Rep. Dale Lueck
The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has approved the certificate of need for replacing the 60-year-old Enbridge pipeline Line 3 and accepted most of the preferred route across the northern third of Minnesota. I want to share some initial comments on what lies ahead for our area.
I recently moved bipartisan legislation forward to put new energy into protecting Minnesota's natural wild rice. It is time to refocus on the hydrological, biological and physical risks to wild rice health. The bill successfully cleared the House Environmental and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee and is headed for the House Government Operations Committee.
Our nation was founded on the principle that our government is of the people, by the people, for the people. In that light, it is time for the people to have their say on the proposed withdrawal of mineral leases on more than one-quarter of a million acres of federal lands in the Rainy River Watershed.
Recently, questions have been raised in a letter to the editor by Ms. Flor about a bill in the Legislature dealing with school trust lands. That bill is H.F. 1233/S.F. 1028, "an act relating to natural resources; appropriating money to facilitate sale of school trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area; extending availability of an appropriation; amending law 2016 chapter 189, article 3, section 6."
The Minnesota Department of Commerce recently reopened the public comment period and scheduled more public hearings involving the Sandpiper and Line 3 crude oil pipelines. The hearing in our area will be 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on May 11 at the East Lake Community center near McGregor. Go to www.sandpiperline3.us/ to submit an online comment.
We made significant progress last week toward a special session that will allow us to repass the major budget bills Governor Dayton vetoed. After a full week of meetings between the leadership in the Legislature and the governor, agreement has been reached on the education, ag and environment, legacy and capital expenditure bills.
We are just over halfway through this year's legislative session. As we approach the Easter break the focus will shift almost exclusively to producing the next two-year budget. My three top budget priorities remain providing support across the elder and disabled health care spectrum; improving our roads and bridges; and reducing or eliminating areas we should not be taxing. Recently, I was able to spend an entire day in the district meeting with groups and individuals to discuss how we can make improvements in the elder and disabled care area.
Minnesota faces significant challenges as its population ages. Aitkin and Crow Wing are among counties in our state at the front of the aging pack. Reports indicate more residents in our state will reach retirement age this decade than the previous four decades combined. Census data shows that, as of 2013, Aitkin stood as one of four counties with a median age of 50 or higher - Big Stone, Cook and Lake of the Woods are the others.