Here we go, straight, no chaser …
Transportation: The House and Senate Transportation Committees both passed their versions of supplemental transportation funding bills, HF 4160 and SF 3806. Both bills provide $2 million of supplemental funding to the Town Road Account. This is the same amount appropriated into the Town Road account last year.
Environment: The Legacy Funding Finance Committee heard HF 4167 on Monday 4/16, a bill that as drafted, requires DNR to provide notice 30 days before the date of closing of land acquisition, to counties. MAT worked with Representatives Torkelson and Fabian to offer an oral amendment to include townships in the 30-day notification requirement to the closing of the land acquisition.
Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Representative Layman and Senator Eichorn presented a new approach to the problem of non-taxable land this week. HF4412 and SF3987 would prohibit the appraised values of PILT property from dropping below the taxable value as of 2010. Currently, the PILT program holds the appraised property values at the same amount for about 5 years, but then the value is reassessed, and it often decreases, which decreases the amount of PILT paid on the property. The bill would require an additional appropriation to be effective.
Broadband: We were excited to see that both the House and Senate offered a supplemental $15 million to fund the State’s Border-to-Border Broadband program for 2019. (HF 3527 / SF 2787). The program was not funded for 2019, so this money is needed to keep the program moving forward. However, the House version of the bill was amended in committee to set-aside $750,000 of the funding for the use of satellite broadband providers. Our concern is that the program has never picked winners and losers among the different technologies. Of further concern is that the satellite providers do not have to meet the same speed goals as the other technologies and that they do not require any additional infrastructure development to deploy their technology. Instead, they must provide 25 mbps download and 3 mbps upload, but unlike all other technologies, they are not required to eventually increase their speeds to 100 down/20 up. In other words, they appear to have less potential than other technologies but have money carved-out for them in the appropriation. There is considerable disagreement about the effectiveness of satellite services, so please share your experiences on these services if you have tried them.
Annexation: The Senate Local Government committee will hear our Orderly Annexation clarification bill in an informational hearing on Tuesday, April 24. After the disappointing Court of Appeals decision concerning Midway Township, Senator Bruce Anderson quickly offered a new draft of the bill that would address the ambiguities found by the Court of Appeals. The new bill, SF 4020, is nearly identical to SF 1749. The hearing offers a chance to explain why this issue is so important to townships. MAT thanks Senator Anderson for his work and support on this issue.
Elections: Secretary of State Steve Simon has been busy, as the State of Minnesota received money from the Federal Government to update our HAVA (Help America Vote Act) system and be proactive with cyber security as authorized by the Federal Government. The State of Minnesota is required to match the Federal funding with State funding. SOS Simon came before the State Government Finance & Policy & Elections committee to ask for $1.5 million (SF3764 amendment) to be used to update those programs. That has been included in the Elections Omnibus Bill.
Contracting Law: HF 3841 passed the House Floor on Monday April 16. This bill allows the threshold for sealed bids to go from 100,000 to 175,000. The Senate will approve it with the language from the House, it is now in the Senate.