2018 Session Update Week 3
Legislative committees are in full-swing this week, finishing updates from last year but also hearing bills. District 1 town officers joined us in St. Paul for their Lobby Day on Tuesday, with a great showing of legislators to meet them.
Broadband: Representative Sandy Layman, along with a bi-partisan group of 28 co-sponsors, introduced a bill to provide $51,480,000 to the State’s Boarder-to-Border Grant Program. This amount follows the recommendations of the Governor’s Broadband Taskforce. It represents a serious attempt to provide new broadband infrastructure to rural Minnesota. The bill contains no policy changes to maintain good momentum in the Broadband grant program. We are expecting an identical bill in the Senate next week.
Transportation: In a good sign, we continue to hear talk about money in the bonding bill for local roads. The District 1 officers asked legislators why a gas tax increase couldn’t get done. The response from GOP members has been that they believe there is something else that will work better. The problem is that we rarely hear an idea of what “something else” is. There is continued talk of making the auto parts dedication permanent, but we would like to hear the other proposals to serve town needs. We also continue to hear about the problem electric vehicles will pose to the transportation funding structure, but last year the legislature began addressing the problem with a tab surcharge to makeup for the gas tax money lost to electric vehicles.
Annexation: MAT expects a hearing on our Orderly Annexation clarification bill, SF 1749, in the coming weeks. Legislators have understood our message that towns and cities need to be able to rely on annexation agreements, or they are not worth anything and we will see more contested annexation cases.
No Net Gain / 30-Year Plan: Cari continues to take meetings on these topics, and found the most opposition in the Senate, where a small number of Senators appears to oppose any limitation that could limit the growth or public hunting land. We need the help of members on this issue. In particular, we need Senators to hear your stories of public land acquisition, the problems you are having with the PILT program, and your support of either of these bills. No Net Gain bills are House File 143 and Senate File 372. The 30 Year Plan bills are HF 586 and SF 1005.
Elections: Cari attended a hearing on election equipment, hearing from Secretary of State Steve Simon on the distribution of grant funds. Secretary Simon pointed out that, as most of us know the state was founded in 1858, and that is exactly the funding amount ($1,858) that went out to each prescient in the state. Cari addressed the committee on behalf of MAT and as a Head Election Judge for Harris Township. She received great feedback from the committee members, and built on the valuable partnership we have with the Secretary of State and his office.
On a final note, Senator Andrew Mathews and Representative Sondra Erickson moved out of committee a bill authorizing town boards to contribute town funds to food shelves. The bill would place towns in the same position as cities and counties regarding this power. It is not a controversial bill and is expected to pass easily.