The Superior Shores Conference Center was filled with smiles and handshakes as members of the community gathered to hear from state, federal and local officials on Monday, Jan. 13 during the Lake County Chamber of Commerce's first Legislative Lunch.
State Reps. Mary Murphy and Rob Ecklund shared their legislative goals for this session in the Minnesota House of Representatives. Murphy has been named the Chair of the House Capital Investment Committee.
"It's a special position that has become less and less special and more and more horrendous as time goes on," Murphy said, jokingly.
As head of the Capital Investment Committee, Murphy said she toured more than 260 different projects asking for state funds.
"There are needs across the state for every community," Murphy said. "We saw the needs. We're going to do our best. I have no idea how much bonding money will be spent, but we will do our best."
Murphy stated she'd like to see $3.5 billion invested in capital investment projects, but stressed that she wasn't sure the senate would approve of such a bold move.
Ecklund said he is focused on serving the needs of Minnesota veterans, citing a recent project at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport that created an Armed Forces Service Center with 40 bunks for traveling service members.
State Sen. Tom Bakk, the Democratic leader in the Republican-led Senate, was less optimistic about the amount of bonding money expected this year. With the divided state government, as Democrats have control in the House, it's much harder to get a bipartisan vote, he said.
"I don't think we'll see that $3.5 billion. There seems to be this arbitrary spending cap of $1 billion. That could be more realistic, but we'll have to wait and see, " Bakk said.
U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith sent aides from their local offices to the event. Rep. Pete Stauber sent an aide and gave a video address. The federal lawmakers' aides said they are focused on bringing broadband to rural communities. They also spoke part their offices played in getting the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness reappraised by the U.S. Forest Service.
Local representatives from the Lake County Board of Commissioners, the Two Harbors City Council, the Silver Bay City Council, Lake Superior School District and Lake View Hospital also shared updates on their respective boards and councils and the work to be accomplished in 2020.