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CGMC Legislative Action Day was a huge success!

More than 120 city officials and business leaders from nearly 50 cities attended the CGMC’s annual lobbying event on Wednesday. There was also great attendance from legislators at the reception and dinner that capped off the day at Mancini’s — a bipartisan mix of more than 65 legislators representing both rural and urban districts came to the event.

Legislative Action Day began with a membership meeting in which attendees were apprised of the CGMC’s top legislative priorities and given tips on how to lobby at the Capitol. The meeting was followed by lunch and a panel discussion featuring Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City). Attendees then spent the afternoon meeting with legislators at the Capitol and urging them to support CGMC proposals on LGA, workforce housing, bonding and other issues. A copy of the lobbying materials that were given to legislators can be found here.

A big thank you to all who participated in this year’s event!

More than 100 CGMC members are registered to attend our Legislative Action Day this Wednesday, Feb. 1! We are excited to have such a large turnout and look forward to seeing many of you there. Here are few notes about the day for those planning to attend:

Location – Best Western Capitol Ridge
For those who have attended Legislative Action Day before, please note that we will be at a new location this year – the Best Western Capitol Ridge, located at 161 St Anthony Ave. in St Paul. This is within short walking distance of the Capitol complex.

Parking
The Best Western Capitol Ridge has a parking lot that will be free for CGMC members to use. However, the hotel has informed us that due to another event being held there the same day, there is a possibility that their lot could fill up. If that happens, you are welcome to park in the lot at the League of Minnesota Cities (145 University Ave. W) or at our office at 525 Park St., both of which are within walking distance of both the Best Western and the Capitol complex.

Schedule
The day will begin at 10:30 a.m. with a program featuring a legislative update, overview of the CGMC’s top issues and some lobbying tips. Lunch will be served at approximately noon, during which we will hear from a legislative panel featuring Sen. Tom Bakk (DFL-Cook), Sen. Jeremy Miller (R-Winona) and Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City). After lunch, members will head to the Capitol complex for meetings with legislators. Remember – attendees are responsible for scheduling their own appointments with legislators. Here is the full agenda for the day.

Legislative Reception & Dinner
The legislative reception will begin at 5:30 p.m. at Mancini’s Char House & Lounge, located at 531 7th St W. in St. Paul. Dinner will be served at 6:30 p.m. Mancini’s has a large parking lot, so there will be ample free parking available. If you are staying at the Best Western or the Holiday Inn, you may want to inquire at the front desk about the availability of shuttle service to and from the restaurant if you would prefer not to drive.

DowntimeIf you are looking for somewhere to hang out between meetings, you are welcome to come back to the conference room at the Best Western (the room will be available until 5 p.m.) or you can go to the Flaherty & Hood Office, located at 525 Park St., Suite 470. We also encourage you to take a tour of the newly remodeled Capitol building!

Cancellations
If you signed up for Legislative Action Day but can no longer attend, please let me know ASAP. We had to start a waiting list due to the high number of attendees this year, so if you can’t make it there may be someone else who is interested in taking your place.

Spending the night in St. Paul
There might still be hotel rooms available for those who want to spend the night in St. Paul. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC for the nights of Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at both the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge ($139+tax, call 651-227-8711 to book) and the Holiday Inn St. Paul Downtown ($140+tax, call 651-225-1515 to book).

If you have any additional questions about Legislative Action Day, please contact Julie Liew at jlliew@flaherty-hood.com.

Registration is now open for the CGMC’s Legislative Action Day 2017! It will be held Wednesday, Feb. 1 at the newly renovated conference space at the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge (formerly the Kelly Inn) in St. Paul, located one block from the State Office Building. (For those who have attended Legislative Action Day before, please note that this year’s event is being held at a new location).

The day will kick off with a brief legislative update in the morning followed by lunch featuring a yet-to-be-determined speaker or speakers. Members will then spend the afternoon meeting with their legislators at the House and Senate offices (members should make their own appointments for meetings with legislators between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. that day). The daylong event concludes with a legislative reception and dinner at Mancini’s Char House & Lounge that evening.

Legislative Action Day is always a great opportunity to build connections between local officials and legislators and advocate for the priorities of Greater Minnesota cities. To attend, please fill out this registration form and email, fax or mail it to the listed contact information. Please RSVP by Jan. 18.

For those who want to spend the night in St. Paul, a block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC for the nights of Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at both the Best Western Plus Capitol Ridge ($139+tax, call 651-227-8711 to book) and the Holiday Inn St. Paul Downtown ($140+tax, call 651-225-1515 to book). Members are encouraged to book their rooms early as the blocks close one month before the event.

