April 12 Day on the Hill

A big thank you to the more than 60 participants in last week’s Broadband Day on the Hill.  It was terrific to see so many members of the Minnesota Rural Broadband Coalition telling their stories and making a push for funding Minnesota’s Border-to-Border Broadband Grant program this year. There was great enthusiasm, energy and buzz around the day.

Thanks to our morning policy panel for the discussion and information and helped set the stage for individual legislative meetings during the day.  Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Chair, Governor’s Task Force on Broadband; Danna MacKenzie, Office of Broadband; Broadband legislative leaders, Rep. Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset), Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL-International Falls), Sen. Mark Koran (R-North Branch) and Sen. Erik Simonson (DFL-Duluth).

In particular, we are grateful to Rep. Sandy Layman (R-Cohasset) for securing a hearing on our bill, HF3527 in the House Jobs Committee on a day the Committee does not usually meet. We had a strong testimony from Gary Johnson, Paul Bunyan Communications; Nancy Hoffman, Chisago County EDA/HRA and Coalition Chair; Hannah Erickson, Greenway HS; Eric Klindt, business owner and Wilkin County Commissioner and Barb Andreasen, Alliana Health.

We are encouraged to see that both the House and Senate leadership and Gov. Dayton view Border-to-Border Broadband as a funding priority this year. The Rural Broadband bill set a funding target of $51.48 million in HF3527/SF2787. These bills enjoy broad bi-partisan support. Gov. Dayton has set aside $30 million, and the House and Senate target is set at $15 million. This leaves ample room for end-of-session negotiations.

This week the House and Senate will begin to assemble their omnibus bills as we move into the next stage of the Legislative Process.  We have five weeks to go, stay tuned for action alerts as we get into May.