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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Dean Urdahl (R)

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Legislative update

Friday, February 5, 2021

Dear Neighbor, 

Greetings from the House as we brace ourselves for a chilly weekend. Along with this week’s legislative jottings, it seems like a good time to share some information regarding assistance that is available to income-eligible households (both owners and renters) for home heating bills and furnace repairs. The state’s Energy Assistance Program can help by providing financial assistance, such as: 

  • To pay past due energy bills to avoid disconnection 
  • To purchase fuel for delivery in emergencies 
  • To repair or replace homeowners’ malfunctioning furnaces 

The application period is open until May 31 this year and you can find more information and links to apply at the Minnesota Department of Commerce website.

In other news: 

Local broadband grants 

I was happy to announce earlier this week that funding through the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has been awarded to projects in unserved or underserved areas of Hutchinson and Union Grove Township. 

The Hutchinson grant is for $169,369, with a total eligible project cost of $423,423 and a $254,054 local match. The project will serve 42 unserved and five underserved locations in a funding partnership between the state of Minnesota and Nuvera Communications, Inc. 

The Union Grove award is a $41,927 grant for serving approximately 28 unserved and seven underserved locations in Meeker County. This project is a funding partnership between the state and Meeker Cooperative. 

While most people have come to expect reliable and affordable internet connections, many places in our state remain at a disadvantage in that regard and these grants should help improve service to people in our area. The Legislature has done well to fund the Border-to-Border program and it is good to see local awards have been earned. 

The awards are among 39 grants – totaling $20,645,425 and matched by $33,695,279 in local funds – recently issued statewide by DEED. This marks the sixth year Border-to-Border grants have been issued.  

Comments on Calif. Cars  

I recently wrote how the governor is using the administrative rulemaking process to mandate California’s auto-emission standards on vehicles sold in Minnesota. This proposal comes with significant consequences for Minnesotans, yet it is taking place without the benefit of the full legislative process to examine the issue and ask the tough questions.  

People have been asking if there is a way they can provide comments on the record. While it is no substitute for a full slate of legislative hearings, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has scheduled a few public information sessions to discuss the governor’s initiative, including 3 p.m. Feb. 22-23. Click here for more regarding those sessions. Also, prior to adopting the new rules, there is a public comment period running through March 15. People can learn more or submit their comments here

Mandatory masks 

A House bill (HF 604) has been introduced requiring face masks to be worn in numerous public settings. This mask mandate would last until the CDC issues guidance that does not include a recommendation that face masks be worn to prevent COVID-19 transmission. I take this pandemic seriously, wear a mask as necessary and practice social distancing. That said, I do not support creating a new law forcing people to do so. 

Until next time, have a good weekend and stay in touch.