An update from the MN Broadband Coalition…
Rep. Ecklund and Sen. Westrom Introduce Broadband Funding in Special Session 7
Saint Paul, Minn.—The MN Legislature convened for its seventh special session of 2020 on December 14. This was the first time lawmakers returned to the Capitol after the news that Minnesota was projected to have a $640 million budget surplus for the current year. Rob Ecklund (DFL-Int’l Falls) and Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow lake) introduced identical bills that would have sent $15 million to the current Border-to-Border grant cycle: SF 12 and HF 13. The Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition sent a letter to the Governor and legislative leaders asking for their support of this legislation. You can read that letter here: link.
Unfortunately, broadband was not part of the final package passed by the House and Senate. Legislators chose to focus narrowly on relief for those businesses hit hardest by the recent shutdown orders. The $215 million bill included:
- $88 million in grants to bars, restaurants, health clubs, bowling alleys, and other businesses
- $14 million to movie theaters and convention centers
- $115 million to counties for distribution to businesses and nonprofits
- Waiving of various fees and permit costs such as 1 a.m. liquor licenses and wastewater fees for breweries and distilleries.
Legislators will convene the regular legislative session on January 5, 2021. The Coalition plans to ask for at least $70 million for broadband in the upcoming biennial budget talks.