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The annual CGMC Summer Conference will be held Aug. 2-4, 2017 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls. During the three-day conference attendees will:

  • Find out how the results of the 2017 legislative session will impact your community
  • Hear legislators’ insights about the ever-evolving relationship between state and local governments
  • See how rural communities are using art as an economic driver and learn about ways your city can take advantage of similar opportunities
  • Enjoy a panel discussion in which members of the MN Capitol Press Corps will discuss the joys and challenges of covering the “legislative circus”
  • Explore the city of Fergus Falls during a city-sponsored dinner and by taking part in one of four city-tour options
  • Learn about new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
  • Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future
  • … and much more!

To register for the conference, please fill out this registration form and submit it via email (RSVP@flaherty-hood.com), fax (651-225-9088) or mail (Coalition of Greater MN Cities, c/o Dana Johnston, 525 Park St., Suite 470, St. Paul, MN 55103).You can view the conference agenda here. Please register by July 24. Please note that the CGMC has a block of rooms reserved at the Country Inn & Suites, which is adjacent to the event center, at a discounted rate of $99.99 (plus tax). The deadline to book a room under the reduced rate is July 2. Call the hotel at 218-739-2211 to make a reservation. If you have any questions about the CGMC Summer Conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

We have a great conference lined up! The annual CGMC Summer Conference will be held Aug. 2-4, 2017 at the Bigwood Event Center in Fergus Falls. During the conference you will:

  • Learn about emerging trends and challenges facing Greater Minnesota communities
  • Find out how the results of the 2017 legislative session could impact your community
  • Hear legislators’ insights about the ever-evolving relationship between state and local governments
  • Explore the city of Fergus Falls during a city-sponsored dinner and by taking part in one of four city-tour options
  • Learn about new services, businesses and organizations at the exhibitors’ tradeshow
  • Forge connections with other city leaders from across Greater Minnesota by sharing your ideas, concerns and hopes for the future

To register for the conference, please fill out this registration form and email it to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com or mail it to the address listed on the form. A full agenda will be available soon.

Please note that the CGMC has a block of rooms reserved at the Country Inn & Suites, which is adjacent to the event center, at a discounted rate of $99.99 (plus tax). The deadline to book a room under the reduced rate is July 2. Call the hotel at 218-739-2211 to make a reservation.

If you have any questions about the CGMC Summer Conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917. We hope to see you there!

For Immediate Release: May 11, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

ST. PAUL—With the session deadline looming and little progress thus far on key legislative priorities for rural communities, Greater Minnesota city leaders held a press conference today to caution legislators against repeating last year’s failures on taxes, bonding and transportation.

“Exactly one year ago today, we held a press conference urging legislators to pass an increase in Local Government Aid, a fair and balanced bonding bill and a transportation bill that funds city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program,” said Sara Carlson, Mayor of Alexandria and President of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “Here we are 365 days later and we are still asking for the same things. What does it take for Greater Minnesota’s needs to be addressed?”

Carlson said that rural Minnesota voters sent a strong message in the November election that their needs and concerns had been ignored for too long. At the start of the session, many city leaders were hopeful that Greater Minnesota issues would get more attention this year since rural legislators make up the majority of the Republican caucus in both the House and Senate. However, with less than two weeks left in the session, serious questions remain about the Legislature’s willingness to invest in rural priorities.

At the top of that list is an increase in Local Government Aid (LGA), the state program that provides property tax relief and allows cities of all sizes to have a similar level of services regardless of their wealth. Nearly 96 percent of Greater Minnesota cities, and 89 percent of cities statewide, receive LGA.

The CGMC is seeking a permanent $45.5 million increase in LGA funding, the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 level. The joint House and Senate tax bill doesn’t come close to this benchmark — it includes just a $6 million one-time increase for 2018. Under the bill, LGA would revert back to the 2017 funding level the following year.

“The Legislature’s tax bill fails on LGA,” Carlson said. “No state program does more to improve the quality of life and economic competitiveness of Greater Minnesota communities than LGA. I am perplexed as to why our legislators are not investing more into the program.”

Carlson noted that Gov. Dayton has already pledged to veto the tax bill, a decision the CGMC supports. “The Governor should demand a significant and permanent LGA increase in the final tax bill,” she said.

City leaders are also united in their support for a bonding bill this session. For Greater Minnesota cities, the most critical item in this bill is additional money for grant and loan programs that provide funding for wastewater infrastructure.

There is broad bipartisan support for this funding: the Governor’s bonding proposal includes $167 million, while the Senate bill has $133 million and the House bill has $105 million. However, with vastly different ideas about the overall size of the bonding bill — the House bill totals only $600 million, while the Governor’s plan is nearly $1.5 billion — passing a bill could be difficult.

“We cannot wait another year for a bonding bill,” said Austin City Administrator Craig Clark.  “Like many cities in Greater Minnesota, we are facing massive costs to repair and upgrade our water treatment facilities. If we don’t receive more financial help, cities have no choice but to pass those costs onto our residents and businesses.”

