DAILY SESSION UPDATES
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:
- 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.