First of all, I’d like to thank everyone who came to the public hearing that I held in Bemidji last month. I’d also like to thank the elected officials, workers, and community members who helped me show several state legislators around our area. Thanks to you, they returned to St. Paul with a deeper appreciation for Northern Minnesota and a better understanding of how to support communities like ours.
I brought a bipartisan group of elected officials to Northern Minnesota because I believe it’s important for legislators to talk with folks directly. Since time and distance often keep people from making the trip to the Capitol, I decided to bring the Capitol to our community. The public hearing we held brought residents and legislators together to discuss water issues in our area and throughout the state. We had a productive conversation about the challenges we’re facing and how we may resolve them.
I also took the legislators to several local sites, including the Badoura State Forest Nursery, the Bemidji Wastewater Treatment Plant, the Leech Lake Tribal Fish Hatchery, and the St. Regis Superfund site in Cass Lake. The folks that joined us on-site had great insights and ideas and shared that their visit has broadened their understanding of Minnesota’s Northcountry.
2020 Legislative Session Began
The 2020 legislative session began February 11, 2020. I’m looking forward to using the feedback and suggestions that community members have shared with me during the recess.
One of my top priorities for this year is passing a robust bonding bill that invests in Minnesota’s roads and bridges, parks, colleges and universities, and other important assets. I’m advocating for several projects in our area, including upgrades for wastewater treatment plants in Bemidji and Deer River and a new water treatment facility that would solve Bemidji’s water well issues. In addition to pushing for state funding for these projects, I’m carrying a bill that would help the City of Bemidji complete the water infrastructure projects and make necessary repairs at the Sanford Center. This legislation would raise sales taxes by one half of one percent. A Bemidji Pioneer article with more information is available here.
I’ll also be looking at the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program, which helps Beltrami County and other areas with a lot of public land, and helping Northern Minnesota resorts and other businesses that have been impacted by warm weather this winter. A Bemidji Pioneer article with more information about many of my priorities for this session is available here.
Pollinator Protections and Clean Air Week
The Environment and Natural Resources Policy Committee, which I chair, is kicking off Pollinator Protections and Clean Air Week today. At our first public hearing of the legislative session, we’ll discuss three new bills that allow cities to take steps that protect pollinator habitat, provide opportunities for community engagement on permits, and require considering community impacts. Click here to tune in live at 2:30 p.m.
We’ll hold several of these themed weeks this year, so please stay tuned. More information about the committee, legislation we’ve heard, and opportunities for Minnesotans to get involved is available here. Videos of our public hearings will be available here.
New Broadband Grants Awarded
Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant Program has expanded reliable, high-speed internet access to 49,000 homes and businesses since 2014. Last session, we voted to invest $40 million in new broadband grants over the next two years. Governor Tim Walz recently announced that this year’s grants will go towards 30 broadband expansion projects across the state. As part of this package, Paul Bunyan Communications will receive $2.5 million to upgrade access to 914 unserved and 439 underserved locations in rural parts of Cass, Itasca, St. Louis, and Koochiching counties and on the Leech Lake Indian Reservation. I’m pleased to see this project moving forward. More information about this year’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grants is available here.
Stay in Touch
Please continue sharing your thoughts with me throughout the legislative session. You can always reach me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 651-296-5516.
RELEASE: Sunday, May 19, 2019
Statement from Rep. John Persell on Budget Agreement. SAINT PAUL, MN — Tonight, the House, Senate, and Governor reached a bipartisan agreement on state budget targets. Rep. John Persell (DFL – Bemidji) issued the following statement:
“All Minnesotans deserve access to quality education, affordable health care, and reliable internet. I’m glad that the Governor and leaders from the House and Senate have reached an agreement that makes strong investments in education, secures health care for Minnesotans and expands high-speed broadband service. While reaching an agreement requires compromise, this budget is a step in the right direction.”