From the MN Broadband Coalition (via email)…
Saint Paul, Minn.—The Legislature returned, once again, to Saint Paul to convene what are now regular, monthly special sessions. Governor Walz’s emergency powers are set to expire and he must call the Legislature back into session so they can vote on another 30-day extension of the emergency powers.
We expect the session to be brief, likely lasting long enough for the House and Senate to convene and vote on the emergency powers extension. The GOP-run Senate will vote against extending the Governor’s powers and the DFL-controlled House will vote in favor of extension. Both parties are eager to get back on the campaign trail with less than two months before the election in November.
Broadband Bills Reintroduced
Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) have reintroduced their $27 million broadband funding bills from earlier this summer. You will recall this included $2 million for telemedicine, $15 million for education, and $10 million for a supplemental broadband grant program. This legislation in all likelihood will not be moving during the brief September special session (along with almost all other legislation). However, it shows that Capitol leaders remain engaged on the issue and are ready to continue working on it.
In the mean time, all eyes are on the federal government’s negotiation of a second round of coronavirus relief. If Congress allocates more funding to states like they did this spring with the CARES Act, the Coalition intends to ask legislators and the Governor to spend a portion of that money on broadband expansion. Thousands of students are headed back to school through distance learning and we believe it makes sense to have additional funds in the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. Look to the October special session for movement on that effort should Congress agree on a relief package in the next few weeks.