We have had a highly productive start to the 2017 legislative session and this week put an exclamation point on it as we worked to get bills through the initial committee stages before the first deadline arrives later today.
Eight bills I have authored were the subjects of committee hearings this week – including five on Tuesday. Overall, House staff indicates that we have passed more bills at this point in the session than any Legislature in an odd year since 2003. It also is reportedly the most bills introduced in an odd year since at least 2003.
One bill I authored that received a hearing is designed to free up money for transportation projects has cleared its first House committee hurdle. Specifically, my bill allows MnDOT and local governments to receive a sales tax exemption on materials, supplies, and equipment purchased by a contractor, subcontractor or builder and used on public transportation projects.
A lot of folks don’t quite understand that the state of Minnesota, through lump-sum contracts, actually pays sales taxes on the construction materials used in building our roads and bridges. We came up with a plan for reimbursement so those dollars stay in transportation where they’re constitutionally dedicated instead of being siphoned off by sales taxes.
With so much time spent in committees, it was a fairly quiet week on the House floor, but we did pass a couple of important bills, starting with final passage of $5 million in immediate funding to replenish our Local Road Wetland Replacement Program. Without the funding this bill provides, many 2017 local road projects would be delayed or canceled. The bill is now in the hands of Gov. Mark Dayton for enactment.
The House also passed a bill to increase oversight and accountability of the Minnesota Stadium Facilities Authority. A steady stream of serious concerns over improprieties among MSFA members and executive staff has become public in recent months, with two top MSFA officials resigning along the way. The House bill overhauls the MSFA governance structure and limits the use of free suites at US Bank Stadium to clean things up and help restore public faith.
On a final note, local students are urged to participate in an essay contest which could land them recognition at the Capitol and $1,000 in savings for college. This is part of the All essays must be received via email or postmarked by April 28. More information on the contest regarding essay subjects, rules, submission and more provided at this link. Good luck and let me know if you plan to come to the Capitol to gain some inspiration for this contest.