Ida Rukavina
Executive Director
Phone: 218-235-0029
Email: idarukavina@ramsmn.org

Moon over Queen City photo created by Matt Herberg

2016 Press conference on US Forest Service - Virginia, MN

Pike Bay Marina Lake Vermilion

Cuyuna

Tom Rukavina at rally prior to MPCA hearing at MCC

RAMS meets with Congressman Stauber in DC 2021

RAMS visit to Minntac with State Legislatures 2021

New bridge at night photo by P Pluswick

RAMS Board Members with State Legislatures 2022

RAMS DC Delegation visit 2021 on land withdrawal

Kawishiwi Falls - Ely MN photo by Adrian Koski 2016

Mayor Rick Cannata Wild RIce/Sulfate rally

RAMS visits Cliffs Toledo Facility 2021

Hwy 53 bridge Nov 2016 photo by F Luomanen

RAMS hearing 1940

Itasca Ski Hill

Legislative Priorities


U.S. Forest Service, BLM– Rainy River Watershed Withdrawal
RAMS calls on membership to send in letters on the proposed withdrawal of 225,000 acres of Superior National Forest lands in the Rainy River watershed. The deadline to submit public comment is August 12th, 2022. For a sample letter you can submit, click here: Draft EA Withdrawal Comment Period_General Comment Info
RAMS is calling on our member units to submit their own letters to Minnesota State leaders, asking them to go back to the table for a special session. Draft letter here:
RAMS SAMPLE Letter to Legislative Leaders special session
DAILY SESSION UPDATES

RAMS CALLS On Legislature to Hold a Special Session

Read the letter that was sent here: RAMS Letter in support of Special Session May 2022

Click Here for Daily Updates

Click here for the recent letter RAMS sent to MN state leaders on broadband funding:

RAMS Broadband Letter May 2022

RAMS Letter on Broadband April 2022

RAMS 2022 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  • Oppose any legislation that would restrict the exploration and possible development of copper, nickel, and precious metal mining in the RAMS area, including PolyMet, Twin Metals, and Talon Metals.
  • Support the passage of a state capital investment (bonding) bill at least at the level of the 2020 bonding bill and support the separate passage of a state transportation finance bill to fund local and state transportation projects and to provide state match for seeking federal transportation and infrastructure dollars.
  • Help advocate for our RAMS area local governments who have 2022 bonding requests at the Legislature.
  • Support the improvement of marked U.S. Highway 169 from a two-lane undivided highway to a four-lane divided highway for the remaining eight-mile segment of Cross Range Expressway from Taconite to Pengilly.  We request the Minnesota Department of Transportation plan, engineer, design and construct this project.
  • Support eliminating the state income tax on Social Security income.
  • Support development of a regional broadband strategy to leverage federal investment. Support increasing Border-to-Border grant cap to 90%. We support the Governors broadband proposal. We also call on the Governor and legislature to expedite the issuance of these grant dollars so that the much needed broadband projects in rural Minnesota can proceed yet this year.
  • Request that the Legislature pass the 2022 LCCMR grants so $65 million can go to work creating jobs, protecting our environment, and funding possibly a dozen projects in the RAMS service territory. Further, we would ask LCCMR and the Legislature to support the “Young Option” compromise proposal presented to the commission on 9/23/21.
  • Support building more recreational trails for our residents and visitors —mountain bike, Mesabi Trail, ATV trails, and snowmobile trails. Support St. Louis County’s ATV trail bonding request of $1,550,000 in general obligation bond proceeds for capital improvements to the Voyageur Country, Prospector Loop, and Quad Cities ATV trail systems.  We thank the IRRRB and Comm. Phillips for leveraging ATV state and federal funding through the IRRRB trails grants program.  We request that the trail funding continues at IRRRB.
  • Protect the hard-won gains in Local Government Aid (LGA) and support an inflationary increase in LGA.
  • Reform PILT funding formula. Payment in Lieu of Taxes is supposed to help counties that contain state-owned lands that do not pay property taxes.  Counties in northern Minnesota, which have the most PILT lands, receive the least funding per acre.
  • Ensure the protection of the Douglas J. Johnson Economic Protection Trust Fund.
  • Support legislation that would provide for greater Minnesota school district members of cooperatives the authority to levy up to $65 per pupil for cooperative facilities, the same as members of Metro Intermediates.  This would allow districts to form joint power boards to bond for improvements and new facilities.
  • Construction Sales Tax Exemption:  Support legislation exempting materials and supplies used in and equipment incorporated into the construction of the district’s administrative and transportation facility.  Legislation exempting materials and equipment from state sales tax for school projects in Ely, Hibbing, and Rock Ridge public schools will be introduced in the 2022 legislative session.
  • Increased State Aid for Public Education: State aid for public education funding has not kept up with inflation.  To help our Public Schools compete in a challenging labor market and to meet student needs, we request that the state significantly increase and stabilize funding for Minnesota’s local public education systems.  We also support linking the basic education funding formula to annual increases to inflation.
  • Preserve mental health funding for the RAMS area. MN DHS is developing a new Adult Mental Health initiative (AMHI) funding formula and eliminating funds previously directed to our region.  Without these funds, counties will be faced with the challenge of reducing mental health services or shifting the cost to local taxpayers.
  • Support funding for the routing and pumping of rising pit water levels in the Canisteo Mine Pit chain and St. James pit in Aurora.
  • Ask the Legislature to add additional funding to the Solar for Schools Grant Program and increase the grant opportunity to 100% of installation costs for a 40 megawatt array.
  • Support $20 million additional dollars for the township road and bridges fund.
  • Support the Governor’s plan to fund an additional 6,000 Pre-K seats in our public schools.

 

RAMS 2020 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:
1. Additional funding for the Border to Border Broadband Grant Program.  $30 million is being requested and legislation has been introduced by Rep. Rob Ecklund (HF 3029) and Sen Rich Draheim introduced a similar bill in the Senate (SF 3049).  RAMS will work with the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and other advocates to push for passage of the bill this session.  Governor Walz and the Governor’s Task Force on Broadband, of which I am a member have both recommended the additional $30 million in funding.

2.  The superintendents in our Iron Range region are supporting legislation that would provide for the allow for greater Minnesota school district members of cooperatives the authority to levy up to $65 per pupil for cooperative facilities, the same as members of Metro Intermediates.  This would allow districts to form joint power boards to bond for improvements and new facilities.

3.  BONDING – Since this is a bonding session, RAMS will be supporting any and all local bonding projects.  If your community has a bonding project on the list  reach out to me and I will have our lobbyist Gary Cerkvenik watch over the bonding bill and if your project is up for a hearing give you notice in the event you have to testify for the project.

4.  We will play DEFENSE and monitor bill’s as they are introduced to make sure there are no attempts to take away funding from our Range communities or school districts, protect our Taconite Tax funding and make certain we can continue to grow the region doing what we have for over a century, mine our natural resources..

RAMS –  2019 LEGISLATIVE PRIORITIES:

  1. 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.
  2. Protect and preserve Local Government Aide payments while working with Governor Walz to return the LGA formula to the 1993 levels.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.