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COLUMN: Sen. Rarick - "A Wrap on Session"

A Wrap on Session by Senator Jason Rarick

The Legislative Session has officially come to a close, and this year was a tough one. For 5 months, it felt like Democrats were totally unwilling to work with Republicans in any way. Every one of the “big” bills that was brought forward, Senate Republicans tried to offer amendments to. We were incredibly interested in working across the aisle to ensure rural Minnesota’s needs didn’t get left out of these final bills. Unfortunately, Republican amendments were repeatedly struck down on party line votes. It was a disheartening process, and it essentially limited the voice of half of the state. It was frustrating to say the least. Though there were numerous challenges, we were able to pass a bonding bill that served all of Minnesota. In that bill were a number of initiatives I was proud to champion.

I’m incredibly happy to see funding go towards Pine Technical and Community College. Pine Tech is a cornerstone of the community, and investing in the school equates to investing in our future. They received funding to design, renovate, and construct technical trade labs. This project will help Pine Tech continue its growth as it serves more students and the community.

There is also funding for water infrastructure projects, such as funding for the expansion in Cloquet, which will allow the city to design and construct improvements to the Lake Superior water transmission line to Cloquet. The funding will also include money for electrical infrastructure upgrades at Pump Station 2, as well as the renovation and repair of the Harris and Wagtskjold Reservoir.

The Sanitary Board of the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District will also be receiving critical funding to design and construct engine generators, which will be part of the combined heat and power system. This will allow the capturing and processing of heat, and will help generate electricity for use at the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District wastewater treatment facilities. This sanitary district will receive an additional grant to rehabilitate the number 1 and number 4 secondary clarifiers in the district’s wastewater treatment system.

Another important project is the Carlton County Female Offender and Judicial Facilities, which will receive a grant to construct, furnish, and equip a new regional center within the Carlton County Justice Center. Not only will this expansion make our community safer, but it will also help with creating new jobs.

I’m happy that many of these projects made it to the finish line. These projects and investments will make our community better and in many cases, safer. I’ve heard about these projects for quite some time, and I’m glad we were finally able to get them done. These projects truly are addressing critical needs such as water infrastructure, waste management, and more.

Outside of the bonding bills, we were also able to provide important funding for nursing homes that have been struggling with staff and resource shortages. In the last weekend of negotiations, Senate Republicans were able to secure $300 million to help nursing homes. The agreement includes direct grants, facility rate increases, and a workforce incentive fund that adds up to about $1.1 million for every nursing home in the state. The funds are in addition to the $100 million in loans available in the Human Services bill that passed a few weeks ago. These are the folks and homes that take care of our loved ones, and this funding will ensure they stay open and accessible. Though this funding is instrumental in addressing a true crisis, we will still have to revisit the issue in the future.

There were many negatives, but there were also a few positives. As the days wound down, we were able to come to an agreement on a bonding bill that makes needed investments throughout the state. We were also able to secure over $300 million in funding for nursing homes, which have been facing crippling staffing shortages. I am hopeful that heading into next year, we’ve laid the groundwork for bipartisan work to continue.

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