Here is an update with the latest news from the Capitol.
Veterans Homes Hearing
On Monday, the House Veterans Affairs Committee held a joint hearing with the Senate, where we discussed in more detail the process of building new veterans homes in Minnesota. There are currently five homes in our state (Minneapolis, Hastings, Silver Bay, Luverne and Fergus Falls), and three additional communities (Bemidji, Montevideo and Fillmore County) are asking for one as well.
The Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs shared an in-depth breakdown during the hearing on the process for building and funding new homes in our state, including which roles belong to the federal government and which to the state. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs would provide 65 percent of the construction costs and the state 35 percent, along with ongoing operational costs. The state would also select the site.
Currently, our state has a combined 824 bed capacity in our veterans home, but under federal government rules, Minnesota could build housing with up to 234 more beds. If funding moves forward from the state this session, the money would be appropriated in the Capital Investment Committee.
House Public Information did a story with more details on our joint hearing and Minnesota veterans homes, which you can read here.
Transportation Sparsity Bill
Last session, my bill to address transportation funding sparsity for school districts like Forest Lake was signed into law. It was a good start to address this problem, but I am looking to make more changes this year, working with the Forest Lake School District on this issue.
For many school districts across the state, a change in the education funding formula in the mid-1990s resulted in transportation costs exceeding pupil transportation revenue. That left school districts like Forest Lake in a situation where they fall nearly $1 million short in transportation funding every year. Like I stated earlier, changes made last year provided school districts with additional financial relief, but there is still more work to do.
My bill, House File 3591, received a hearing in the Education Finance Committee this week, and I will be advocating for it to become law this session.
As always, thank you for the honor of being your state representative. Please contact me with any questions or input you may have; I look forward to hearing from you.