Senatory Gary Dahms and Representative Paul Torkelson answer questions of constituents at town hall meeting in Springfield Friday morning.

Legislators address issues

Transportation, taxes, bonding bill will be major topics

Three major issues during the 89th Minnesota Legislative Session will be transportation, taxes and bonding, said local legislators — Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska) and Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls), during a town hall meeting in Springfield Friday.  

Rep. Torkelson, who is Republican Chair of the House Capital Investment Committee, said he and his committee spent 12 days this past year traveling around the state to study projects being proposed to this year’s bonding bill.   “The total dollars in the proposal is over $4 billion in projects. How much we end up funding is part of the negotiations this year,” he said.  “It’s a long process.”  He thinks that part of the bonding bill will end up with a focus on transportation 

“We expect transportation to get a lot of attention this year,” said Rep. Torkelson. “The Governor’s proposal had only two transportation projects in it —  two big bridges, one in Minneapolis and the other in St. Paul. He left out greater Minnesota and we’ll be working to make sure that we’re part of the bill.” The Governor has dropped his initiative to raise the gas tax and that will lead to serious discussions about how to fix the state’s most decrepit roads and bridges over the next decade.  

“The good news is that we actually have a surplus,” commented Rep. Torkelson.  “Minnesota’s economy has recovered to a point that we do have a few more dollars to work with. A portion of that money will go into rainy day fund so that we will have some money when the economy takes a dip in the future.”

Tax issues are always on the legislative agenda, and, this year, ag land taxes that relate to building bond issues, and business property taxes will likely be the focus.


The stories behindbReal ID, and ‘boycott’ of state office building

Sen. Dahms spoke to clear misinformation about Real ID, and the story about Republicans’ “boycott” of the Minnesota Senate Office Building, a $90 million structure behind the State Capitol, that opened this month. 

There is a lot of misinformation about the Real ID, a 2005 Act of Congress that modified U.S. federal law pertaining to security, authentication, and issuance procedures standards for the state driver’s licenses and identification cards, as well as various immigration issues pertaining to terrorism, Sen. Dahms said. Minnesota is one of several states that have not implemented Real ID.  In 2009, 200 of 201 Minnesota legislators voted to pass the bill that took the authority away from MnDOT and the licensing department so that they could not deal with driver’s license issue, he said. “Those 200 people in the legislature didn’t want our information to be given to the federal government. The big difference is that the State of Minnesota Privacy Act is much tougher than it is on the federal level.  We are concerned about turning that information over to the federal level; we want them to use our data privacy act rules.”  The federal government has given the states two-years’ extension to comply. The Minnesota driver’s license continues to be accepted as needed identification at the airport, just like it has in the past, he said.  “You can get a Real ID in Minnesota, but there are only a few places in Minnesota that issue them,” Sen. Dahms said.  “We have a two-year extension, but we do have to move forward and come up with an agreement that will work for the federal government and all of us.”  The complete story can be found in this week's Springfield Advance-Press.

Springfield Advance-Press

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