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Lobbyist reports Legislature ‘didn’t get it done’ in 2022

Elizabeth Wefel, an attorney with Flaherty & Hood, P.A., updated the Park Rapids City Council on Sept. 27 about the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities' lobbying efforts in 2022.

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Park Rapids City Hall
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo
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The Park Rapids City Council on Sept. 27 received a progress report on the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’s (CGMC) lobbying efforts during the 2022 Minnesota Legislative Session.

During a workshop before the regular meeting, attorney and lobbyist Elizabeth Wefel with Flaherty & Hood, P.A. explained that CGMC represents more than 100 cities, focusing on Local Government Aid (LGA) and property tax issues, economic development, annexation and land use, transportation, environment, and labor and employment.

She said CMGC is in discussion with Minnesota townships about the annexation issue, a point of contention between cities and townships. Regarding labor and employment, she said CGMC may be doing a lot of work next year on the duty disability issue.

As for the 2022 session, she said, “It really was not a great end of session. It should have been.”

Despite positives, such as a $9.3 billion budget surplus and unspent federal funds, Wefel admitted, very little was accomplished.

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She cited such challenges as restricted operations due to COVID-19, especially in the House; this year’s redistricting and elections; ongoing political polarization and unfinished business from 2021, such as “hero pay” and the depleted unemployment insurance fund.

Wefel said organizations like CGMC spent the session lobbying for more LGA funding and a better LGA formula, a bonding bill, and funding for childcare, small city streets, and water and wastewater system improvements.

“Like many things, kind of the punchline is that they didn’t get it done,” she said of the Legislature, which also didn’t draft a bonding bill or address workforce housing, transportation, childcare or clean water infrastructure. “We never got a jobs bill,” she added.

She said the House passed a tax bill including the desired LGA increase and formula changes, but there was nothing for LGA in the Senate tax bill and the conference committee’s compromise failed to make it off the Senate floor.

If the conference committee’s bill had passed, Wefel said, Park Rapids’ LGA would have increased about $200,000 from $630,565 to $833,249.

“This is an issue that we’re not going to let go,” she said.

One bright spot, she said, was approval of broadband funding, including federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars.

The last week of session was promising, Wefel said. But when it came down to the wire, “Everything fell apart,” she said. “They didn’t get anything done.”

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She called it unlikely that a special section will be called this year due to election politics.

Looking ahead, Wefel projected a significant turnover in the election, with at least 47 new legislators, a possible change of control in either chamber, a “very competitive” governor’s race, and a budget year coming up in 2023.

“We’ll likely have a large surplus,” she said. “We’re going to have a bang-up session.”

CGMC’s next major events, she said, include a fall conference Nov. 17-18 in Alexandria, Legislative Action Day in January and a July 2023 summer conference in Thief River Falls.

MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Department heads gave a report on the past year or two at a city council workshop on Jan. 24.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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