Another long-standing area of concern is transportation. Although city officials want the state to invest more in transportation — particularly city streets and the Corridors of Commerce program — they cautioned the Legislature and Governor against relying too heavily on the general fund.

“Taking too much general fund money for transportation could have a harmful effect on other important priorities like LGA, education and public safety,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski. “A smart transportation plan that looks out for the long-term success of our state should include a mix of new revenue along with a modest amount of general fund dollars.”

In the waning days of session, the city leaders said they plan to be in frequent contact with their local legislators and other key lawmakers to encourage them to take action on key Greater Minnesota priorities.

“No one wants a repeat of last year,” Smiglewski said, referring to the last-minute failure of several key bills. “Luckily, there is still time for our legislators to make this session a ‘win’ for Greater Minnesota.”

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News Advisory
Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities
Contact: Julie Liew
jlliew@flaherty-hood.com
651-259-1917

Rural voters sent a loud message last fall that they felt left out and left behind. State legislators should be deeply concerned about the lack of progress on rural priorities.

Who: Sara Carlson, Mayor of Alexandria and CGMC President; Dave Smiglewski, Mayor of Granite Falls and CGMC Vice President; Craig Clark, Austin City Administrator, and other Greater Minnesota city leaders

What: Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities Press Conference

When:  11 a.m., Thursday, May 11

Where: Press Conference Room B971, State Capitol basement

For Immediate Release: May 4, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

ST. PAUL—City leaders in Greater Minnesota are voicing frustration with their legislators this week after the Tax Conference Committee unveiled a tax bill proposal that fails to adequately invest in rural communities.

The tax plan, released Monday night by the joint House and Senate conference committee, includes a meager $6 million increase in Local Government Aid (LGA) funding for 2018. Because it is just a one-time, one-year increase, LGA would revert back to its current funding level in 2019. City leaders argue this low amount does little to address their cities’ growing needs and is especially unacceptable given the state’s current solid financial footing.

“Greater Minnesota is once again left out and left behind in the tax bill,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “With a $1.65 billion budget surplus and in the context of a $1.15 billion tax plan, the Legislature can and should do better for LGA.”

An LGA increase is the number one priority for the CGMC this legislative session. The organization is advocating for a $45.5 million increase for the 2018-19 biennium, the amount needed to bring the program back to its 2002 funding level. Since the Legislature has not passed an LGA increase in the past two years, the token $6 million bump in this year’s conference committee tax proposal would not even begin to cover a basic inflationary increase.

“Rural Minnesotans and Greater Minnesota cities should be and will be upset if this LGA situation is not rectified,” Carlson said. “LGA is essential to keeping our communities healthy and our property taxes down. With just over two weeks left in session, now is the time to speak up and let our legislators know that LGA is too important to be ignored. Before the session ends, the Legislature and Governor must come to an agreement on a significant permanent increase.”

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Below is a guest column by Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams and Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges, who also serve as co-chairs of the CGMC Environment Committee. As of April 28, it is has been published in the Fargo Forum and the Owatonna People’s Press.

Let us be clear: It’s possible to support regulatory reform and the environment at the same time.

Some interest groups, lawmakers and government officials have tried to paint municipal groups seeking to reform Minnesota’s regulatory process as anti-environment and anti-science, greedy penny-pinchers bought and sold by corporate interests. That picture couldn’t be further from the truth.

In actuality, we are city leaders who represent our communities, as well as dozens of others in Greater Minnesota, and are dedicated to protecting our state’s precious waters. Greater Minnesota cities have invested billions in clean water efforts in the last 30 years, and as practical environmentalists we are deeply troubled by some of the recent actions by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA).

We are advocating for reasonable regulatory reform not because we want to ignore science — to the contrary, we are doing so because we strongly believe that sound science and public input is vital to an effective clean water regulatory framework.

While numerous environmental reform proposals have been introduced this legislative session, the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) has determined three top priorities that will help improve the wastewater permitting process and ensure that our limited financial resources are spent wisely to implement regulations that will provide measurable benefits to water quality.

The first reform local government officials are seeking is the ability to request an independent scientific review of MPCA’s application of science through wastewater regulations. When new regulations will require cities to spend billions of dollars to upgrade infrastructure, our citizens and businesses deserve an independent second opinion.

There is currently no meaningful way for cities to obtain an independent scientific review of MPCA’s regulations. In recent years, cities have been forced to enter into litigation when the MPCA has ignored legitimate concerns about the underlying science and its application.

The MPCA should welcome independent peer review of their science because it will confirm that water-quality rules are scientifically sound, help to avoid costly litigation and ultimately improve environmental outcomes.

City leaders also have serious qualms about the MPCA’s habit of imposing water-quality restrictions — under the guise of “policies” or “guidance documents” — that are more stringent than adopted during rulemaking. To address this concern, the CGMC is pursuing legislation that prevents the MPCA from imposing regulations that were not properly adopted through the rulemaking process.

