Funding, RTC, AIS top issues [UPDATED]Published 6:23am Monday, January 7, 2013 Updated 8:27am Monday, January 7, 2013
Elections have come and gone, the DFL now has control of the senate, house and governor’s office and changes are to be expected as a result of the upcoming legislative session.
Senators and representatives will be sworn in Tuesday, Jan. 8, and after a week of introductions and formalities, Minnesota’s biggest issues will begin to hit the table.
Rep. Bud Nornes said this is a funding year, so a lot of changes could be made, especially with the majority moving from the GOP to the DFL.
Education and health and human services will be hot topics of discussion, but there are a lot of other areas that will get attention, he said.
“I can’t pick out any one thing because everything is on the table,” Nornes said. “Everything is up for grabs, but I would say the budget is the number one thing. The majority party is now talking about revenue, and that’s code word for taxes. They’re going to look for more revenue, and that’s one of their top priorities.”
One of the more prominent local issues being taken to the session is the Fergus Falls City Council’s recommendation to extend the Regional Treatment Center demolition funds for two years in order to give potential buyers ample time to assess the facility and present an offer.
“I’m just kind of guessing that would be one of the later issues to get resolved,” Nornes said. “Probably not even until May because it will be a part of the bonding process if there is a bonding bill, and that typically doesn’t happen until toward the end of the session.”
Another issue facing Otter Tail County is being closely eyed by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen. Aquatic invasive species have been spreading through Minnesota waters slowly but steadily, and the effort to slow and ultimately stop the spread takes funding. Ingebrigtsen called the fight against invasives a nonpartisan issue.
“We all agree on that one,” he said. “It just comes down to where the funding comes from.”
While zebra mussels seem to be the most talked about invasive species in the area, slowing the spread of invasive flying carp will be the topic of much conversation at the upcoming session, Ingebrigtsen said.
“Invasive flying carp will be a big time issue for us if they get into our waterway from the Mississippi,” he said. “The project cost seems to keep growing and growing as we go.”
Another topic Ingebrigtsen said he expects to see with the DFL as the majority is a push to legalize marijuana.
“Of course I would be against that, but it’s kind of two-fold for the liberal agenda,” he said. “They say, ‘Let’s not fight the war on drugs anymore because we’re losing, and it would be a good source of revenue.’”
Another issue Nornes wants to bring back to the upcoming session is Emily’s law. Nornes said he would like to see the minimum age a juvenile can be charged as an adult dropped from 14 to 13. As part of this change, he added that juveniles convicted as adults should serve their time in a juvenile facility rather than an adult prison.
With a lot of matters to be addressed, it is now up to the DFL to lay out the schedule for the session. Until that happens, both Nornes and Ingebrigtsen said they don’t know when any of the issues at hand will be dealt with.