MN Senate Ag, Rural Dev and Housing Finance Committee meets May 7 – 5:30 PM or At the Call of the Chair

I have this on my calendar for tomorrow. There’s no agenda (that I’ve seen) but broadband is on their slate…

Tuesday, May 7, 2019 – 5:30 PM or At the Call of the Chair
Conference Committee on S.F. 2226
Chairs: Sen. Torrey N. Westrom and Rep. Jeanne Poppe
CONFEREES: SENATE: Westrom; Weber; Goggin; Draheim; Dziedzic – HOUSE: Poppe; Hausman; Vang; Pelowski Jr.; Gunther
5:30 p.m. or At the Call of the Chair
Room 1100 Minnesota Senate Bldg.
Walkthrough of Agriculture, Housing, and Broadband side by sides and spreadsheet.
The Senate holds the gavel.
S.F. 2226-Westrom: Omnibus agriculture department, rural development, and housing finance bill.

Sen Westrom proud of bipartisan broadband support of $30 million in MN

AgWeek posts a letter from Senator Westrom…

On a broad bipartisan vote, the Minnesota State Senate passed our comprehensive agriculture, rural development, and housing budget bill. As the chief author of the legislation, I am proud that legislators on both sides of the aisle worked together to support rural broadband expansion, invest in affordable manufactured housing and home ownership, prioritized value-added agriculture opportunities that directly impact farmers, and increased resources for farmer mental health services in Minnesota.

Details on the broadband portion…

Further, the bill funds the Minnesota Border-to-Border Rural Broadband expansion program at $30 million, a significant increase in the Minnesota Legislature’s appropriation over the last biennium. From health care to education, to agribusiness, broadband access is essential to our way of life in the 21st century. Communities that lack access to broadband cannot flourish. This significant investment addresses this issue head-on.

While the Senate is talking about $30 million for broadband, the Governor and House are talking about $70 million.

Albert Lea Tribune asks MN Senate to budget more for broadband

The Albert Lea Tribune posts an editorial supporting greater investment in broadband…

The Minnesota Senate’s reversal in how much in funding it’s willing to invest in the Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program is disappointing and, should it pass at the current amount of $30 million, it could constitute a costly delay in the economic growth of Greater Minnesota.

Last week, the Senate passed its Senate Agriculture Omnibus Bill by a vote of 43-24. In that bill it allotted $30 million for broadband in the state, down from its original proposal of $70 million.

The Governor’s Broadband Task Force, in its annual report released in 2018, found that $70 million every two years is needed to meet the 2022 state speed goal of 25mbps download and 5mbps upload to every home and business.

To go further, $70 million every two years keeps on track the state statutory speed goals of 100mbps download and 20mbps upload.

Minnesota needs $70 million is State support for broadband grants to reach broadband speed goals

Winona Daily News posts a letter to the Editor from Nancy Hoffman, chairwoman of the MN Rural Broadband Coalition, explaining that Minnesota needs $70 million is State support for broadband grants to reach broadband speed goals.

The Border-to-Border Broadband program has helped the state reach an admirable 91% penetration rate toward the universal access goal, and has become a national model that other states are using to make sure they aren’t left behind. But the Minnesota program hit a snag last year. After four consecutive years of funding, the bill authorizing the 2018 appropriation was caught in a political cross-fire and vetoed by former Gov. Mark Dayton over issues not related to broadband. That stopped the program, and the progress needs to continue this year to make up for lost time.

The good thing is that it can be done and we know exactly how much is necessary to put the program back on track. That number is $35 million a year for the next two years, or $70 million for the biennium. That’s the number the MN Rural Broadband Coalition and Gov. Tim Walz recommended to the legislature, and that’s the number the Minnesota House passed off the floor last week. The Senate is taking a different strategy, moving a bill authorizing a one-time appropriation of $30 million as its Border-to-Border position. We don’t think that is enough, but we understand and respect that positions are being established and negotiations are about to begin as the May 20, end-of-session deadline begins to emerge.

Senator Sparks promotes $30 million bill for broadband

The Austin Daily Herald posts a column from Senator Dan Sparks…

The long nights of the 2019 Legislative Session have arrived. This week my colleagues and I in the Senate started to take up budget bills on the floor, and there has been robust debate and discussion on these important issues as we work together to create a final budget for Minnesota. Our budget is the highest priority for this year, and we must make sure we pass a final budget that reflects our shared values.

The very first budget bill that my colleagues and I passed this year came out of our Agriculture, Rural Development, and Housing Finance Committee. As a member of this committee, I have been working with my colleagues all session hearing bills that fall into this area. Our agriculture industry and rural communities face unique challenges, and we have heard from farmers, advocates, and local officials about many of these issues, and addressing them has been a priority.

A major component of this budget is a $30 million investment in the state’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program. Right now, thousands of Minnesotans lack access to high-quality, high-speed internet. As our society and economy continue to become more interconnected, lacking access to broadband hurts our community’s ability to succeed. This funding is a good step, but I was optimistic that this year we would invest more. In committee, I offered an amendment to match the Governor and House position of $70 million in investment and hope that we will get closer to that number in our final budget.

