Highway 316 funding, and other news (3/8/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/8/2019

Hello from the State Capitol,

As the City of Hastings and the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) move forward with plans to improve safety along Highway 316, I am also working on a series of bills designed to help pay for the needed road improvements.

This collaboration between the City and the transportation department was what I was hoping for in 2017 when I reached an agreement with MnDOT to curb its increased speed limit plan in this section of Hastings. They have now developed a very sensible safety improvement proposal, and I’m looking at multiple ways that the State can help contribute to its construction.

The goal for the Highway 316 corridor was to increase safety, lower speeds and provide better ways to control traffic. MnDOT’s plan, which has been endorsed by the Hastings City Council, would install roundabouts at Spiral Boulevard, as well as Tiffany and Tuttle drives, construct bike and pedestrian paths on both sides of the highway and add a center median. The project is scheduled to begin in the year 2021.

According to projections, the total construction cost is estimated to be in the $4.55 – $5.56 million range. Current funding available for Highway 316 from MnDOT and the City of Hastings is $3.010 million, leaving a funding gap of roughly $1.54 – $2.55 million.

We need to pursue every avenue available to us for Highway 316 funding. I don’t want to leave any stone unturned here at the Capitol. This is why I’m authoring a proposal that would authorize capital investment bonds to fill the Highway 316 funding gap. I’ve also chief-authored a bill that would use Legacy funds to fund the trail portion of the project, which would free up money to be used on other Highway 316 infrastructure. Considering this stretch is part of the Mississippi River Trail and the Great River Road, I do feel it would be eligible for Legacy dollars. These bills are in addition to a bill seeking transportation funding.

Other options are also in play to help with the Highway 316 funding difference, including grants from MnDOT’s Local Road Improvements Program (LRIP) as well as the Local Partnership Program (LPP). The City is planning to pursue both of these opportunities and I will also lend my support to these applications.

My gut tells me that Highway 316 is not going to be funded by just one bill redirecting resources from one sector of state government. The City of Hastings asked me to look for creative legislative funding mechanisms to help fill the funding gap, and that’s exactly what I’ve done by introducing three separate bills. Again, any money we can secure from any number of available statewide resources will result in lower costs to the City of Hastings.

HIGHWAY 61 LIGHTING

Due to a number of motorist accidents that have occurred along Highway 61 over the years, I am sponsoring legislation that would provide lighting on both sides of the four-lane road.

Highway 61 has a number of unrestricted local access intersections where oncoming traffic may not see motorists at night until it’s too late. Full lighting would be a needed safety improvement for drivers traveling in all directions.

Specifically, the bill would install full lighting along Highway 61 from the Highway 10 corridor near Hastings to County Highway 22, or 70th Street, in St. Paul Park. Currently, lighting along this stretch only exists at interchanges at 80th Street, Jamaica Avenue South, and County Road 19 (Innovation Road South).

From Innovation Road to Minnesota Highway 95, there is no lighting at all, but several areas where drivers must cross one portion of Highway 61 and wait in a median before either crossing to the other side or turning onto the roadway. At night or in winter conditions, and with speed limits in the area ranging between 60 and 65 miles per hour, the lack of lighting has created very treacherous situations.

Traffic is increasing here which means these areas along Highway 61 are only going to get more dangerous. This measure is a top priority for Mayor Myron Bailey and the City of Cottage Grove, and I understand why. There’s little doubt that new lighting will cut down on the number of accidents on this road, and it is important for the safety of local drivers.

CAPITAL INVESTMENT NEWS

In other news, our House Capital Investment Committee heard several law enforcement and first responder related bonding requests this week. I’m proud to have chief authored the HERO Center in Cottage Grove and co-authored the Dakota County SMART Center in last year’s bonding bill. The HERO Center construction is well underway with an expected fall 2019 opening. I’m glad we secured funding for both of our centers last year so we are not in competition with so many similar training centers now. In fact, the HERO Center was referenced in at least two of the proposals. Imitation is the best form of flattery, right?

Speaking of capital investment, we also approved a bonding bill this week that was signed into law by Governor Walz. This included $15 million in funding for Metro Area parks, which ironically enough was one topic of conversation at a bipartisan Metro Area park meeting I co-hosted this week. More than $100 million in statewide projects were included in appropriation bonds through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Those funds were held up in a court case, putting a hold on these much needed projects. This bill authorizes the use of General Obligation bonds instead, and eliminates the need for a court decision.

I also spent time working across the aisle on a bill that would help pay bus drivers and other hourly employees for days lost due to weather. I expect that we will have a bipartisan bill introduced early next week.

