Updated: March 04, 2021 06:26 PM
Created: March 04, 2021 05:30 PM
The 24th annual Duluth and St. Louis County at the Capitol Days kicked off Wednesday and ended Thursday with a legislative virtual gathering.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and other local elected officials shared what are considered the priorities for the 2021 legislative session. They include improving and expanding broadband access across the state.
A big takeaway state leaders mentioned was the strength Minnesotans have shown during these challenging times. The focus is continuing to support sectors struggling like businesses, education, and more.
"I am hopeful we can take this legislative session and make a difference," said Walz.
Although this year's Duluth and St. Louis County at the Capitol Days was virtual, there was a lot of collaboration and discussion on priorities needed in the Northland.
"Let's make sure we come out of COVID-19 and make it right for those that got hit the hardest like children in schools, small businesses and those families especially those in the hospitality and entertainment industry," said Walz.
Sen. Tom Bakk (I-Cook) talked about the importance of loan forgiveness in the Paycheck Protection Program. A bill introduced would exclude PPP loans from taxation.
"Minnesota businesses received about $11.3 billion of PPP loans, about 102,000 loans. Most of that is going to be forgiven because businesses did what they were required," said Bakk.
Bakk also talked about another bill introduced to spend about $120 million to expand broadband across the state, which he said is crucial throughout this pandemic and is something others agreed with.
"As far as priorities on the board we are always looking forward to broadband," said Mike Jugovich, the St.Louis County Board chair. "As we look forward to the current session, one of our top priorities is maintaining for county aid and state mandated services."
Jugovich also mentioned preserving mental health funding and asking legislation to continue plans to not hold counties financially liable for mistakenly billed federal payments for Institutes of Mental Disease (IMD).
"For the city it's affordable childcare and making sure that we can access that both for the reasons for families and caregivers but also it's an economic development as it helps businesses grow," said Rep. Liz Olson (D-Duluth).
Olson said some other big priorities included strengthening our schools, infrastructure projects, and the Drink Local Economic Package which aims to change liquor laws in the state.
If you want to see the 2021 legislative priorities booklet, click here.
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