The Senate adjourned from the special session early Saturday morning, after a week of negotiations on how best to spend federal CARES dollars, assemble a bonding bill, and pass police accountability.
Governor Walz continues to disrespect rural Minnesota after colluding with House of Representatives’ DFL leadership to kill the second attempt at a rural broadband bill and CARES Act federal aid distribution. The broadband bill would invest part of the CARES aid into pinpointed areas of Minnesota that are still unserved with broadband infrastructure. There was no rational reason the House DFL would not pass this strong bill for rural Minnesota and put it on the Governor’s desk for a signature after a unanimous vote of 67-0 in the Senate. Time is of the essence, because these federal funds must to be spent and projects must be installed before the end of 2020. Senator Nick Frentz (D-Mankato), Representative Rob Ecklund, (D – International Falls), and I worked closely with the Office of Broadband and the broadband industry to craft a one-time, expedited rural broadband program to quickly roll out by this July. $10 million of the grants (up to $500,000 each) would be awarded by early September and targeted towards unserved rural areas.
With such a strong unanimous vote in the Senate last Friday afternoon, I thought rural Minnesota would greatly benefit from this important bill passing. However, the Governor’s office interfered late in the day and coordinated to kill the bill once again, this time during special session. It’s a travesty to see the lack of support for rural broadband that we’ve seen from the Governor. Citizens need to continue to demand Governor Walz stop standing in the way of more rural broadband to help respond to Covid-19 and the “need for speed” in rural areas.
The special session was originally called because Governor Walz will not give up his emergency powers. In order to extend his emergency powers another thirty days, he was forced to call the special session. Senate Republicans, along with some democrats, voted to revoke his “emergency powers” extension in favor of a legislative compromise on major state decisions. The House DFL remains locked step with the Governor and his “go alone strategy.”
The CARES act bill, which divides $841 million of federal money between every county, city, and town in Minnesota, was agreed upon by all four leaders in the House and Senate early in the special session. With wide margins, it was passed with a bipartisan vote. However, in a bout of dishonest dealing the House DFL leadership used a poison pill strategy to kill the money for rural and suburban communities – amending millions of dollars of questionable new spending onto the bill at the Governor’s insistence. This plot was used to tank the bill, robbing rural counties of hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to help with their Covid-19 response in their communities.
Senate adjourned the special session after House DFL leadership lied to the Senate about supporting the federal aid distribution. Negotiations ultimately broke down over dishonest dealings by the DFL leadership and Governor-leading to an intentional stalemate they created.
The House DFL and Governor have linked arms and dug in their heels on every issue. The Senate Majority had previously been fighting for a slightly different distribution of these federal funds to rural counties but came to the table ready to finish a deal that all four party leaders could agree upon. The Senate also brought forth a historic bonding bill and was the first legislative body to pass solid police accountability legislation. The other bodies were unwilling to work together.
Agreements were made and broken multiple times by DFL leadership and the Governor. They keep on “dissing” Greater Minnesota, and that’s no way to run a state!