I was encouraged that everyone agreed that it is time to have this conversation.

One of the most interesting outcomes of the meeting yesterday was that I received a copy of a previous report written on this issue in 2004. Even then (14 years ago!) the report concludes that a new crossing is necessary because of “congestion, lack of adequate mobility, lack of adequate accessibility, and reduced safety.” The report also says that without a new crossing, Highway 169 would need to be turned into a freeway and/or expanded to as much as eight lanes to handle the increase in traffic.

I’ve written before about my bill to fund a feasibility study for this river crossing. That bill, which received a hearing in the House Transportation Committee a few weeks ago, would be a great way to get the ball rolling. It would help us identify the steps that need to be taken in order to build the bridge, as well as help move the project up the priority list at MNDOT. I’m going to keep pushing that bill, and also look for other avenues to advance this project.

‘Hands-Free’ Cell Phone & Opioids

This week, the House passed two significant bills related to public safety and health. HF 50, the ‘hands-free’ cell phone bill, was approved on a broad bipartisan vote. All Minnesotans deserve to be safe on the roads and with distracted driving fatalities on the rise, this was long overdue. Many of you will remember that this bill was sponsored in past years by my predecessor, Mark Uglem. Mark was a Republican and I am a Democrat, but that doesn’t matter. Distracted driving kills. Our whole community owes a major thank you to Mark Uglem for his tireless advocacy for safer roads. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of this important bill and I was thrilled to vote for it.  
We also had the opportunity to hold the big pharmaceutical companies accountable for their contribution to opioid crisis sweeping across the nation. HF 400 funds addiction prevention, treatment, and recovery services through a new Opioid Stewardship Fund, which would come from fees paid by opioid manufacturers and distributors.

Clean Energy Transportation

Over the next few years, we have the opportunity to replace our dirty diesel buses with clean electric buses. Not only will this cut down on carbon emissions and air pollution, it will decrease operating costs for Metro Transit. We had a hearing on my bill to expedite that transition this week in the Energy Committee, you can read more here.

Keep in Touch

As we continue our work crafting an equitable state budget that works for everyone, please keep in touch. I’d love to hear your ideas, suggestions and feedback.
Zack Stephenson