As this year's session at the Minnesota Legislature gets into full swing, city officials will take a list of priorities to the Capitol that is topped by a request for increased local government aid.
The city's 2007 legislative agenda requests that the funding for local government aid be returned to the level it was at before sharp cuts to the program were implemented in 2003. As a result of legislation that year, Minneapolis went from being set to receive $117 million in 2003 to receiving just shy of $84 million in 2007. Council Member Betsy Hodges (13th Ward), who chairs the City Council's Intergovernmental Relations Committee, said the state aid is crucial to the city because it supports everything from public safety to libraries.
“It's so foundational to the other work that we do in the city,” Hodges said, adding that state aid will be a focus of the city's energy and effort at the State Capitol this year.
Along with receiving more local government aid, the city would like the money to continue to come without requirements on how it be spent. Already, House Republicans have lined up behind a plan that would restore local government aid but require Minneapolis and St. Paul to spend their state aid on public safety. Mayor R.T. Rybak issued a statement Jan. 10, saying that while he's glad House Republicans are interested in restoring the local government aid cut under their leadership, “they should know that the city of Minneapolis is already doing its part by providing every available resource to keep our city safe.”
The city also has other public safety measures on its list of legislative priorities. In addition to more funding, the city will push for “a statewide coordinated plan for dealing with released sex offenders” to alleviate the concentration of the state's sex offenders living in Minneapolis and Hennepin County. The city is also pursuing legislative authority to continue its “Stop on Red” program, which captures images of motorists running red lights and was found in violation of state law because it presumed the vehicle's owner was also the driver caught by the camera. The city is appealing the ruling while also simultaneously seeking legislative authority.
The city has also made it a priority to seek the creation of a state law granting the Civilian Review Authority (CRA) limited subpoena power to gather records and physical evidence so they have the ability to get records relevant to the allegations before them from entities other than the city.
Minneapolis officials will also push for legislation to mitigate the effect airport noise has on surrounding neighborhoods. They will also work to get legislation passed to increase funding for public libraries. The city's legislative agenda opposes legislation allowing the purchase of wine in grocery stores. The city will also continue to seek measures to increase funding for a number of perennial issues such as transportation and mass transit projects.
And although last year was a bonding year and legislators this year will be focused mainly on adopting a budget, the city will also keep its eye on whether there is any available capital funding. The city listed a number of priorities in its 2007 agenda that bonding committees reviewed, but these didn't receive funding last year. In order of priority, city officials would seek funding for the Grand Rounds Parkway lighting and roadway rehabilitation; University Research Park; Heritage Park Redevelopment Project; and Target Center debt relief and capital improvements.