MN Rep Haley promotes no new taxes but supports funding for broadband

The Red Wing Eagle posts a column from Representative Barb Haley…

With less than one month remaining in the 2019 legislative session, lawmakers must soon agree upon our state’s budget for the next two years. In the weeks ahead, many consequential decisions are set to be made by the Legislature.

The House Democrat majority has assembled its bills to fund state government, many of which have been debated at length and voted on this past week.

Although I’m hopeful we can improve these bills before they arrive at the governor’s desk, I’m concerned with the state they’re currently in. Atop my list of concerns are the excessive mandates and huge tax and government spending increases at these bills’ core.

She supports broadband funding…

Nonetheless, these budget bills contain some good measures that I’m proud to support, such as job training grants, broadband funding, mental health grant increases, and others. I’m hopeful each side can ensure these beneficial provisions are a part of the final, compromised agreement between the House, Senate, and governor. I know Republicans and Democrats ultimately share the goal of making Minnesota the best state it can be. We also all understand the issues — such as affordable healthcare, education funding, and transportation funding — that are important to Minnesotans.

The current House Jobs Omnibus Bill passed the House floor 74-59 and contains $70 million for the grant program over the next two years.

Who voted for and against broadband funding in MN?

Here’s a run down on how broadband funding is doing in Minnesota Legislature. I’ve already mentioned that the House is at $70 million (biennium) and the Senate at $30 million (biennium). But here’s who voted how. To be fair, these are big bills with lots of moving pieces and one piece is broadband.

The House Daily Session Weekly Wrap up reports on the HF 2208, which includes broadband funding set at $70 million the the biennium. …

After a late night Tuesday and a long day of arguing on Wednesday, the House finally passed its omnibus jobs and economic development, energy and climate, and telecommunications policy and finance bill.

As amended, HF2208, sponsored by Rep. Tim Mahoney (DFL-St. Paul), received a favorable 74-59 vote. It now heads to the Senate, where it is sponsored by Sen. Eric Pratt (R-Prior Lake).

Here’s how that vote went:

Those who voted in the affirmative were:

Acomb Bahner Becker-Finn Bernardy Bierman
Brand Cantrell Carlson, A. Carlson, L. Christensen
Claflin Considine Davnie Dehn Ecklund
Edelson Elkins Fischer Freiberg Gomez
Halverson Hansen Hassan Hausman Her
Hornstein Hortman Howard Huot Klevorn
Koegel Kotyza-Witthuhn Kunesh-Podein Lee Lesch
Liebling Lien Lillie Lippert Loeffler
Long Mahoney Mann Mariani Marquart
Masin Moller Moran Morrison Murphy
Nelson, M. Noor Olson Pelowski Persell
Pinto Poppe Pryor Richardson Sandell
Sandstede Sauke Schultz Stephenson Sundin
Tabke Vang Wagenius Wazlawik Winkler
Wolgamott Xiong, J. Xiong, T. Youakim

Those who voted in the negative were:

Albright Anderson Backer Bahr Baker
Bennett Boe Daniels Daudt Davids
Demuth Dettmer Drazkowski Erickson Fabian
Franson Garofalo Green Grossell Gruenhagen
Gunther Haley Hamilton Heinrich Heintzeman
Hertaus Johnson Jurgens Kiel Koznick
Kresha Layman Lislegard Lucero Lueck
McDonald Mekeland Miller Munson Nash
Nelson, N. Neu Nornes O’Driscoll O’Neill
Petersburg Poston Quam Robbins Runbeck
Schomacker Scott Swedzinski Theis Torkelson
Urdahl Vogel West Zerwas

The Senate Media reports on SF2226 Omnibus Ag Bill, which includes $30 million for broadband…

The omnibus agriculture bill, SF 2226, sponsored by Senator Torrey Westrom, R-Elbow Lake, promotes modernization of farm technologies, funds soybean research and marketing, expands rural broadband, encourages modular housing construction and funds mental health services for Minnesota farmers and their families.

The Journal of the Senate reports on the vote…

S.F. No. 2226 was read the third time, as amended, and placed on its final passage.​ The question was taken on the passage of the bill, as amended.​ The roll was called, and there were yeas 43 and nays 24, as follows:​

Those who voted in the affirmative were:​

Abeler​ Anderson, B.​ Anderson, P.​ Bakk​ Benson​ Chamberlain​ Dahms​ Draheim​ Dziedzic​ Eichorn​ Eken​ Frentz​ Gazelka​ Goggin​ Hall​ Hoffman​ Housley​ Howe​ Ingebrigtsen​ Jasinski​ Jensen​ Johnson​ Kiffmeyer​ Koran​ Lang​ Limmer​ Mathews​ Miller​ Nelson​ Newman​ Osmek​ Pratt​ Rarick​ Relph​ Rosen​ Ruud​ Senjem​ Simonson​ Sparks​ Tomassoni​ Utke​ Weber​ Westrom​

Those who voted in the negative were:​

Bigham​ Carlson​ Champion​ Clausen​ Cohen​ Cwodzinski​ Dibble​ Eaton​ Franzen​ Hawj​ Hayden​ Isaacson​ Kent​ Klein​ Laine​ Latz​ Little​ Marty​ Newton​ Pappas​ Rest​ Torres Ray​ Wiger​ Wiklund​

Next step? The bills will be reconciled with funding proposals in conference committee.