THIS WEEK’S VISITORS…

Physician Assistants Dominique Rabaey of Hastings and Kelsey McFarlane of Afton were in with the Minnesota Academy of Physician Assistants with concerns for access to care, especially in rural and underserved areas.

Members of the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association discussed several issues including fighting emerald ash borer and salt liability protection. Joby Nolan is with Precision Landscaping & Construction Inc. in Hastings.

Chris Mishkee from Hastings and Torrey Grey, members of United Steelworkers Local 662 were in to talk about right to work and other issues.

Dan Retka from Hastings visited to talk about an additional passenger train from St. Paul to Chicago.

Hastings resident Caitlin Ternes was in with the Minnesota School Social Workers Association to promote the social emotional and educational well-being of children and families.

These University of Minnesota students visited to advocate for a medical amnesty bill for victims of sexual assault. Levi O’Tool is a Hastings constituent.

In this week’s KDWA “In Depth” we talked about bill hearings, House Floor debates, I Love to Read Month and more. Click here for a listen.

Finally, click here for a Northfield newspaper article about my bill to put more teeth into the law that bans dumping a kid’s lunch in the garbage because of a negative lunch account balance.

Have a good weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Renovate the Hastings City Hall building (3/1/2019)

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By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 3/1/2019

Hello from St. Paul,

Plans to renovate the Hastings City Hall building took a needed step forward on Wednesday as a bill I’m chief-authoring that would provide funding for the project was heard in the Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee.

I thought the hearing went very well. Many of the members on the committee toured the facility back in 2017 when I invited them to Hastings to learn more about it, so they didn’t necessarily receive new information, but rather renewed information with some updates.

I was joined at the capital investment committee presentation by Hastings City Planner Justin Fortney and Interim Hastings City Administrator and Administrative Services Director Julie Flaten, and they both did an outstanding job.

The bill would provide $2 million in bonding proceeds to repair masonry, replace dome cupola roofs and decorative metal, make HVAC improvements and work on the foundation, among other needs. If approved, a $2.6 million investment from outside sources – such as the City of Hastings – would be needed in order to secure the state’s bonding proceeds.

There seems to be legitimate interest from the committee in asset preservation. Having the second oldest courthouse in the State of Minnesota and having regional significance works in our favor.

So what happens next? I’m not aware of any hearings being scheduled in the Minnesota Senate on the Hastings City Hall bill, and the bill didn’t receive a hearing last session either, which means I’ll be pushing hard for its inclusion in the House’s capital investment plan – whenever that’s unveiled.

We probably won’t know if we’ll have a bonding bill this year, or if the Hastings project is included in it, until the final days of session. Now its wait time for everyone but me, as I’ll continue working behind the scenes and reminding the chairwoman and other members of the committee how important it is to renovate the Hastings City Hall building.

DEMOCRATS VOTE TO VOID BOAT INSURANCE POLICIES FOR HALF A MILLION MINNESOTANS

Do you have boat insurance? If a bill approved in the Minnesota House Thursday becomes law, it could be worthless by the time the fishing opener rolls around.

Thursday evening House Democrats voted to pass HF476, a bill aimed at eliminating family exclusions in watercraft and personal umbrella liability insurance policies. As written, the bill would render any policies that include family exclusions “void.” Unlike other insurance-related bills that have enactment dates well into the future to allow changes to be made during the next policy renewal, HF476 would be effective “the day following final enactment and applies to policies in effect on or after that date” which means your policy could be void before your insurer has an opportunity to notify you and rewrite a new policy.

During the debate on the House floor, I offered a number of amendments that would have solved this and other problems, but they were all voted down by the majority party.

Having an insurance background, I can tell you with certainty that this bill would instantly void hundreds of thousands of insurance policies and throw Minnesota boat owners into chaos. I’m sure that sounds like another exaggerated political statement, but we actually had the conversation with non-partisan researchers who told us this is exactly what will happen if this bill becomes law.

Worse, if your boat is covered under a personal umbrella policy, the entire umbrella policy could be void because of the way the bill was written.

While I appreciate what this bill was trying to accomplish it would be a disaster if it was signed into law in its current form. There’s simply no reason to void policies the day after the bill is signed—it’s unnecessary and creates a mess for both policyholders and insurers who would need to draft and issue hundreds of thousands of new policies.

One of my amendments would have moved the enactment date to January 2020 and called for the Commerce Commissioner to establish a Policy Exclusion Advisory Group to review these issues and report back by November of this year. Unfortunately, there was more interest in getting the current bill passed than in getting it right.

