Legislative Session results in modest gains for GMNP priorities

The 2015 Legislative Session concluded Monday night with a last-minute rush to pass numerous bills before the midnight deadline. While several of the GMNP’s priorities were included in economic development and environment bills passed by both the House and Senate, others were left out due to the Legislature’s failure to pass a tax bill, bonding bill or a comprehensive transportation bill. We are still analyzing the final results of each of the bills, but here is a brief rundown of how the GMNP priorities fared this session:

  • Workforce Housing – The Legislature passed an expansion of the workforce housing pilot project and funded it at $2 million per year in FY2016 and FY2017. This grant program is not restricted to Greater Minnesota and gives preference to cities with fewer than 18,000 residents. Unfortunately, the GMNP’s proposal for tax credits to help spur workforce housing development did not pass because there was no tax bill.
  • Broadband – The economic development bill appropriated $10.838 million to the Border-to-Border Broadband Development Grant Program for FY2016.
  • Job training – The Legislature enacted an employer-driver job training program, for which the GMNP advocated, and funded it at $900,000 per year in FY2016 and FY2017.
  • Greater Minnesota Business Development Public Infrastructure (BDPI) Grant Program – The Legislature funded this program, which is designed to help cities pay for public infrastructure needed for private business growth, at $1.3 million for FY2017. The BDPI program typically receives its funding under the bonding bill, but no bonding bill passed this year.
  • Environmental Regulatory Reform – The environment and agriculture bill included a GMNP-supported provision that would require independent scientific peer review before the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency adopts expensive water quality standards, as well as a provision requiring the state to do a cost analysis to determine the cumulative costs of several recently adopted or soon-to-be-adopted standards. A provision to suspend recently adopted water quality rules was unfortunately not included in the bill.
  • Corridors of Commerce – Since the Legislature passed only a small “lights on” transportation bill and failed to pass a bonding bill, no money was appropriated for Corridors of Commerce.

It’s important to note that the bills that did pass are not “done deals” just yet, since they still require the Governor’s signature. He has until the end of the week to decide whether he will sign or veto the bills.