Dear Neighbors,

The Special Session ended shortly after 6:00 am Saturday morning. I was disappointed the Senate majority made the decision to adjourn without passing important legislation for Minnesota, including a bonding bill, COVID-19 funding for local governments, and criminal justice and policing proposals.

The Legislature passed several important bills relating to education and distance learning that I co-authored, including special education provisions, increased mental health and dyslexia training for teachers, and prevention awareness instruction regarding vaping. We passed additional funding for child care providers as Minnesota is facing an acute shortage of child care providers, who are providing critical services during the COVID pandemic. The Legislature also passed more funding for small business emergency grants and loans along with a health and human services omnibus bill.

I have heard from hundreds of constituents throughout the week-long special session. I value hearing your perspective and encourage you to continue writing and calling.

Greg Clausen

Bonding Bill Update

Governor Walz and legislative leaders all believed a bonding bill was necessary and would serve as an economic stimulus package during the COVID-19 pandemic for communities across Minnesota. Bonding investments maintain and enhance water infrastructure, roads and bridges, transit, parks, trails, airports, public buildings, and university and college campus projects. An additional benefit of passing bonding bills is the employment of many workers across the state.

Typically, the second year in the biennium is a bonding year and is reserved for supplemental bills and the capital investment proposal. In mid-January Governor Walz released his proposal, which included $2 billion in general obligation bonds and $600 million in funding from other sources. It was anticipated this investment would leverage $3.4 billion from other local and foundation sources.

It was disappointing that little action was taken on the bonding bill until the final days of the legislative session with no agreement reached. A bonding bill must receive 3/5ths of members’ votes for passage and the proposed bonding bill did not receive the necessary votes. There were several good projects in the bill but it was inadequate in several areas, including transit, higher education, and public safety, and it did not provide statewide project equity. The bill did not adequately meet the vast needs across the state.

Negotiations continued on a bonding bill for Minnesota during this June special session. I am disappointed an agreement on a robust bonding bill for Minnesota was not reached.

I introduced many bonding projects for our district and have been advocating for their full funding request. Some of these projects include, but are not limited to:

Minnesota Zoo

The Minnesota Zoo requested $26 million for bonding projects. The Zoo plans to repurpose the obsolete monorail by creating a 1.3 mile Minnesota Zoo Treetop Trail and will prioritize asset preservation to improve and repair the Zoo’s 40-year-old infrastructure and exhibits. Additional projects include upgrading pathways and roadways, guest amenities, and the animal hospital. I also co-authored a bill for an additional $6 million to help with the Zoo’s operations during closures due to COVID. Seventy-five percent the Zoo’s operating revenue comes from entrance fees. The closing of the Minnesota Zoo in mid-March due to COVID-19 has left the Zoo without sufficient operating funds.

Rosemount National Guard Readiness Center

The Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division provides training and readiness oversight for ten National Guard Brigades with a total of more than 23,000 soldiers across Minnesota and eight additional states. Bonding funds would pay for renovations and needed infrastructure improvements.

Red Line Transit

Bonding funds would support needed updates to the Apple Valley Red Line transit stations. These improvements and upgrades will ensure safe, efficient, and reliable transit services, provide reduced travel time for commuters, and promote more sustainable transportation options to benefit both businesses and residents of Dakota County.

CARES Funding

The federal government has allocated CARES funds to states to support their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. Strict federal guidelines dictate these funds must be used for COVID-19 direct expenses, not for lost revenue. Minnesota legislators were tasked with distributing the remaining $841 million of federal funds to local governments across Minnesota. I am disappointed the Legislature adjourned the special session before reaching an agreement on how to distribute this aid.

As the Senate and House did not reach an agreement on legislation to allocate CARES funding to cities and counties across Minnesota, the responsibility to distribute the funds now falls to Governor Walz. Governor Walz will continue to work with local officials from across the state, business and healthcare leaders, Revenue Commissioner Bauerly, public health experts, and a Legislative Advisory Commission to allocate these funds to local cities and counties across Minnesota in need of aid.

Criminal Justice and Policing Legislation

Many legislators have been working on criminal justice and policing reform for years, but the death of George Floyd put a spotlight on this work. Minnesotans were vocal in their support of passing this legislation during the June special session.

Many legislators advocated for transformative changes to our criminal justice and policing system but no agreement was reached. An explanation of the proposals can be found HERE. I am disappointed the legislature adjourned without passing legislation to improve public safety for all Minnesotans.