War of words over Southwest light-rail transit line grows

The following article by Janet Moore was posted on the Star Tribune website April 22, 2017:

In office just three months, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has already received an earful from Minnesota officials about the controversial $1.9 billion light-rail line.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has heard from both sides about the $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail line project.

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao has been in office just under three months, and she’s already received an earful from Minnesota legislators about the controversial $1.9 billion Southwest light-rail line. A new salvo in the transit saga was released this week.

On March 17, 84 Minnesota GOP legislators wrote Chao urging her to block $928 million in federal funding for the Southwest LRT project, which would connect downtown Minneapolis to Eden Prairie. They argued that the line “would recklessly consume scarce transit resources.” (more…)

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Suburban G.O.P. Voters Sour on Party, Raising Republican Fears for 2018

The following article by Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin was posted on the New York Times website April 12, 2017:

Democrat James Thompson hugs a supporter, Djuan Wash, at the Murdock Theater in Wichita, Kan., on Tuesday after losing to Republican Ron Estes in a special congressional election. Credit Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle, via Associated Press

ALPHARETTA, Ga. — A gray mood has settled over conservative-leaning voters in some of the country’s most reliably Republican congressional districts, as the party’s stumbles in Washington demoralize them and leave lawmakers scrambling to energize would-be supporters in a series of off-year elections.

While the next nationwide elections are not until 2018, Republicans have grown fearful that these voters are recoiling from what they see as lamentable conditions in Washington: a government entirely in Republican hands that has failed to deliver on fundamental goals like overhauling the health care system.

Early missteps by President Trump and congressional leaders have weighed heavily on voters from the party’s more affluent wing, anchored in right-of-center suburbs around major cities in the South and Midwest. Never beloved in these precincts, Mr. Trump appears to be struggling to maintain support from certain voters who backed him last year mainly as a way of defeating Hillary Clinton. (more…)

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Rep. Paul Rosenthal Update: April 10, 2017

Rep. Paul Rosenthal (49B) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

Today is the first day of the Easter and Passover recess.  When we return, the House and Senate will continue to assemble the state budget and the GOP House and Senate leadership will be tasked with establishing joint budget targets to match up their finance bills.

Over the past two weeks, several omnibus budget bills have been heard on the House floor.  Here is an update on a few of those bills that have passed: (more…)

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Rep. Melissa Hortman Update: April 3, 2017

Rep. Melissa Hortman (36B) – Legislative Update

Dear neighbors,

Last week, the legislature began to consider this year’s major finance bills. Here’s an update of what we debated in the House:

Tax Bill

On Thursday, the House voted on the Republican tax bill. Unfortunately, the bill prioritized big tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Minnesotans. Instead of this approach, I support tax cuts to improve the lives of working families in Minnesota. That’s why I strongly support the Working Family Credit, which would cut taxes for Minnesotans who are working hard and not getting ahead. This provision was not included in the Republican tax bill, but I am hopeful that DFLers can get it included before the final version of the tax bill reaches Governor Dayton’s desk.  (more…)

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Rep. Cheryl Youakim Update: April 3, 2017

Rep. Cheryl Youakim (46B) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

The plan for this week is to take up the remaining omnibus bills before the legislative recess on April 8th through 18th. Once we get back from break, conference committees will be meeting to match up the House and Senate language in the Omnibus bills and set joint spending targets for these bills. Then, the bills will move back to both floors as conference committee reports are accepted or rejected for final passage. It could be possible to find middle ground for some bills, but for many, much more work will need to be done. After break, we will also be taking up individual bills that have made their way through the committee process and on to the House General Register. There are just over 130 bills waiting to be calendared for a House floor vote. Some of them may already be tucked into omnibus bills while others will await a vote. (more…)

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Sen. Melisa Franzen Update: March 31, 2017

Volume 3, Issue 13 — March 31, 2017

A weekly message from your Senator

Dear Constituents and Friends,

Senators and staff put in overtime this week as budget bills were hurried through the final finance committee deadline of Friday, March 31. More than six major budget bills were wrapped up and voted on. 

The judiciary and higher education budget bills were heard on the Senate floor on Tuesday this week. Both bills, particularly the higher education bill, fall short adequately funding core academic programs to maintain educational quality at campuses across the state. On Wednesday, the full Senate voted on three major budget bills: Jobs, State Government, and Environment. An amendment that passed with bipartisan support was included that works to protect Minnesotans’ online privacy rights. It was a timely amendment in reaction to Congress repealing online privacy rights and allowing Americans’ information to be sold to the highest bidder. Debate on the environment bill, which I could not vote for, puts Minnesota’s water quality in jeopardy by exempting hundreds of thousands of acres of land from the state’s buffer law.  (more…)

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Sen. John Hoffman Update: March 31, 2017

Welcome to week 13, where floor sessions went long into the night and even into the morning. More than six major budget bills were wrapped up and voted on, and Real ID was passed by the Senate.

The judiciary and higher education budget bills were heard on the Senate floor on Tuesday this week.  The higher education bill, which short-changes students by not adequately funding core academic programs to maintain educational quality at campuses across the state. The Senate Higher Education Bill is one third the size of what Governor Dayton recommended. We are a long way from compromise. (more…)

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Rep. Erin Koegel Update: March 31, 2017

Rep. Erin Koegel (37A) – Legislative Update

Dear Neighbors,

Budgets are a reflection of our values. We make statements about our priorities as state legislators through what we choose to fund and where we make cuts.

The bills being considered in the Minnesota House of Representatives right now do not reflect the values that I heard from many of you last summer and fall. I heard from you that Minnesota needs to invest in our children, our families, our workers, our disabled family members and friends, and our grandparents. We need to be stewards of our air, water and land. Our roads are in desperate need of repair and improvement. I am worried about what the Republicans’ proposed budgets say about Minnesota’s priorities. (more…)

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Rep. Paul Rosenthal: 35W and 494 Interchange improvement bill heard in House Transportation Finance Committee

On March 29, Rep. Paul Rosenthal (DFL-Edina) presented a bill that would significantly improve traffic congestion on Interstate Highway 35W and Interstate Highway 494 by adding a northbound and westbound ramp.  Designed almost 60 years ago, the 35W and 494 interchange carries between an estimated 250,000 and 300,000 vehicles daily and has had only minor modifications since.

“The 494 corridor at 35W has a statewide reputation as one of, if not the worst, metro traffic jams,” said Rep. Rosenthal. “I am disappointed this bill was not included in the House Republicans’ Transportation Omnibus bill; 21 percent of metro-area jobs are located on the 494 corridor.  The seven metro-area counties contribute to help fund over 60 percent of outstate Minnesota roads and bridges.  It’s important for us as a legislature to work together on a balanced, bipartisan bill that includes long-term sustainability and compromise to fund improvement projects statewide including the 494 and 35W interchange.”

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