Another week has passed as the 2012 legislative session approaches its end. While no specific date has been determined, the tone around the Capitol signifies adjournment is forthcoming.
This week was action packed in the Senate Transportation Committee. Hearings were held on MnDOT’s Corridor Investment Management Strategy program (CIMS), the Board of Soil & Water Resources (BWSR) Local Government Roads Wetland Replacement Program and on the potential authorization of a new MnPASS lane on I-35E in the east metro area of the Twin Cities.
On Wednesday, committee members were updated by MnDOT’s Assistant Commissioner on the CIMS initiative. CIMS is designed to bring MnDOT together with local, modal and state partners to identify opportunities for collaborative and innovative investment in growing transportation corridors. MnDOT is seeking this collaborative approach to transportation funding strategies to leverage investments to achieve multiple public purposes.
On Thursday, officials from BWSR briefed the committee on the Local Government Roads Wetland Replacement Program. This program allows for the replacement of wetlands by local governments for road construction projects as required by the Federal Clean Water Act and state Wetland Conservation Act. Also appearing before the committee was Kandiyohi County Engineer Gary Danielson. Mr. Danielson stressed the importance of the program and how the county has coordinated efforts with MnDOT and BWSR to streamline wetland replacement for state and local road projects.
In discussing the MnPASS proposal for I-35E, the committee heard testimony from MnDOT on such benefits as reduced congestion, improved traffic flow and more reliable traffic times.
PROTECTING VETERANS AT HOME
A bill allowing Minnesota companies the option to put in place their own veterans hiring programs where previously the federal government had prohibited hiring preferences was signed into law Wednesday. It received unanimous approval in the legislature.
U.S. veterans are experiencing unemployment rates more than twice the general population, and it is even higher in Minnesota, where our Reserve Forces are experiencing very high numbers of volunteerism and deployment. This bill gives protections and allows for private companies to develop hiring programs that will take steps to help solve our state’s veteran employment crisis.
Also on Wednesday, Governor Dayton signed a bill into law that encourages the state to make a greater effort to hire veterans by adding them to the list of protected groups for jobs in state civil service, and make them more sought out for recruitment by the state. The change puts the state on par with the private sector in veterans’ re-employment contests. This bill has received overwhelming levels of bipartisan support because caring for our veterans when they come home is a priority that must be shared by all Minnesotans.
EMPOWERING NURSES WITH MORE FLEXIBILITY
A multi-state nurse licensing agreement was approved by the Senate. The Nurse Licensure Compact would allow those who have resident licensure in Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota licensure recognition to practice in Minnesota as long as he or she registers with the MN Board of Nursing within 30 days from start of practice. To date, there are 24 states that have passed this Compact into law and participate in the reciprocity. Proponents say the reciprocity increases patient safety through enhanced sharing of licensure information, increases mobility for nurses to practice across state borders without additional licensure costs or requirements, and decreases licensure costs for employers. This bill has strong bipartisan support in from my fellow legislators in both houses.
Senator Joe Gimse