2019 – A FRESH BEGINNING IN ST. PAUL
The 2019 legislative session will be historical as it will be recorded as the only state with a divided government as the DFL controls the majority in the House, while the Republican party maintains a one seat majority in the Senate. Governor Walz is retaining DFL control at the top of the ticket and will face challenges as he tries to embrace and expand his campaign mantra of “One Minnesota”. Speaker Melissa Hortman will enjoy her majority position in the House while working with a bevy of first time legislators. I believe we will see change and debate throughout the session but I remain optimistic that Governor Walz will provide the leadership needed to see the legislature complete their work on time and adjourn on May 20. RAMS will stay on top of all the action with our ever capable lobbyist Gary Cerkvenik working the halls at the Capitol and moving our RAMS legislative priorities through the system.
DAILY SESSION UPDATES
RAMS – 2019 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:
- Broadband expansion across the Taconite Assistance Area –(long term goal). RAMS is a member of MN Rural Broadband Coalition (Director Giorgi serves on the Executive Board) this year and that group will provide more visibility, focus and advocacy for broadband funding. Support funding of the Office of Broadband. Fund the Border to Border Broadband Fund ($70 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.
- Protect and preserve Local Government Aide payments while working with Governor Walz to return the LGA formula to the 1993 levels.
- Amend the Municipal Tax Aide formula in the Taconite Tax Formula to provide for an increase to our municipalites, something that has not occurred since 1983. By dedicating the price inflation index or escalator clause to the Municipal Aide formula, communities would be assured of a slight adjustment each year in the fund dependent of course on total taconite tonnage.
- Request that the MN DOT plan include completion of Highway 169 to complete 4 lanes of traffic from highway 65 to the Scenic highway. This project was started in the mid “60’s and is still unfinished. It currently is not in the 10 year DOT plan for our region and that needs to be addressed.
- Address the future operation of the Hill Annex Mine (State Park). The DNR should continue to operate the park as it has significant historic value not only in the region but for the state.
- Address the need for additional funding for rural mental health care that includes addressing the severe shortage of juvenile mental health care beds and facilities. RAMS supports legislative funding that would provide for a new youth mental health crisis center to be located in the former Buhl High School.
- Support funding for the routing and pumping of rising pit water levels in the Canisteo Mine Pit chain as well as the St. James pit in Aurora. $4.5 million has been estimated to assure these pit water levels will be contained and controlled to assure communities are safe and have a reliable potable water supply.
- Support an annual increase in the education formula as well as support for Senator Bakk’s legislation to provide funding to the Iron Range School collaboration that will provide summer school opportunities for vocational curriculum programs. Funding for aging school buildings is also on the list.
- Support legislation that will provide funding to communities who will be faced with a new Presidential primary and restrict the dissemination of party declarations information.
- RAMS will pursue funding for a fiber optic connector loop that runs through Carlton, Aitkin and Pine Counties that will enhance the NESC middle mile fiber and provide reduced broadband rates, assure redundancy for the entire network, improve and increase many times over the gigabit services available across the network. For $3.5 million dollar investment, this would benefit 7 counties.