ST. PAUL, MN – The 2020 Legislative Session ended Sunday, May 18 at midnight. Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19, the legislature came together and made progress on several priorities for Senate District 43.
“Going into the 2020 session, none of us could’ve predicted how things would change for how we do business at the legislature and yet we were able to come together and get a lot of important work done,” said Senator Chuck Wiger (DFL-Maplewood). “I’m proud of the bipartisan work my colleagues and I got done this year and want to thank the members of our community for their important advocacy on issues like the TCE ban and insulin access.”
Though it came close to passing in 2019, this year the legislature passed a statewide ban on the use of TCE, making Minnesota the first state in the country to take this step. Another bill that failed in the final hours of the 2019 session got over the finish line as the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act was passed, providing emergency access to insulin for Minnesotans with diabetes. I also led efforts to help with local tax issues, including a tax exemption for the construction of a new firehouse in Maplewood and to allow voters to decide on a new city sales tax for construction of public safety and public works facilities in Oakdale.
Additionally, the legislature passed a bipartisan series of COVID-19 related measures including:
- Over $32 million in funding to support housing and shelter options for low-income Minnesotans and Minnesotans experiencing homelessness in response to COVID-19
- $200 million in funding to support our state’s healthcare system, $50 million distributed to provide cash flow relief to health care organizations for their highest priority needs, and $150 million for a grant program for health care providers related to COVID-19
- $21 million in funding for Minnesota’s public health response contingency account.
However, the regular session adjourned without passage of a final bonding bill, and Senator Wiger vowed to fight for inclusion of local projects in any bonding bill that may pass in a special session.
“As a member of the capital investment committee, I joined my colleagues in tours across the state of projects that deserve state backing, and I have worked hand in hand with local officials to get our communities’ projects included in a bill,” said Senator Wiger. “Not only would it be a disservice to the hard work of communities throughout the state to not have a bonding bill, it would further hurt Minnesota’s response to the economic fallout of COVID-19. I’m working with my colleagues to improve the final bill.”
A bonding bill requires bipartisan support in both the House and Senate to pass, and a final compromise could not be reached in the final days of session. The House proposed a bill totaling approximately $2 billion, while the Senate proposed a smaller bill of $998 million. Both included funding for important local projects with $4 million in the Senate bill for the Lake Links Trail, and $380,000 for the Trail in the House bill. The bills also included funding for the I-35E and Country Road J Interchange. Despite including some funding for needs at Century College, Senator Wiger would like to see more funding for higher education in the final compromise bill.
“Our colleges and universities are some of the most important public assets in the state, and we must take care of them,” said Senator Wiger. “As we recover from COVID-19, our investment in their physical infrastructure will create jobs, and the education our students receive will drive even more economic activity. We must step up our commitment to them.”
Senator Wiger encourages people to reach out to him via his email firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone via his office (651) 296-6820 or his cell (651) 770-0283.