Senator Dahms came to the Board to discuss the upcoming Legislative session. He explained several factors leading to a lot of unknowns about the upcoming months. At the end of the last session, the Governor vetoed the funding for the Legislative body. That decision went to the Supreme Court. Dahms reported he thought they took the easy way out and decided they don't have the authority to determine where money should go. This meant that there wasn't going to be any money for the legislative body. They worked with a few agencies and figured out a solution. They are taking some money from the 2019 budget and using that until July 1st, when the 2019 year starts. (They operate on a July 1-July 1 year.) One of the first things that has to happen when the session starts is re-pass the budget and see if the Governor will sign it.
Another issue is that one senator has resigned. There is an scheduled for election Feb. 12. Right now the Republican party has 34 seats, the Democrats have 32. If the Democrats win, they jump to 33 seats. Governor Dayton picked Lt. Governor Tina Smith to become a U.S. Senator. That moves the President of the Senate position to the Lt. Governor. The president of the senate doesn't have a choice. That is required by statute.
This has happened five times in history. Smith has maintained her position as a senator because it’s temporary while acting as a Lt. Gov. The Democrats are challenging her holding both jobs. If she is forced to resign from the U.S. Senate due to being Lt. Gov, that creates a 33-33 tie in seats.
Dahms predicts in that scenario not much would get done in the session because this year’s work would focus on policy and bonding. There would also be a special election in the middle of the session, which would determine which party holds the majority.
Dahms reported that last year there was $800 million budgeted for bonding.
Some of the requests Dahms addressed included: “Maintain the current funding for CPA. “ He reported the change last year was not a one time thing, the idea was to have it continue.
A supplemental bill might address broadband, a big issue in rural Minnesota. The mental illness issue has been getting a lot of attention on the bonding tours.
Gary Johnson asked about the demolition of the Clarkfield High School. Dahms said that project had interest, "and hopefully at the end of the day something can be done to help that process...It helps that part of it is going to be salvaged, and that it's going to benefit the community."
He mentioned that bonding for deconstruction typically isn't done, but the problem of old schools is becoming a big issue. People buy school buildings and plans fall through.
Johnson also asked about road ditch mowing. Greg Reneke added his concern about road kill, citing that he hit a deer on his motorcycle and wasn't able to see it until it was too late because of the tall grass. The change is to not allow mowing until September, but there was a bill passed that put a moratorium on it. Dahms said that if need be he'll write another bill for another moratorium. This bill is very controversial, a lot of hobby farmers are getting involved, more than those involved with the buffer strip issue.
Rae Ann Keeler-Aus of the Health and Human Services Department expressed concern about the thresholds for funding for Child Protection Services, and how it's been a state-wide struggle to meet them. Yellow Medicine County has been able to meet them. The directors want to make sure the funding stays in place, and try to reduce the thresholds for withholding. Changes in the criteria for child protection significantly increased the case load. YMC Health and Human Services added two staff members, the state money covered one.
In other news:
John Berends reported on the meeting of the Yellow Stone Corridor, a group trying to find projects cities can work together on along Highway 212. One option they are looking at is Yellow Stone Trail, which goes to Ortonville and over to St. Paul.
The Whitewater Task Force received the FERC report. Three conditions were listed as requirements for Granite Falls keeping its exemption license. 1) The flow must be maintained. 2) Modifications are subject to review. 3) The State Historical Preservation Office has to be involved.
Dennis Pederson presented quotes for server replacements. This new server will be replacing seven old ones. The Engineering Department presented quotes for three new computers.
Charles Antonson came to the Board to ask to be able to repurchase his property. Last fall in went into tax forfeiture. The Board approved his purchase request.