Region fared well this legislative session

Published 6:34 am Sunday, May 20, 2012

Column: Senate Report, by Dan Sparks

The 2012 legislative session adjourned on May 10. I think there were some missed opportunities this year to do more for the state — the ideas that Gov. Mark Dayton and my DFL colleagues had to pay back schools and rebuild Minnesota’s budget should have been taken more seriously. But on a regional basis, I’m very proud of where this session left off. We were able to pass some pretty important measures for our local communities, and that’s nothing to take lightly.

Rep. Jeanne Poppe and I worked hard to make sure The Hormel Institute, arguably a project with the biggest potential for statewide impact, would be fully funded in the bonding bill. This project will yield more than 120 new, permanent, high-paying jobs bringing up to $6 million in new payroll to the city of Austin and surrounding areas.

Dan Sparks

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What’s more, this industry has a multiplier effect of adding two to three additional jobs for every one created.

Also included in the bonding bill was language to help Albert Lea design, construct and equip water and sewer utilities in the area of Broadway Avenue and Main Street during the Main Street construction project; flood hazard mitigation dollars to benefit Austin and the Shell Rock River Watershed District; funding for the Shooting Star Trail; support for local bridge and road projects; and many other statewide priorities.

I also was proud to pass a bill this year that should bring justice for more children and vulnerable adults around the state. Last year’s tragic child-abuse story from Dexter prompted the bill that will increase penalties for those that harm children and adults — something that should have been done a long time ago. Another local bill will bring regulatory relief for a few small electric energy providers, meaning lower rates for local utility payers.

And the Albert Lea Economic Development Agency will be helped by a new sewer incentive plan that was passed into law, which could be used to create jobs and increase the usage of the Albert Lea sewage plant.

Of course, the Legislature did also address the issue of a new Vikings stadium. It has been a long journey on this issue, and I am sure it will receive mixed reviews from the public, as many bills do, but I think it was the right thing to do.

The final agreement includes no general fund taxpayer dollars, and the new charitable gaming options should have a positive impact on local establishments and bring more dollars to charities around the state.

Having a National Football League team in the state is a valued asset to the people and businesses of Minnesota: Whether you attend games in person, watch them at a community establishment or stay at home with family and friends, they have an impact on our lives and economy.

While more certainly could have been done this year, I’m pleased with what has been accomplished this year in St. Paul for the residents of District 27.

Now, the Legislature is adjourned until Jan. 8, 2013, but if you have any questions or concerns during the interim, you still may contact my Senate office at:; 651-296-9248; Room 19 State Office Building, St. Paul, MN 55155.


Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, is the state senator for District 27.