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Dan Sparks: Bipartisan agreements reached on some things

Dan Sparks

State Senator, District 27

Minnesotans are well known for taking their civic responsibilities seriously. I applaud everyone who participated in the legislative session this year, whether you sent emails, made phone calls, wrote letters, or drove up to visit the Capitol on your own or as part of an organization.

As is the case with every legislative session, some things got done and some things did not. While everything I had hoped we could accomplish did not get done, there was significant bipartisan agreement on a number of priorities, such as addressing a $3 billion backlog of statewide construction projects, elder abuse, the opioid epidemic, and school safety, among others.

Dan Sparks, State Senator, District 27

Last year, the Legislature established the state’s two-year budget. In non-budget sessions such as this year, the Legislature’s top responsibility is to pass a nonpartisan capital investment bill. We got the job done, and a number of job creation and economic development initiatives in Austin will receive funding now that Governor Dayton signed the bill into law, including:

•$2.5 million to construct a multimedia broadcast facility for KSMQ Public Television in Austin.

•$250,000 to connect Austin to the Shooting Star Trail, allowing for cyclists to safely ride from Austin to Leroy.

•$25 million in grants for public school districts to make safety improvements to facilities and classrooms, such as secure entrances and bulletproof glass.

Much of the Legislature’s other work on issues like elder care, opioids, taxes, and pensions came down to the final hours of the session, which hurt lawmakers’ ability to reach compromise before the clock ran out. Many good ideas got cobbled together in a 990-page budget. I supported the bill, but the governor vetoed it on May 23. I’m disappointed that a bill providing financial assistance to deputy registrars got vetoed, and I will continue to work with all stakeholders to reach a solution.

We were, however, able to extend a moratorium on new rules governing mowing or haying trunk highway rights-of-way. I’m also very pleased we approved unanimously in the Senate and near unanimously in the House a plan to shore up the state pension fund, which includes sustainability measures for the Teachers Retirement Association (TRA).

If you have questions or comments about the 2018 legislative session, please contact me. Lawmakers return to St. Paul for the 2019 session in January.