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County shares priorities with local legislators

When area lawmakers return to St. Paul next month for the 2016 legislative session, they’ll know exactly what are the top priorities for Washington County.

Ten of the county’s legislators — including Woodbury’s Sen. Susan Kent, Rep. JoAnn Ward, and Rep. Kelly Fenton and Cottage Grove’s Sen. Katie Sieben — met with the Washington County Board of Commissioners and county staff for the Washington County Legislative Reception on Feb. 11.

The annual event gives county officials an opportunity to introduce and explain the top legislative positions for the coming session. While some of the topics presented affect specific areas of the county, other items on the list have countywide implications and impact.

Transit funding for the Gateway and Red Rock bus rapid transit projects — which mostly affect the southern section of the county — top the county’s legislative agenda. Between the two projects, Washington County officials asked legislators to back $4 million in funding: $3 million for the Gateway Corridor, and $1 million for the Red Rock Corridor.

Washington County is also asking legislators to support expanding the Regional Transit Capital Area in the Twin Cities metro area. Currently, County Engineer Wayne Sandberg said, the RTCA includes Ramsey County in its entirety, but not all of Anoka, Hennepin, Carver, Scott, Dakota and Washington counties. Washington County supports expanding the RTCA to cover the entirety of all seven counties.

Washington County also supports the legislature implementing additional revenue sources for development and construction of transit in the metropolitan area. Likewise, the county supports increased state funding for rehabilitation, preservation and improvement of freight rail lines.

“This kind of infrastructure is hard to maintain,” Sandberg said. “We support funding for this.”

Other priorities discussed include:

- special legislation adding economic development powers to HRA enabling legislation;

- dedicated funding for affordable senior housing;

- in-person absentee voting;

- funding or incentives for waste processing services;

- and local property-taxpayer protection.

Washington County officials also talked at length about issues facing the county’s human services department, including child protection and child placement topics, MnSure problems, and sex offender reform initiatives.

Washington County’s legislative agenda is available on the county’s website, Search for “Legislative Priorities.”

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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