Steve Giorgi
Executive Director
Phone: 218-780-8877
Email: SGiorgi@ramsmn.org

Image "Hull Rust" by Amy Flanigan

RAMS hearing 1940

Scheuring Speed Sports Aurora, MN photo by Paul Pluswick

Commissioner Mark Phillips 2015 Annual RAMS Meeting Vice President Jim Fisher /Director Steve Giorgi

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski 2016

Cuyuna

Tower Airport photo by Adrian Koski

Moon over Queen City photo created by Matt Herberg

RAMS delegation with Senator Klobuchar

2016 Press conference on US Forest Service - Virginia, MN

Mayor Novak Ely Whiteside Park

Pioneer Mine Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski

Session 2017


RAMS HIRES GARY CERKVENIK AS LOBBYIST FOR 2017

Gary Cerkvenik has been involved in politics since his childhood.  As a lobbyist, Gary is well respected among his peers and members of the legislature from both sides of the aisle.  Gary is also a borne and bred Iron Ranger who has a deep passion for this region and has worked for many clients who have developed projects, businesses and jobs on the Range because of Gary’s efforts.  The RAMS board of directors is excited to announce that Gary will be working on our legislative priorities, assisting in educating our member groups on lobbying, bonding projects and other politically connected dealings.  Watch for updates from Gary during the session on our website and in our newsletter.

DAILY SESSION UPDATES

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RAMS –  2017 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  1. Local Government Aid payments – critical that a tax bill be passed as soon as possible so LGA payments are received by our member cities.
  1. Broadband expansion across the Taconite Assistance Area –(long term goal) Support funding of the Office of Broadband. Fund the Border to Border Broadband Fund ($100 million recommendation)  Fix the Border to Border Broadband Fund – certain policy impede the advancement of broadband expansion and a new standard for broadband networks should be included at 100 Mb/20 Mb when installed.
  2. Amend the language that requires cities and townships to upfront payments to the DOT when a State Aide highway or road is being repaired, replaced or relocated in their city or township.
  3. Capital funds allocated for early childhood; pre-K to provide Districts the opportunity to remodel, restructure or construct space for the programs.
  4. Funding for transportation for rural school districts (State funding or local levy options)
  5. Look at the teacher licensure system in Minnesota for Post – Secondary Education Options in the high schools and allowance for Early Childhood education certification for elementary teachers.
  6. Re-structuring of the IRRRB that will provide long term protection of the DJJ fund, provide for elected officials to oversee the utilization of Range tax dollars from Taconite Taxes.
  7. Backfill the shortage in the taconite revenue to our cities, townships and schools by adjusting the formula from another revenue stream (fund) to help with the 3 year averaging formula.
  8. Continue to advocate for economic development in the region, including mining, forestry, tourism and other ventures for Northeastern MN.Support for collaborative projects such as the East Range Joint Powers water extension and the West Range Sewer project.
  1. Funding for completion of Highway 169 to complete 4 lanes of traffic from highway 65 to Coleraine.

 

Message From Director

2017 – More Challenges for the Region, or Opportunities?

November 8, 2016 is certainly one of those dates that will long be remembered by many Americans.  Whether your political beliefs had you on the winning side, or on the losing side of the political aisle, one thing we can all agree on, few if any us truly believed the results prior to all the votes being counted.
On a local level, the loss of Representative Tom Anzelc may have been anticipated as his opponent, Sandy Layman was formidable, has name recognition and strong party backing, but the defeat of Senator Tom Saxhaug was not predicted, even by the most savvy political pundits.  Be that as it may, change was in the wind that November night, and it blew stronger and stronger across the country, until it swept in the biggest change of all, Donald J. Trump as our new president with a conservative majority I both the House and the Senate.  Minnesota also saw the majority shift in our State Legislature with the Republicans taking over the majority (by the slimmest of margins -1 seat) in the State Senate, thus setting up a repeat of Governor Dayton’s first years as Governor with both the House and Senate majorities held by Republicans and he a sitting DFL Governor.

We can all remember that the 2015 legislative session ended in futility with neither a bonding bill, or a tax bill being passed.  Sitting on a surplus of well over a BILLION dollars, the parties could not compromise on a much needed bonding bill that would have created thousands of construction jobs, provided much needed improvements to our roads, bridges and college campus facilities and a tax bill that would have increased the LGA formula and provided relief to our struggling communities and local governments.   A summer of talk and rhetoric about a special session to address those failures resulted in nothing but fodder for the election cycle, false promises and anxiety for those facing uncertainty with their health insurance premiums and coverage.

At the Federal level, while many people were overwhelmed by the election of Donald Trump as our next President, President Obama was busy with executive orders and pardons and farewell tours.  Unfortunately for us in Northeastern Minnesota, under his watch two of his agencies, the USFS (Forest Service) and the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) requested a withdrawal of 240,000 acres in and around the BWCA and recommended that a new usage analysis for the acreage be undertaken.  A public comment session was started and one public hearing was scheduled for March 16 in Duluth, with a second hearing “somewhere on the Range” promised.  Depending upon the outcome of this process, there could well be a 20 year moratorium on land use put into effect over the withdrawn acreage.  In conjunction with this decision, the USFS denied the renewal of land leases for the Twin Metals project, not based on science or new environmental findings, but based on politics, and emotions.

So once again we are at a crossroads in battling the forces that are seemingly working against us in our efforts to expand our economic base, to diversify, to secure jobs for future generations that allow families to stay on the Range and raise families and repopulate our dwindling numbers of millennials.  When out of St. Paul, a letter is sent to President Elect Trump, from House Speaker, Kurt Daudt, imploring him to overturn this devastating decision by the previous administration!  Also a joint letter signed by 60 legislators from both parties, was also sent to the incumbent department heads requesting an immediate reversal of the decision on the withdrawal.  Could this be the issue that leads to a more cooperative legislature?  Could division on the Range, actually end up being the lightening rod that helps bridge a divide in St. Paul and result in a positive legislative session?  Perhaps this is an opportunity, not a roadblock for the region.  I do have to admit, I must express my disappointment in noting that not a single representative from the Duluth contingency signed the joint letter.

We have all been witnesses to the actions of President Trump since his inauguration.  Like him or hate him, or perhaps fear him, he has been a man of action.  Unfortunately, some of these actions have created distractions that have delayed the confirmation of his Cabinet and therefore any action that we could hope for on overturning the withdrawal decision has also been put on hold.

Yes, the election results of November 8, 2017, will certainly be something I will remember for the rest of my days, the opportunity it created may just be an unforeseen but tangible benefit to the Range.  Once again, all that RAMS has asked for is to allow the science and strict environmental review process to make the determination on whether or not a new mining project, or any industrial enterprise should be allowed to proceed and not politics, emotions or rhetoric.

 



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