93rd Minnesota Legislature, Olmsted County legislative priorities
Each year, the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners approves a set of priorities for advocacy during the state legislative session. If you’d like more information about any of these priorities, please contact Jennifer Berquam.
The 2023 Legislature convened on January 3, 2023 and adjourned on May 22, 2023. For up-to-date information, please visit the Minnesota Legislature website.
2023 State Legislative Priorities
Olmsted County-specific proposals
Olmsted County urges your support for the following five local projects that each have regional impact.
Materials recovery facility (MRF)
Objectives of the proposed MRF are to reclaim recyclable materials and remove recoverable and noncombustible materials from the waste stream to be further processed and to increase capacity and efficiency of the OWEF and postpone the need for future expansions of the OWEF and our local landfill.
Outcome: The capital investment bill included $10 million general obligation bond funds for the MRF (Chapter 72).
Interchange at CSAH 44 and TH 14
The proposed interchange at County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 44 and Trunk Highway (TH) 14 and an associated flyover structure at 7th Street NW will improve safety and support regional growth and economic development. The TH 14 Corridor Analysis Project identified the construction of an interchange at the CSAH 44 intersection as an immediate, short-term (5-year) improvement. Olmsted County received funding in the 2020 bonding bill to begin design and environmental work. Funding for construction is still needed.
Outcome: The capital investment bill included $5 million general fund cash for the project (Chapter 72).
Graham exhibition center
Graham Park has served southeast Minnesota as a regional asset for more than 100 years for agriculture, community events, entertainment, and youth athletics. Support investments in Graham Park to meet demonstrated regional and community needs, drive year-round activity and generate new economic opportunities. The state’s capital investment will be matched with county funds to construct a regional, multi-use exhibition center designed to meet these market demands and facilitate improvements to better serve the year-round Rochester Farmers Markets through inclement weather.
Outcome: The cash infrastructure bill included $8 million for the project (Chapter 71).
Energy Park land transfer
Olmsted County has proposed purchasing property at Energy Park currently owned by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR.) The county and DNR are actively discussing the purchase and legislation that may be needed to complete the sale.
Outcome: The county shared information with legislators on the project but if legislation is necessary, it will not be until 2024.
Oxbow Park campground
The Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission (GMRPTC) concluded its application review process and has included the Oxbow Park campground relocation in its list of recommendations to the legislature. Olmsted County Parks requested $2,050,000 in grant funding to construct a new campground in a new location out of the flood plain. The new campground will increase the number of sites and include four camper cabins. Expanded amenities will provide services to a wide variety of users. Olmsted County urges the legislature to support the GMRPTC recommendations.
Outcome: The omnibus legacy bill provided funding for the Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission, which included $2.05 million for the project (Chapter 40).
State supervised; County delivered services
Resource recovery facilities: Ensure the viability and success of resource recovery facilities
Olmsted County’s Waste-to-Energy Facility supports the state’s solid waste management hierarchy and helps provide an effective, efficient, and environmentally focused waste management system for all residents. The state has delegated solid waste management responsibilities to counties through Minnesota Statutes, Chapters 400 and 473.
Outcome: Two provisions passed that could have long-term impacts for the OWEF, including the passage of HF 7 which requires electricity generation to be carbon-free by 2040. Cumulative impacts legislation also passed in the omnibus environment and natural resources bill and requires the MPCA to deny permits if they would add to environmental stressors in an environmental justice area. This language applies to cities of the first class, which includes Rochester (Chapter 7 and Chapter 67).
Increase funding for community supervision services and implement a new funding model where state allocations are transparent, needs-based, and equitable among county and state supervision providers. Minnesota Statutes 244.19 and Chapter 401 require the state to fund 50% of statewide costs for community probation and supervision. The state currently reimburses counties for community probation and supervision at 29% and has fallen short of providing the required 50% funding for several years.
Local public health
Increase state investment in local public health to support a strong and equitable public health workforce and infrastructure that ensures a foundation of core services and responsibilities, such as public health emergency preparedness and response. Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 145A, require counties to provide these services. With the support of the Minnesota Legislature, the Minnesota Department of Health has also begun modernizing the state’s public health infrastructure, which counties strongly support and advocate for continued state funding.
Outcome: The omnibus health bill included two ongoing funding streams for local public health - $9.844 million annually for public health system transformation grants and $8.4 million annually for public health emergency preparedness and response activities (Chapter 70).
Mental health: Fund a strong mental health continuum in Minnesota
The Minnesota Comprehensive Mental Health Act reflects a state-supervised, county-administered mental health system. Counties serve as the local mental health authority and request increased state funding for the mental health continuum of care. This is needed to appropriately serve high-need and hard-to-serve individuals in communities throughout the state. Funding should include workforce, access to psychiatric and prevention services, community-based services, placements for individuals with complex needs, services for justice-involved adults and children, a Medicaid benefit for children’s crisis stabilization services (like services provided by the Southeast Regional Crisis Center), and expanded capacity at Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health Hospitals (CABHH) and Minnesota-State Operated Community Services (MSOCS) facilities.
Outcome: Several provisions passed to support the mental health continuum. Significant items for counties include: workforce incentive grants (behavioral health and early intensive development and behavioral intervention), $14 million in FY24/25 and $9 million in FY 26/27 for school-linked behavioral health grants, $18 million onetime additional funding for mobile crisis grants, and funding for new psychiatric residential treatment facility start up grants. The omnibus human services bill also included changes for two years to the 48-hour rule and eliminates the county cost share for mentally ill and dangerous individuals who await transfer from one state-operated facility to another (Chapter 61 and Chapter 70).
