ST. PAUL – Rep. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, revived legislation he authored to re-open the driver testing location in Fergus Falls and it received House approval on Wednesday.
Rasmusson said the closure of the Fergus Falls exam center amid COVID-19 has left many area residents having to travel 100 miles round trip to get to the nearest site. He also noted this has had major impacts on workers who require CDL and school bus licenses to access job opportunities, creating barriers to employment.
Rasmusson previously sought to re-open the Fergus Falls testing location by amending an omnibus transportation package in April. The House majority declined to accept his motion at the time but House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee Chair Rep. Frank Hornstein, D-Minneapolis, pledged to continue working with his Fergus Falls colleague on the issue.
"I also want to commend [Rasmusson] for being very responsive to your constituents and this is exactly the kind of information that we need to make good decisions. …,” Hornstein said on the House floor in April. “I'm committed to continuing to work with you, and I really want to get up to Otter Tail County. I want to commend you for your efforts."
That omnibus bill from the regular session never was enacted and an opportunity to revisit Rasmusson’s proposal arose during a special session which started June 14 to finish assembling a new state budget. Rasmusson said he continued working with Hornstein to ensure his proposal would be included in the second go-round and it was. A provision providing $3 million to re-open the Fergus Falls exam center and 92 others around Minnesota was included in SSHF 10, which was approved 112-21 on Wednesday.
The Senate was expected to follow suit and send the bill to Gov. Tim Walz for enactment.
“I am grateful to see the provision included in the final transportation package and thank Chair Hornstein for his willingness to hear me out on this proposal,” Rasmusson said. “It just shows that good things can happen when we put politics aside and focus on doing what’s best for Minnesotans. We kept working on this issue and, in the end, found a solution that will benefit people in Otter Tail County.”
Otter Tail County Board of Commissioners Chair Leland Rogness expressed his gratitude for the provision in a letter to the House and Senate transportation chairs. It reads, in part:
“In my capacity as Chair of the Otter Tail Board of Commissioners, I want to express my sincere appreciation for your dedication and commitment to ensuring the reopening of the Fergus Falls Driver’s Exam Center due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As you know, the closure resulted in significant impacts to our residents and area businesses. In visiting with employees from community education and human services, the closure disproportionately impacted our most vulnerable residents. The Transportation Budget Bill was welcome news to many people in our community and across Minnesota.”