By Rep. Jordan Rasmusson
Kids are back at school, the days are a bit cooler and, yes, legislative issues continue to develop as we make our way through the interim season.
Here is a look at just some of the current points of interest:
Driver’s exam centers re-opening
State officials recently announced plans to reopen all 93 driver’s license exam stations to full capacity statewide after all but 14 were shuttered amid COVID-19. The Legislature earlier this year provided dedicated funding in fiscal years 2022 and 2023 to reopen these facilities – including the Fergus Falls location.
Constituents shared with me the challenges they were facing after the Fergus Falls exam center was closed, including posing hurdles for people needing CDL and school bus licenses for employment purposes. I dug into this issue at the Capitol, worked across the aisle with the House’s chair on transportation and, ultimately, garnered enough bipartisan support to deliver the funding to reopen our exam centers.
The process of restoring these offices is significant, and state officials indicate several tasks must be completed to accomplish a successful reopening, including leasing space, hiring and training enough staff to cover testing at each location currently open, and hiring additional examiner positions.
As seems to be the case with many entities, DVS also indicates it is having a difficult time filling vacancies. Available job positions are posted at https://mn.gov/mmb/careers/.
As a member of the House Capitol Investment Committee, I look forward to a series of tours the panel will be making this fall to personally visit project sites. There are five multi-day trips scheduled in all, and the first of them is to our very own region. There are four stops planned in District 8A, with two each in Fergus Falls and Pelican Rapids on Sept. 21-22. The information we gather on these trips will be helpful in weighing the merits of proposals when the Legislature next considers a bill to fund infrastructure projects throughout the state.
Potential special session
The 2022 legislative session is scheduled to start Jan. 31, but a special session could take place in the meantime to address some time-sensitive matters – namely distributing “Hero Pay” funding for frontline workers.
There are numerous complexities to consider with this issue as we look to ensure meaningful bonus checks reach the frontline workers who were most at risk. This includes nurses, long-term care/nursing home workers, PCAs/home health workers, and law enforcement.
The balance we need to strike is making sure we include all frontline workers, while not expanding the pool of eligibility and significantly reducing the amount available for each worker. The priority must be to take care of our nurses, long-term care/nursing home workers, PCAs/home health workers, and law enforcement who were truly on the front lines during the pandemic.