10/16/2020 2:12:00 PM Special legislation for North Branch wireless internet effort fails
Monday this week in the fifth special session of the 2020 Minnesota Legislature, a bill was introduced to give North Branch a last ditch opportunity to fund Internet improvements. It failed.
The deadline for cities to have their CARES Act appropriations spent is November 15. Hoping to get this deadline pushed to the end of December, Senator Mark Koran and Representative Anne Neu were asked to get special legislation approved. (Rep. Brian Johnson who also has a section of North Branch in his House district was not listed on the legislature’s website as co-author.)
City officials say the need for the extended deadline is approximately $400,000 generally identified by city policy the city hopes will help pay for wireless internet service improvements. There’s no internet provider contract in place but an extension could give time to facilitate that.
Mayor Jim Swenson stated the city doesn’t want to lose this opportunity to spend the CARES Act funds and, “...sure would hate to give back (funding) to the federal government.” Swenson added he’s aware this wireless system is a “temporary fix” until the companies can get fiber optic into the ground. Neu’s House File 40 was read once in special session October 12 and went to the Government Operations Committee. The legislature adjourned and the bill was not moved forward.
Koran’s Senate File 6 was approved for all three of its regular readings in one day, being officially designated as a matter of urgency and approved 63-4. (Wiklund, Rest, Dziedzic and Carlson opposed.)