By: Dorian Grilley, Executive Director of BikeMN
Thanks to the many of you that attended the Minnesota Bike Walk Summit on March 5th. More than 100 of you joined us from across the state, from cities like Thief River Falls, Grand Marais, Rochester, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and many more. Collectively we met with over 70 legislators and, overall, our messages were positively received. Constituents visiting in person truly makes a difference.
We especially want to thank Richfield mayor Maria Regan Gonzalez, MnDOT commissioner Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Saint Paul physical education teacher DeWayne Combs, Move Minnesota executive director Sam Rockwell, and members of the Legislature Senator Scott Dibble and representatives Connie Bernardy, Bob Dettmer, and transportation committee chair Frank Hornstein for their updates and support of our legislative agenda and work.
The Minnesota House and Senate finished debate and passed bills during the early morning hours Tuesday, March 17, and then adjourned until April 14th. Those bills provided $200 million for response to COVID-19 and temporarily expanded the Governor’s regulatory powers related to economic development, unemployment, and public health. The budget surplus that they were debating whether to spend or return in the form of tax cuts earlier in the year is now expected to all but disappear as part of the economic slowdown or recession and the COVID-19 response.
Before they adjourned, Legislators agreed that their priority upon return would be any additional response that is needed to help address the COVID-19 situation, passing a bonding bill that will inject needed money into the economy and bills for which there is broad bipartisan agreement. Fortunately, that means that the bonding bill is likely to include funding for safe routes to school infrastructure grants and many great trail projects. Many thanks to the House and Senate capital investment committee chairs Representative Mary Murphy from Duluth and Senator David Senjem from Rochester for being the chief authors of the $10 million Safe Routes bill. But, we are unsure about what it means to our policy priorities related to bike riding rules and passing, e-bikes, requiring bike/pedestrian safety along with bus safety training in elementary school, and granting local governments greater authority to set speed limits. We have asked the transportation committee chair, Senator Scott Newman of Hutchinson, to take up the bike riding and passing rules in the bill, House File 462, that passed last year 122 – 0.
We have reached out to the Governor’s Office and his administration to suggest that, should further restrictions on our movement need to be made, bike shops, along with automotive and personal and household goods repair and maintenance shops, should qualify as essential services and allowed to remain open. There are many people who clean and stock stores overnight, work at our hospitals and clinics, deliver food and other goods by bicycle, and who are keeping our critical services running during this pandemic that may rely on biking and walking due to limited transit service.
This is what we know right now. Please stay tuned. If you are interested in reaching out to your legislators, please call them or send them a note. Let them know that you would like them to support biking and walking and Safe Routes to School. You can find the specifics of our 2020 legislative agenda here.