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

Thank you to everyone who attended the CGMC Fall Conference last week at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center! Due to the forecast predicting a blizzard for much of the state, the CGMC Board made a last-minute decision to condense the two-day conference into one action-packed day on Thursday, Nov. 17. Despite the threatening weather, more than 85 city leaders representing 44 cities attended the conference. We appreciate everyone’s flexibility and patience as we juggled agenda items around to fit almost everything into less than eight hours!

Minnesota Department of Transportation Commissioner Charles Zelle kicked off the conference Thursday afternoon with a presentation on the transportation needs facing our state and the ways city leaders can work together to help convince the Legislature to invest more money into transportation. You can watch video of his speech here and read his Power Point presentation here.

After Zelle’s presentation, CGMC lobbyist Bradley Peterson provided an in-depth analysis of the 2016 election and what it could mean for Greater Minnesota issues this legislative session. Peterson then moderated a panel discussion on the topic of legislative reform featuring legislators Sen. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake), Sen. Kent Eken (DFL-Twin Valley), Rep. Tim O’Driscoll (R-Sartell) and Rep. Mike Nelson (DFL-Brooklyn Park). Later that afternoon, University of Minnesota educator Ryan Pesch gave a presentation on “Rewriting the Rural Narrative” and led small-group discussions on ways communities can welcome and attract newcomers.

In the evening, attendees were treated to an entertaining and informative presentation by Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham. Ingraham is the reporter who got Minnesotans riled up last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake County “America’s Worst Place to Live” (based on data from the “national amenities index”) and then further raised eyebrows when he decided to move to Red Lake Falls in May of this year. Ingraham talked about his transition from living in an urban area near Washington D.C. to small-town Minnesota and the challenges and opportunities it has afforded him and his family. He also shared ideas about how communities can attract more residents by promoting benefits such as short commutes, job openings, telecommuting options and low home prices. You can read more about Ingraham’s presentation in this article from the Alexandria Echo Press.

In addition to speakers and presentations, the conference also included a membership meeting in which members discussed and voted on the 2017 legislative policy positions. To review the adopted positions, click on the following subject areas: Annexation & Land Use, Economic Development, Environment & Energy, LGA & Property Taxes and Transportation. You can also read more about the top priorities for the upcoming legislative in this CGMC press release that was sent to the media at the conclusion of the conference.

Thanks again to everyone who attended the conference – it was a great event despite the shortened time! Please check out the photo gallery on our Facebook page to see pictures from the conference.

A PDF version of this press release is available here.

For Immediate Release: Nov. 17, 2016
Contact: Julie Liew, jlliew@flaherty-hood.com

ALEXANDRIA, MINN.—With rural legislators now making up more than 60 percent of the Minnesota House and Senate Republican majorities, city leaders from across Greater Minnesota are calling for a renewed focus on the needs of rural communities.

A bipartisan mix of nearly 100 city officials from throughout Greater Minnesota attended the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities’ (CGMC) annual fall conference this week in Alexandria, where the group set its legislative priorities for the upcoming year. Much of the discussion centered on the notion that after two years of bipartisan gridlock, their communities cannot afford to go another year without an increase in Local Government (LGA) and key investments in infrastructure.

“The election results made it clear that voters in Greater Minnesota wanted to shake things up,” said Sara Carlson, mayor of Alexandria and president of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC). “With such a strong rural majority in the House and Senate, it’s time for our state leaders to make rural issues a top priority.”

The CGMC determined that passing two hold-overs from the 2016 legislative session — the failed tax and bonding bills — will be their top priority for the upcoming year.

The 2016 tax bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Gov. Dayton due to a drafting error, included a $20 million increase to the LGA program, which helps cities provide important services and keep property taxes in check. At the CGMC conference, city leaders expressed frustration that the modest increase in last year’s bill did not come into fruition. In 2017, they will advocate for $45.5 million increase in LGA funding, the amount needed to bring LGA back to its 2002 level.

“Cities continue to face rising costs. After three years without a significant LGA increase, city budgets and property-taxpayers are starting to feel the strain,” said Granite Falls Mayor Dave Smiglewski, who serves as vice-president of the CGMC.

In addition to fighting for more LGA, city leaders vowed to push for a bonding bill that addresses infrastructure needs in Greater Minnesota. Specifically, they are calling on the Legislature to pass a bonding bill that includes $167 million for grant and loan programs that provide funding for clean water infrastructure.

“There was bipartisan support for funding these programs in the bonding bill last year and we hope that support will continue,” Smiglewski said.

As the CGMC prepares for the start of the legislative session on Jan. 3, 2017, city leaders are hopeful that rural issues will be front and center now that the election gave new power to rural Republican legislators, who now hold key leadership positions in both houses.

“The Republicans won the majority by winning seats in Greater Minnesota,” Carlson said. “It should be a no-brainer that the Legislature will prioritize important programs for rural Minnesota this session.”

