Several bills with Brainerd links heard by committees
Activity in the Minnesota House of Representatives seems to be picking up, at least in relation to legislation related to the Brainerd area.
Several pieces of legislation introduced by Rep. John Ward, DFL – Baxter, recently received hearings in Minnesota House committees.
The bills dealt with a possible veterans nursing home in Brainerd, an amendment in bus regulations for the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza, a business growth program and bonding money for an elevator at the Brainerd Area Civic Center.
On Monday, House File 460, a bill funding and establishing a Veterans Nursing Home in Brainerd was heard in the House State Government Finance and Veterans Affairs Committee.
HF 460 would bond $9 million to design, construct, furnish, and equip a new veterans nursing home facility on the campus of the Brainerd Regional Treatment Center or any other suitable site. Currently, the closest veterans home is in Fergus Falls.
“The reason I am continuing to push for a veterans home in the Brainerd Lakes Area is because our local vets deserve to be able, if they choose, to spend the rest of their lives close to their home,” said Rep. Ward.
“Our region has been short on space and long on distance when it comes to area veterans nursing homes. State studies and surveys have concluded that the Brainerd area would be the best place for a new vets home. This legislation may also reuse the now vacant Brainerd Regional Treatment Center site, creating jobs and development in the area. That’s a win-win.”
HF 460 was passed out of committee and referred to the House Capital Investment Committee.
Last week, the House Transportation Policy Committee also heard HF 1304, a bill to amend school bus regulation for special events. This bill was crafted after a bus inspector found that busses being used for the Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza were not following state guidelines and it could cost the charitable ice fishing contest an additional $30,000 if this legislation is not enacted. HF 1304 would create one and two day bus permits allowing busses to be used for special fundraisers for non-profits.
“The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza is a tax-exempt fundraiser working to raise money for area non-profits, and I believe groups that do great, positive work like this shouldn’t be held back by state regulations,” said Rep. Ward.
The bill was amended in committee to address concerns from the State Highway Patrol and then passed with unanimous bipartisan support to the General Register.
On Tuesday, the House Capital Investment Committee heard HF 110, a bill appropriating bonding money for an elevator in the Brainerd Civic Center to make the building completely accessible to the handicapped and disabled. The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in the House Bonding Bill.
“This improvement is long overdue,” said Rep. Ward. “We need to ensure that our public buildings are completely accessible to handicapped and disabled Minnesotans. I’m hopeful that this bill will be included in an upcoming bonding bill.”
On Monday, the House Jobs and Economic Development Finance and Policy Committee heard HF 1018, a bill to appropriate a $3 million grant to Enterprise Minnesota for their small business growth and acceleration program. The grant would go to the Growth Acceleration Program, matching grant that enables small manufacturing companies to access business improvement services.
Since its inception in 2008 GAP has helped more than 245 Minnesota manufacturers create or retain 1,700 jobs and realize a $15 return for every $1 spent by GAP. On average, companies have realized as much as a $40 to $1 return on GAP. Two Brainerd area companies have benefited from this program: Stern Companies, Inc. in Baxter and Pequot Tool in Pequot Lakes.
Currently, manufacturing or manufacturing related service companies with fewer than 250 employees are eligible for GAP funding. Manufacturing represents one in seven jobs in Minnesota. Each manufacturing job supports another 1.3 jobs elsewhere in the economy or 800,000 jobs in the state, a total of 29 percent of the workforce.
“This is a great piece of legislation for our area and while it’s a small grant, it produces big results,” said Rep. Ward. “This bill, combined with my legislation for a Greater Minnesota Jobs Tax Credit, could bring a manufacturing boost to the Brainerd Lakes Area. I’ll continue fighting my hardest for good-paying middle-class jobs in our area.”
The bill was laid over for possible inclusion in an Omnibus Jobs Bill.