Families First Prevention Services Act
Invest in long-term, sustainable, and equitable funding to fully implement the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA) and support family safety, stability, and well-being. The FFPSA is a federal act that became law in 2018. The intent of the act is to better support children who have experienced abuse or neglect by preventing out-of-home placements and broadening access to programs and services to increase the number of children who can remain safely with their families. While the law provides a significant opportunity for systemic and programmatic service improvements to families, Minnesota has faced difficulties in operationalizing the details of the law.
Outcome: The omnibus health bill included $500,000 per biennium to DHS to establish and implement a state-run qualified individual program. The bill also appropriates over $11 million annually for grants to implement evidence-based prevention, intervention, and kinship programs (Chapter 70).
Health and human services technology systems upgrades
Invest in the transformation of state technology systems to achieve efficient service delivery in health and human services and the ability to better monitor statewide outcomes. This work should include appropriate county collaboration, oversight, and guidance.
- Account validation systems: Olmsted County is specifically interested in implementing account validation systems (AVS) to increase efficiencies when determining eligibility for benefits and to reduce backlogs.
- Child care eligibility system: Resources are needed to fix the new releases to the child care assistance eligibility system (MEC2). The new release is not functional and has significantly increased the amount of time that eligibility workers spend on applications and recertifications for the child care assistance program. These complexities are creating significant delays in benefit issuance and negatively impacting eligible families and child care providers. The Department of Human Services should work with counties on prioritizing the necessary fixes.
Outcome: The legislature made a significant one-time investment in HHS technology improvements in the health and human services omnibus bills. The bills included approximately $198 million for DHS service delivery transformation, including IT systems improvements. There is no direct funding for counties (Chapter 61 and Chapter 70).
County budget impacts: Adjust state programs to help provide property tax relief to local residents
- Property taxes: Expand benefits in the state’s market value exclusion, property tax refund, and targeted property tax refund programs and evaluate property tax policies to better serve seniors and disabled persons.
- County program aid: County program aid (CPA) is the general property tax aid program for counties and is the equivalent of local government aid (LGA) for cities. Increase CPA funding to ensure counties have the support needed to fulfill responsibilities delegated by the state. Current funding levels are below historic values, especially when comparing as a percentage of county budgets and as a share of the state budget.
- Sales tax on construction materials: Provide exemption or refund of the state sales tax local governments pay on construction materials for local projects. According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, local governments collectively pay over $70 million annually in sales tax on construction materials.
Outcome: The omnibus tax bill included an $80 million annual increase for CPA and expansion of several property tax programs like the market value exclusion, property tax refund, targeted property tax refund, and senior property tax deferral programs. Different variations of the local government construction materials sales tax were included in House, Senate, and governor tax proposals; however, only individual requests from communities were approved in the final bill this session (Chapter 64).
Counties also feel the effects of broad issues impacting people across the state and nation. Although challenging, we urge the Minnesota Legislature to prioritize these issues in finance and policy legislation this session. Olmsted County experiences significant challenges with the following three statewide priorities.
Support state investments across the housing continuum to increase the housing supply, preserve existing affordable housing, and provide short-term assistance to individuals and families in need.
- Increase housing supply: Address housing supply and affordability through state funding such as housing infrastructure bonds. Support financing mechanisms to incentivize private and non-profit investment in housing infrastructure. Evaluate barriers to housing production, including an examination of building codes, and explore financing mechanisms to address affordability issues. Focus on affordable rental units, home ownership, senior, and workforce housing.
- Preserve existing affordable housing: Support financing mechanisms to preserve and maintain naturally occurring affordable housing and fund housing rehabilitation programs to enable seniors to age in place and live independently.
- Provide short-term assistance: Support state capital for emergency shelter facilities in communities to provide short-term assistance to individuals and families experiencing emergency shelter needs. Support rental assistance to help prevent the need for emergency shelter.
Outcome: The legislature passed a historic $1 billion investment in housing as part of the omnibus housing bill. Many provisions in the bill will be beneficial to Olmsted County, including $200 million in housing infrastructure bonds, $100 million for emergency shelter facilities grants, $15 million for public housing rehabilitation ($72 million also included in bonding bill), $90 million to preserve naturally occurring affordable housing, and $46 million for state rental assistance. The omnibus tax bill also included a new local housing aid program (Chapter 37, Chapter 64, and Chapter 72).
Support transportation infrastructure with new revenues for roads, bridges, and transit, as well as state bonding support for local transportation programs such as the local road improvement program, the local bridge replacement program, and the local road wetland replacement program.
Outcome: The omnibus transportation bill included significant new dedicated funding for transportation generated through increases in the motor vehicle sales tax, increased tab fees, metro area sales tax, new retail delivery fee, and indexing the fuel tax to factor the construction cost index. The capital investment bill included funding for the local transportation programs and the transportation bill included cash appropriations for these as well (Chapter 68 and Chapter 72).
Address statewide and county-specific workforce shortages. Olmsted County is especially concerned about shortages in health and human services sectors such as residential care, long-term care, public health, and child care settings.
- Residential and long-term care: Address workforce shortages and reimbursement rates in professions that provide support to seniors and individuals with disabilities.
- Public health: Support strategic investments to increase the production, recruitment, and retention of the public health workforce.
- Child care: Support and develop provider resources by reducing the burdens of becoming a provider, investing in provider training, and developing more child care facilities. In addition, increase state resources for child care subsidies for low income working families to ensure accessibility to safe and appropriate child care.
Outcome: The omnibus health and human services bills included several rate increases for these industries, as well as grant programs to attract more care workers. The omnibus health bill included funding and policy changes regarding the child care assistance program and the omnibus jobs and economic development bill also included funding for child care providers and facilities(Chapter 53, Chapter 61, and Chapter 70).