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July 6, 2022

6/17/2022 12:57:00 PM
Still hoping for a special session

Three lobbyists working on behalf of Chisago County in the just completed legislative session told the county commissioners, that if there is a special session convened and state politicians adopt a number of measures that are close to the finish line, Minnesota counties stand to see a very good outcome.  

The legislature came close on so many issues, according to Matt Massman of the Minnesota Inter-County Association.  The county commissioners were told there was a time when there were independent thinkers in the capitol and lawmakers listened to practical arguments and decided how they would vote based on the facts at hand. Now, the major political parties ride herd on legislators and expectations are that you do not stray.  

Lobbyist Steve Novak said “months of work is in limbo” and Massman added “unheard of” availability of resources, with the massive state budget surplus and unspent federal monies of $1.2 billion,  made the stalemate such a frustrating thing.  
A particular disagreement was the line drawn in the sand on transportation, they explained.  Minnesota Senate leaders were adamant about 100 percent of vehicle parts sales tax being dedicated and House leaders wanted a portion of this revenue to be used for transit as well. 

Novak remarked that no transportation priorities passed and “...just about everything is left to be done.”

Additional issues that matter to county government include: funds for Soil & Water Conservation Districts, business property tax relief, seasonal property tax, broadband grants, bonding bill money for projects, wetland mitigation program improvements, recycling tax distributions, emergency management planning and radio grants.

MICA representative Massman reminded the County Board the revisions to address under-funded supervised probation (court services) mandates were gaining headway in this session and all 87 counties supported a new way to appropriate funds to counties, but this too is “unresolved.”

The Health & Human Services area was partially addressed. There was an omnibus policy bill adopted but many levels of “investments” in services were not finalized.  

To be fair this year was not a “budget year” but spending was a discussion.

Bob Benson, Chisago County Health & Human Services Director, did say the omnibus policy actions were welcome, and helped clarify some responsibilities of his department.  And, SNAP (supplemental nutrition program) income eligibility was increased from 165 to 200 percent of the annual poverty level.

Looming in the background of the unfinished business is the election cycle.  

Many state lawmakers have announced they will not seek re-election and/or are retiring or resigning.  The estimates are, according to the association, that at least 23 of 67 state Senators will be new faces next session and 44 of 134 Representatives will be new and this doesn’t take into account election outcomes.

MN Inter County Association or MICA has 15 county members.

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