By forcing cities to comply with unadopted rules, the MPCA imposes requirements that have not gone through the proper vetting process and ignores the due process rights of the public. Not only does this practice make it very difficult for cities to strategize and plan for how to adhere to regulations, it also breaks down trust between the MPCA, cities and the public.

The CGMC’s third regulatory reform proposal would extend the public comment period for new city permits to 60 days. This minor change is especially important to small cities where city councils meet less frequently and there are fewer staff members. The current 30-day comment period does not allow enough time for cities to adequately analyze and make decisions about MPCA requirements that could have multi-million effects on their communities.

All three of the CGMC’s top environmental regulatory reform proposals — independent peer review of MPCA science, prohibiting the enforcement of unadopted rules and extending the public comment period — remain in play at the Legislature. The House and Senate deserve credit for putting these provisions in their omnibus environment bill, which is currently being reviewed in conference committee.

We want our legislators and Gov. Dayton to know that we are looking out for the best interests of the constituents we represent and the environment, just like they are. Greater Minnesota city leaders — from along the Red River in the north to the Minnesota River in the south and everywhere in between — are willing to continue to invest money and work with the state to clean and protect our waters. However, recent overreach by the MPCA has resulted in an onslaught of regulations that will be extremely costly to implement and have dubious environmental benefit.

We are hopeful that these common-sense reform measures, which aim to protect our communities’ natural and financial resources, will be signed into law this session.

 

There are only a few weeks left in the legislative session, but lawmakers are still far from reaching agreements on top issues like LGA, bonding, transportation, workforce housing and environmental regulatory reform. It’s apparent that we need to make an extra push in these remaining days of session to demand that legislators take action to address the needs and concerns of Greater Minnesota communities. To relay this message, we are asking all Greater Minnesota city officials and community leaders to join us for a special CGMC Lobby Day and Ice cream on Thursday, May 11.

The tentative schedule for the day is as follows:

  • 10 a.m. – Legislative status update and messaging (Room 500 South in the State Office Building, located across the street from the State Capitol)
  • 11 a.m. – Press Conference on Greater Minnesota issues (State Capitol Press Conference Room B971)
  • Afternoon – Meetings with legislators (attendees should make appointments with their own legislators; we may also ask some attendees to participate in additional meetings with key legislators)
  • 2-3 p.m. – Ice cream social with legislators and legislative staff (tentatively scheduled to be held in the basement of the State Capitol)

Lobby Day is FREE to attend, but we ask that you RSVP to RSVP@flaherty-hood.com by Tuesday, May 9. Free parking is available at the Flaherty & Hood office located at 525 Park St. in St. Paul, just one block from the State Capitol.

We hope to get as many city officials to attend as possible! Please share this Lobby Day Flyer and encourage other city officials and staff to join us.

If you have any questions, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com or 651-259-1917.

The CGMC has scheduled its 2017 Labor & Employee Relations Seminars for later this spring!  Please mark your calendar for the below date and location that works for you:

  • Thursday, June 1 in Brainerd
  • Thursday, June 8 in New Ulm

The seminar is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with registration beginning at 9:30 a.m.

The seminars focus on practical and legal solutions for providing services and managing employees in local government. They will provide relevant and timely advice on the following topics (and more!):

  • Recruiting and hiring practices
  • Variable pay systems
  • A union’s perspective on negotiations
  • Handling employee groups that can’t get along
  • Updates on settlements, arbitrations and the Legislature

We hope all units of government will send representatives (e.g., managers and administrators, human resources personnel and elected officials) to this valuable program.

Please complete the registration form today as space is limited! You can in send the form by fax (651-225-9088), email (RSVP@flaherty-hood.com) or mail (Flaherty & Hood, P.A., 525 Park St., Suite 470, St. Paul, MN 55103).

For more information, contact Karina Patino at 651-259-1919 or kpatino@flaherty-hood.com.

The CGMC is currently accepting proposals from cities interested in hosting the 2018 CGMC Summer Conference. Since this year’s conference will be in Fergus Falls, we are seeking a southern or south-central Minnesota city (or group of cities) to host in 2018. This RFP outlines the details involved in being the host city, as well as the proposed conference dates and how to apply. For additional information, please view this sample conference agenda. Proposals are due May 15.

If you have any questions about hosting the summer conference, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.

For Immediate Release: Feb. 28, 2017
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

Below is statement from CGMC President and Alexandria Mayor Sara Carlson regarding this morning’s announcement that the state’s budget surplus has increased to $1.65 billion.

“With this new budget forecast, the Legislature and Governor have no excuses for not passing a $45.5 million increase in Local Government Aid this year. The state’s economy is clearly flourishing and there is strong bipartisan support for an LGA increase, so it’s a no-brainer that this is the year to make it happen.

“LGA is the single most important state program to help communities hold down property taxes and pay for key city services that affect all of our residents and businesses. The CGMC’s top priority this legislative session is bringing LGA funding back up to its 2002 benchmark. A modest increase of $45.5 million will get us there. With today’s budget announcement there is no reason why our rural legislators can’t use their influence to make this LGA increase happen this session.”

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