According the DNR, there were 818,000 boats in Minnesota as of 2016. Boats.com estimates that 40% of boats are uninsured, meaning that approximately 400,000-500,000 Minnesotans have insurance policies that could be rendered void under the bill.

WHAT DID YOU READ DURING “I LOVE TO READ MONTH?”

Did you know February was “I Love to Read” month? I was fortunate to be able to visit a number of area classrooms over the past couple of weeks, which is truly one of the most enjoyable parts of being your state representative. Not only was I able to read to these kids, but I was able to discuss with them the importance of reading at all ages and learn about the types of books they enjoy.

I started off in Hastings at Kennedy Elementary, visiting 3rd grade students from Mrs. Kirk’s classroom.

I read the book “Dream Big, A True Story of Courage and Determination” to these youngsters, a true story about a teenager who not only dreamed of participating in and finishing the Boston Marathon, but eventually directed the annual event for thirty years.

I was also invited to read to 5th graders at Newport Elementary School.

As well as 5th graders at Pine Hill Elementary School in Cottage Grove.

To each of these groups, I read a chapter from my favorite book from when I was their age, The Mystery of the Witches Bridge by Barbee Oliver Carleton. When we were done I gave the book to them so they could finish reading it if they were interested. The book was written in 1967 and I had to find used copies online. This is the first chapter book I remember reading and I couldn’t wait to go to the local library to check out another mystery to read. My hope is at least one student falls in love with reading because of The Mystery of the Witches Bridge.

Minnesota School Bus Drivers Appreciation Day also took place this week. I met these drivers at 6:15 AM before they went out on their Hastings routes to thank them for getting our kids to and from school safely.

This has been a very challenging month due to weather but drivers, aides, dispatchers and mechanics have done a great job. Their concerns include drivers putting safety at risk by ignoring stop arms and loss of pay due to weather related school cancellations.

Have a great weekend,
Tony

Representative Tony Jurgens
351 State Office Building
St. Paul, MN 55155
651-296-3135
E-mail: rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn

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Rep Tony Jurgens will hold listening sessions Jan 5 (12/15/2018)

On Saturday, January 5, I will be holding a series of listening sessions throughout the district. I wanted to hold these before session begins and give residents the opportunity to discuss the topics that are important to them.

8:30 – 9:30 a.m. at the Hastings City Hall, 101 4th St. East

10:00 – 11:00 at the Cottage Grove City Hall, 12800 Ravine Parkway South

11:30 – 12:30 at the Afton City Hall, 3033 St. Croix Trail South.

Senator Bigham has a previous engagement and will be unable to attend, so we are hoping to hold joint town meetings sometime after session begins.

Our campaign focused on the issues, not the personal attacks (11/22/2018)

By Tony Jurgens on Nov 21, 2018

With Election Day now behind us, I would like to thank the residents of District 54B for their continued support. You had to put up with a lot of negative advertisements, partisan potshots, and outright lies throughout this campaign, and I commend the voters who were able to ignore the innuendo.

I made the decision during the campaign to ignore the negativity as much as possible because I wanted our campaign to focus on the issues, not the personal attacks. With a couple weeks to reflect since the election, however, I believe I need to set the record straight so you have the truth about some of the claims made against me – there were attacks that questioned my integrity and character, and I can’t let those go unanswered.

The most egregious and offensive attack against me – put out in a mailer from my opponent – suggested that I personally benefited from the reinsurance bill that helped stabilize the individual health insurance market.

The reality is this: I have not even attempted to sell a health insurance policy in this decade and I have only sold a handful of health insurance policies in my life. Furthermore, state reinsurance funds are used to pay medical bills for the most expensive medical cases – even if I did sell health insurance, I would not have seen a dime of that money.

To me it raises serious questions about the “win-at-all-costs” mentality my opponent employed during the campaign. To me, the willingness to so blatantly lie as a way to cast doubt on my integrity says more about my opponent’s character than anything else.

Another postcard was sent by the Minnesota House DFL caucus that intentionally misrepresented an issue that had been previously approved by the voters. TV news outlets rightfully called this mailer out as “demonstrably false” and “deliberately deceptive.” It’s disappointing that my opponent and her supporters would stoop to these levels in their desperate efforts to win your vote even after the media debunked the claims.

I’m proud of the fact that my campaign was the only one to stay positive – I sent out ten mailers from my campaign, and not once did I attack, criticize or even name my opponent. I ran on the issues, and I am so grateful that you were all able to see through the negativity and entrust me with another term representing you. I ran a positive campaign, because I repeatedly heard at the doors this election cycle that people are tired of the negativity and they want us to work together.

