2018 Legislative Session Underway: What We’re Fighting For

By Jessica Treat, Executive Director

Jessica Treat speaking at a Capitol rally

Minnesota’s 2018 legislative session officially kicked off on February 20. Being active at the State Capitol is a high priority for us at TLC-Smart Trips. It’s a key time to unite around a shared vision for the future—and to push for change to make it happen.
When we think about the future we want for our state, we envision a Minnesota where each and every community has choices for getting around. Where the air is clean, our families are healthy, and our neighborhoods are thriving. A Minnesota that feels connected, because it is.
We’re committed to carrying that vision forward every step of the way—and we hope you’re with us!
Of course, this new legislative session follows last year’s extreme attacks on transit funding and transit expansion. Our successful advocacy played a big role in stopping the devastating cuts proposed at the State Capitol and helped secure $70 million in new one-time money for transit in the metro area.
We’re hopeful 2018 won’t bring the same battle, but it’s still too early to tell. Here’s where we are putting our energy so far:
Big Picture: We have our eyes locked on that vision for the future—and on the major funding cliff Metro Transit is facing in 2019. This looming budget issue is one of our top concerns as we continue to advocate for fully funding transit and active transportation options statewide. Keeping people front and center as the future of our transportation systems are debated at the State Capitol and building even more grassroots support—not only to protect the options Minnesotans have but to grow the options Minnesotans need—will be major priorities for us over the next year.
Defense: In the short term, we are also keeping a careful watch on the need for defensive action against any proposals that threaten transit or active transportation. Already, bills are cropping up at the Capitol that are cause for concern. For example, HF 3369 and HF 3522 both would lead to cutbacks in funding for transit options. And newly introduced HF 3915 proposes an amendment to the state constitution that would take dedicated money away from transit in Greater Minnesota and the metro and shift it to highway purposes. The bill also imposes a new cap on how much money from the motor vehicle sales tax can go to public transit (max: 30%) and removes the ceiling on the amount going to the highways fund (minimum: 70%), opening the door to additional reductions in statewide transit funding in the future.
Project Funding: This spring, we are advocating for new capital investments to advance transit, bicycling, and walking projects in the metro area and across the state. Projects that have our strong support for bonding include the Metro Transit Heywood Bus Garage, continued build-out of the bus rapid transit network, and Safe Routes to School.
Policy Change: We are also paying close attention to policy proposals that will improve safety for people walking and biking throughout the state and any changes to MnDOT’s structure, reporting, and measurements for bike-walk projects.
Multimodal or Bust: Conversation is swirling about another possible constitutional amendment to dedicate a portion of sales tax on auto parts, car leasing, and car rental to road and bridge projects. We will oppose this amendment if introduced. As discussed, it does not include any funding support for pedestrian, bicycle, and transit infrastructure and doesn’t comprehensively think about all transportation needs for the people of Minnesota.
Other potential issues to watch this year include:
•  A pitch for a new statewide ridesharing policy: SF 2704
•  Changes to Metropolitan Council governance, with implications for transit in the metro
•  Updates to MnDOT’s contract funding process for Greater Minnesota transit
•  Mileage reimbursement for the volunteer drivers that help fellow residents get around in Greater Minnesota
We are thankful to our Transportation Forward coalition partners for being strong allies in this work.
If you are interested in getting more involved as an advocate or volunteer, we’d love your help! Connect with our new Field Manager, Theresa Thompson Nix at theresatn@smart-trips.org or 651-789-1406. 

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