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Letters to the editor: Legislative session, transit funding

Anti-terror, rail safety measures in public safety bill

In the Legislature, we've been passing our budget bills in a number of areas including education, tax relief and transportation. We also recently approved our bill relating to public safety in the state. I was pleased one of my bills was included, as well as a provision relating to train safety.

Language from my bill, House File 1475, made up part of the larger public safety legislation. My bill creates a felony offense for individuals who provide support for an act of terrorism. When putting together this omnibus bill, our main goal is keeping Minnesotans safe. The language included from my bill is a way to create harsher punishments for those aiding terrorists in our state, and will hopefully deter individuals from providing support for terrorism.

As many in our area know, we're just two years removed from a train accident in St. Paul Park. An oil train ran into a semi-truck, and, while I'm grateful no one was hurt, the incident demonstrated how important rail safety is, especially in our community. Through working with Gov. Mark Dayton, the railroads, and other stakeholders, we were able to get this rail-grade crossing closed and redesigned.

This is such an important issue for our residents, which is why I was pleased to see an amendment added to our public safety bill to allocate $600,000 per year from the Railroad and Pipeline Safety Account to the Minnesota Department of Transportation for railroad crossing safety improvements. This was a DFL amendment, but I spoke on the House floor in its favor, and will continue to advocate for rail safety as this bill continues its way through the process.

Our bill will help keep our residents safe. The legislation will protect Minnesotans, while supporting our law enforcement, fire fighters, paramedics and other first responders. This bill has a long way to go before it becomes law, but I'm encouraged to see my anti-terror bill and needed rail safety funding included in this legislation.

Rep. Keith Franke

R-St. Paul Park

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Speak up about public transportation

As we approach the last month and a half of the 2017 legislative session, all eyes should be on what happens to transit and transportation funding. What's developing could be the gutting of public transportation as we know it today.

With the possibility of a 40 percent reduction in bus service region-wide, all Washington County residents who rely on transit need to get engaged.

Things move quickly as they approach the end of session in preparation of developing and voting on a two-year budget for our state. These proposed reductions, if approved, will set us back to levels of service that we have not seen for decades.

Beyond gutting the existing services, these proposed reductions would significantly harm our ability to expand transit service in the east metro, meaning no Gold Line, Rush Line or Red Rock Corridor.

A quality and expanding public transportation system is critical for a strong, balanced, and healthy region. We must attract talent for our business community to expand — in fact, our region's Fortune 500 companies support and agree with these beliefs.

As our Washington County delegation prepares for their mid-session break you may want to consider a call to check in on this and other regional funding proposals.

They need to hear from you before your ride into town disappears, and the region falls behind in the competition for more jobs and corporate investments.

Harry Melander

Metropolitan Council member

Melander's District 12 includes Woodbury, Cottage Grove, Stillwater, Bayport, Lake Elmo and Oak Park Heights.

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Jurgens, Franke helped get tax relief passed

As chair of the House Taxes Committee, and chief author of the $1.35 billion House tax relief bill, I'd like to thank state Reps. Keith Franke and Tony Jurgens for their support of this bipartisan legislation that will provide needed tax relief to middle-class families across the state.

Jurgens and Franke recognized that with yet another state budget surplus, Minnesotans are being overtaxed and that lawmakers needed to find ways to allow Minnesotans to keep more of what they earn.

With the support of Franke and Jurgens, the House was able to pass a plan that would provide relief to Minnesota's senior citizens, working families, college students, farmers and Main Street business owners just to name a few. This includes an elimination of Social Security taxes for thousands of seniors and a first-in-the-nation tax credit for college graduates struggling with student loan debt.

In all, well more than half of the $1.35 billion tax relief bill that was supported by Jurgens and Franke would be allocated to middle-class Minnesotans.

Moving forward, the House and Senate will work on a compromise that we hope Gov. Mark Dayton will sign. We know you've been waiting long enough for tax relief. Simply put, we would not be at this point without Franke's and Jurgens' support of this common sense legislation, and your readers should know they are fighting hard to prioritize tax relief for hardworking constituents in Cottage Grove, Hastings and throughout the district.

State Rep. Greg Davids

R-Preston

Chairman, Minnesota House Taxes Committee

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