That is my pledge to you going forward: I will represent all of you, whether you supported my campaign or not. I will continue to fight for you in the Minnesota House, whether you call yourself a Democrat, Independent, Republican, or something else. And I will never take a campaign race into the gutter all the while claiming I’m a victim of negative advertising.

Character counts. Integrity matters. And while I know I will have some disagreements with our new DFL majority in the Minnesota House, I can guarantee you that won’t stop me from trying to work with this new majority on the issues you told me were important: health care, transportation, and education.

Please contact me anytime with your legislative questions or concerns. I can be reached at rep.tony.jurgens@house.mn, or by phone at 651-296-3135.

Once again, thank you for allowing me to serve as your voice in the Minnesota House. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Tony Jurgens
State Representative, District 54B

I was re-elected to a 2nd term! (11/7/2018)

By Rep. Tony Jurgens, 11/7/2018

Thank you to the voters in District 54B for having the confidence in me to send me back to the Minnesota House of Representatives for another term. It has been my pleasure to represent you for two years and look forward to continuing for the next two years.

Misleading information and outright lies (9/22/2018)

Rarely will I ever acknowledge a negative lit piece sent out against me but the attached piece that was paid for by the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor party and mailed to residents in our district deserves a little attention for misleading information and outright lies.

This same piece was sent to districts all over the metro area, just changing the name and picture for each district.

Rarely will I ever acknowledge a negative lit piece sent out against me but the attached piece that was paid for by the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor party and mailed to residents in our district deserves a little attention for misleading information and outright lies.

Rarely will I ever acknowledge a negative lit piece sent out against me but the attached piece that was paid for by the Minnesota Democratic Farmer Labor party and mailed to residents in our district deserves a little attention for misleading information and outright lies.

First, the claim that we gave insurance companies $542 million instead of helping Minnesotans. If you buy health insurance on the individual market, remember in 2017 the 25% premium subsidy you got? That’s the money they’re talking about.

We wanted DFL Governor Dayton’s administration to send you those checks but they refused because they weren’t capable of handling the task of mailing the checks to you.

So the Governor insisted we send the money to the insurance companies so they could credit your account. Rather than have the bill to help you pay your premiums vetoed, we agreed and sent the money to the insurance companies to distribute to you. Which they did.

The other part of this was the reinsurance plan to create a high risk pool. These funds went to insurance companies to offset the cost of high dollar claims, rather than have those claims result in higher premiums for the rest of you.

Following several years of double digit premium increases, rates stabilized this year and Gov. Dayton’s Commerce Dept. has said some will even see a slight decrease next year. In short, it worked.

As for the claim that we lined our own pockets with a 45% pay raise, that’s where this goes from misleading to the DFL party flat out lying to you.

Legislators don’t have the ability to change our pay because the Minnesota constitution forbids it. That power was taken away from legislators and given to a a citizen Legislative Salary Council in 2017 (the year I took office) following a constitutional amendment on the ballot in 2016.

The constitutional amendment was voted on by 76.33% of you, the voters of Minnesota. The Legislative Salary Council, not legislators, recommended the first pay raise to legislators since Gov. Ventura was in office.

Also from 2017, Gov. Dayton line item vetoed the appropriation for the entire legislative branch of state government – not just Representatives and Senators but partisan and non-partisan staff, researchers, clerks, etc. The case went all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court before being resolved late last year.

Since the appropriation was vetoed in 2017, we needed to pass a bill funding the legislature when we convened in 2018.

The appropriation in the 2018 bill that passed and was signed by Gov. Dayton, was the same amount they Governor line item vetoed in 2017. That 2017 bill had 22 DFL Reps vote in favor. Still waiting for the DFL party to send out hit pieces against those 22 DFL reps but I won’t hold my breath.

As election day approaches, you’ll be inundated with campaign literature in your mailbox. Please take note of who is paying for it.

If you have questions on anything, you can email me at tony@tonyjurgens.com or call me at 651-592-0846.

Today I made my re-election campaign official

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(June 4, 2018) I stopped by the MN Sec of State office today to make my re-election campaign official. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime to represent the people of House District 54B and I look forward to  continuing. Thank you for your continued support!

(June 4, 2018) I stopped by the MN Sec of State office today to make my re-election campaign official. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime to represent the people of House District 54B and I look forward to continuing. Thank you for your continued support!

Taking off into the future!

Thank you to Ms. Bump’s preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I’m looking forward to visiting soon.

Thank you to Ms. Bump's preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I'm looking forward to visiting soon.

Thank you to Ms. Bump’s preschool students at Tilden Elementary in Hastings for the artwork. I’m looking forward to visiting soon.