Last weekend we came together to remember Rep. Tom Rukavina. The services were wonderful with touching stories from family and friends. While we are certainly sad to lose Tommy, this occasion brought many folks together from all corners of the state to spend time up on the Iron Range.
I want to give particular recognition to House Speaker Melissa Hortman who spent some extra time up on the Range to learn about our region’s history and economy, especially as it relates to mining. She’s made it clear that she’s the Speaker of the Minnesota House, not speaker of the “Democratic House” or “Republican House.” As I work this session to put people before politics, it’s great to see her leading by example, showing that actions speak louder than words.
Here’s the Mesabi Daily News’s story about the visit. I’m grateful for the time she spent in our community.
Much of our work early this session in committee is spent hearing broad overviews of issue areas, getting some valuable info from non-partisan House research and fiscal staffers, state agencies, stakeholder groups, and other organizations. Some committees are already starting to move bills forward, too. One of these was the Transportation Committee, which approved a bill requiring cell phone use by drivers to be via a “hands-free” device.
Sadly, over the last five years, Minnesota has averaged over 50 deaths per year due to distracted driving. Everyone on the road deserves to be safe including drivers and passengers, as well as cyclists and pedestrians. Certainly there will be more discussion about the bill’s specifics, including the penalties, but overall there is bipartisan support for this idea, and I’m sure it will be on the House Floor in the near future.
This week I dropped my first three bills into the hopper, with all of them making investments in our region. HF 320 will invest $1.9 million for 24 miles of ATV trails, connecting Mountain Iron, Virginia, Eveleth, and Gilbert. HF 321 would allocate resources to mitigate rising waters at the Canisteo and St. James mine pits to protect water for Aurora and the town of White. Finally, HF 324 would guarantee the distribution formula for taconite municipal aid and index it to inflation.
Next week, I’ll have some more news about more legislation I’m authoring; stay tuned!
Thank you for the feedback and input you’ve given me since I took office. Please share your thoughts with me on any issue before us. I hope you will continue to keep in touch with calls, emails and Facebook posts.
It’s an honor to represent you at the State Capitol.