Sen. Reinert Begins Session with Duluth Bills
ST. PAUL, Minn. – The troubles surrounding Duluth’s seed library could soon be fixed thanks to Sen. Roger Reinert’s (DFL-Duluth) bill that would create an exemption for the library from current seed law. This past August, the Department of Agriculture (MDA) alerted the Duluth’s seed library (the first in the state) that by sharing seeds of various vegetable plants, it was unknowingly breaking the law.
“After having several fruitful conversations with both MDA and the seed library, we settled on this course of action – to author a bill that would simply exempt the seed library’s exchange program from current seed law. The current law was put in place decades ago and was designed to act as consumer protection and to promote fair competition, neither of which directly applies in the seed library situation,” said Sen. Reinert.
The use of biodiesel on Great Lakes vessels is another issue Reinert is tackling this session. Biodiesel is a blend of diesel fuel and between six and 20 percent of biodiesel fuel. The state has set a minimum percentage of biodiesel fuel oil by volume that all Minnesota vehicles must comply with. Great Lakes vessels wanting to put on fuel in Duluth must have that fuel meet an international specification. Biodiesel currently does not. The USCG and Lakers are currently exempt by statute. Reinert’s bill would expand that exemption to all Great Lakes vessels regardless of country of origin, thereby including ocean-going vessels as well.
“The current situation is just difficult,” said Reinert. “Lakers can put on fuel at the Clure Terminal, but Salties cannot. Not only does the Port lose business as a result, these ships must make another stop to fuel.”
Reinert is also a co-author on the Senate’s transportation finance bill, which increases revenue for transportation funding to just under $800 million for 2015, plus an additional $567 million for local roads and bridges through bonding. The bill also raises more than $1 billion each year for the next three years. The plan provides dedicated revenue through a number of methods including a new 6.5 percent gross receipts tax, vehicle registration tax changes, and a seven-county metro area sales tax increase.
“It’s time to truly commit to investing in Minnesota’s roads, bridges and transit. If we don’t do something dramatic like our bill suggests, our system will only continue to deteriorate. This funding package addresses transportation issues in all corners of the state, and is very good for regional centers like Duluth,” said Reinert.
Reinert adds that a large portion of the money will be dedicated to fixing roads and bridges in Greater Minnesota. Because Duluth relies heavily on its transportation connections by rail, highway, airport, and sea port, this funding package will be key to maintaining Duluth’s economic vitality.