From the MN Rural Broadband Coalition…
Memo To: MRBC Members
Memo From: Nathan Zacharias
Re: Second Special Session Ends With Mixed Results
Second Special Session Ends with Mixed Results
Saint Paul, Minn.— On July 13, the Governor extended his emergency powers for another 30 days and called the Legislature back into a second special session. Legislators returned to Saint Paul and promptly retreated behind closed doors to negotiate bills. They came back on July 20 to pass a bipartisan police reform bill. The bill was the focal point of the session after negotiations broke down during June’s first special session. Police reform was the only major item to pass the Legislature in the second special session. A bonding and tax bill package failed to pass the House. Republicans withheld their votes on the bill—which requires a supermajority to pass—over objections to some projects in the bill and Governor Walz’s emergency powers. The Legislature adjourned in the early morning hours of July 21.
Because the Governor’s emergency powers only last for 30 days, he must call the Legislature back for a 3rd special session in August if he wants to extend them. It is likely that legislators will use the next few weeks to continue work on the bonding and tax bill. We can also expect the Governor to make a decision in the coming weeks on whether students will attend school in-person in the fall and a statewide mask mandate. Depending on what the Governor decides, those items will be hotly debated in the August special session.
No Movement Yet on Broadband
The supplemental broadband grant program that legislators proposed during the 1st special session was again introduced in the House and Senate. The program would send $10 million to the Office of Broadband Development to issue grants for projects to be constructed by the end of the year. There were concerns that if the bill didn’t pass during the 1st special session the program might not be viable. Unfortunately, the Office of Broadband Development confirmed there isn’t enough time for them to administer the program and providers to meet construction timelines. The Office is now ramping up their work on the 2020 Border-to-Border grant cycle, which has $20 million available.
We intend to continue working with legislators in the August special session to try to get additional funding for broadband. This will be especially important if students are required to continue distance learning in the fall.