Session’s second week proves busy for area legislators

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 14, 2000

The state’s legislators picked up the pace of a short 2000 session last week when several important proposals were heard.

Monday, February 14, 2000

The state’s legislators picked up the pace of a short 2000 session last week when several important proposals were heard.

Email newsletter signup

However, much more needs to be done, according to an area Republican legislator.

The second week of the legislative session was an especially busy time for state Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) and other authors of legislation introduced to help economic development in rural Minnesota.

Bills were being heard in committee that would boost ethanol producer payments, provide funding for tourism business development and help rural communities obtain high-speed Internet access.

"I’m delighted that portions of our rural agenda are on the fast track," Davids said. "I’m confident that many of the individual rural bills will come to the House floor for a vote in a few weeks or be included in larger omnibus bills."

In the second week of the legislative session, the House Agricultural and Rural Development Finance Committee gave approval to a bill that would fully fund the state’s ethanol producers.

"As it stands now, the maximum annual payment to an ethanol plant is $3 million," Davids said. "But funding was capped at $2.4 million for newer ethanol plants like the one in Preston."Session

The ethanol bill, co-authored by Davids, would raise the cap for new plants to $3 million as it is elsewhere.

"Now all we have to do is get the rest of the House on board, and then convince the Senate and Gov. Jesse Ventura," Davids said. "If you believe ethanol is important for farmers and rural Minnesota, then be sure to tell Jesse."

Help for tourism efforts

Also heard last week was a bill that would help tourism businesses in southern Minnesota.

The House Jobs and Economic Development Committee approved a bill that will provide $500,000 to the state Tourism Loan Fund.

According to Davids, the fund provides low-interest financing to existing tourism-related businesses and assistance with tourism business development.

Last year, Davids authored legislation to increase in funding for the Minnesota Office of Tourism to increase its advertising and marketing efforts.

"The money in the existing loan account has been nearly depleted," Davids said. "This bill will put more funds in the account so that tourism businesses can keep up on maintenance and make needed improvements. Every dollar we spend on tourism promotion and to assist tourism business development returns many more dollars to the citizens of the state."

"It’s a great investment for the counties, cities and towns in southeastern Minnesota that boast some of the best trail, park and recreation facilities in the country," he said.

Expanding Internet access

And finally, the House Jobs and Economic Development Committee heard a bill last week that would appropriate $1 million to fund capital grants to expand Internet access to businesses and residences in rural Minnesota.

Davids said that what’s unique about the plan is that it would promote the use of cutting-edge technology, including not only the use of traditional fiberoptic cable but also wireless technology such as multipoint microwave distribution.

Davids said this would be especially beneficial in areas where there is a large number of small towns.

‘More to be done’

Although Davids said it was a good week for the House rural economic development agenda, he said much remains to be done.

For example, Davids listed additional funding for rural schools with declining enrollments and continued funding for high school vocational programs; raising reimbursement rates for rural nursing homes; and finally, delivering more property tax relief for farmers.

"In this time of surpluses, tax cut legislation is still the most important job we have to get done" Davids said. "The state still has money taxpayers overpaid in its pocket. It belongs in their pocket. It’s their money."