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The Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities is a nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy organization representing 88 cities outside of the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Coalition educates legislators about issues important to Greater Minnesota. Visit the CGMC online at greatermncities.org.

Thank you to everyone who has already registered for the CGMC Fall Conference. For those who haven’t, we hope you will join us for the conference Thursday, Nov. 17-Friday, Nov. 18 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this registration form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact.

We are anticipating a great conference this year. Agenda highlights include:

  • Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham will provide the keynote address. Ingraham ignited a firestorm in Minnesota last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake Falls “America’s Worst Place to Live” — then he made the surprising decision to move there! He will share his observations and experiences as an “outsider” who moved to a small town in Greater Minnesota, and also share ideas on how communities can be more welcoming to newcomers and draw in more residents and visitors.
  • MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle will discuss the state’s transportation needs and provide insight on how the state can move forward on a long-term comprehensive funding plan.
  • U of M Extension Educator Ryan Pesch will discuss research that shows many rural cities are actually experiencing a “brain gain” — an increase in adults ages 30-49 who move to Greater Minnesota to raise their families — and other positive trends for rural Minnesota that are occurring under the radar.
  • CGMC senior lobbyist Bradley Peterson will provide analysis of the Nov. 8 election and how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.
  • CGMC staff will provide information on ways city leaders can work together to promote and protect LGA in the upcoming year.
  • CGMC members will adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Please note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC at a rate of $94 a night. Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 to make a reservation.

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

The CGMC is hosting a series of debates to give candidates running for a seat in the Minnesota Legislature a chance to talk face-to-face about important issues and give residents a chance to get to know them better. The debates are scheduled as follows:

  • House District 27A – 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 11 at Riverland Community College (2200 Riverland Drive) in Albert Lea. Candidates are incumbent Rep. Peggy Bennett (R) and challenger Gary Schindler (DFL).
  • Senate District 1 – 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 19 at Thief River Falls City Hall (405 Third St. East). Candidates are Kip Fontaine (DFL) and Mark Johnson (R). This seat was previously occupied by Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL), who retired at the end of the 2016 session.
  • House District 12A – 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20 at the American Legion Hall (507 Pacific Ave.) in Morris. Candidates are incumbent Rep. Jeff Backer (R) and challenger Jay McNamar (DFL).
  • House District 24A – 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 24 at the Owatonna Arts Center (435 Garden View Lane). Candidates are incumbent Rep. John Petersburg (R) and challenger Bev Cashman (DFL).

A lot of things are going well for Greater Minnesota right now — unemployment is low and many communities are experiencing business and population growth. However, concerns remain. Cities are feeling the financial squeeze caused by years of stagnant LGA funding, projects are at a standstill due to the lack of a bonding bill, and the state still has no real plan to address the millions of dollars in transportation needs in Greater Minnesota.

We will explore these and many other topics at the CGMC Fall Conference, which will be held Thursday, Nov. 17-Friday, Nov. 18 at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center in Alexandria. To register, fill out this registration form and email, mail or fax it to the listed contact. Please register by Nov. 9.

A few of the agenda highlights include:

  • Washington Post reporter Chris Ingraham will provide the keynote address. Ingraham ignited a firestorm in Minnesota last year when he wrote an article that named Red Lake Falls “America’s Worst Place to Live” — then he made the surprising decision to move there! He will share his observations and experiences as an “outsider” who moved to a small town in Greater Minnesota, and also share ideas on how communities can be more welcoming to newcomers and draw in more residents and visitors.
  • MnDOT Commissioner Charles Zelle will discuss the state’s transportation needs and provide insight on how the state can move forward on a long-term comprehensive funding plan.
  • U of M Extension Educator Ryan Pesch will discuss research that shows many rural cities are actually experiencing a “brain gain” — an increase in adults ages 30-49 who move to Greater Minnesota to raise their families — and other positive trends for rural Minnesota that are occurring under the radar.
  • CGMC senior lobbyist Bradley Peterson will provide analysis of the Nov. 8 election and how the results could impact Greater Minnesota.
  • CGMC staff will provide information on ways city leaders can work together to promote and protect LGA in the upcoming year.
  • CGMC members will adopt the CGMC’s legislative policy positions and priorities for the 2017 legislative session.

Note that attendees are responsible for booking their own hotel rooms. A block of rooms is reserved for the CGMC at a rate of $94 a night. Call Arrowwood at 320-762-1124 to make a reservation.

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

CGMC Executive Director Tim Flaherty and environmental attorney Daniel Marx led a webinar on Sept. 8 to provide information about the challenges Greater Minnesota cities face in regards to water quality regulations and to discuss strategies to help cities address these challenges. Those who were unable to watch the webinar during the live steam can view it here: greatermncities.org/cgmc-tools/environmental-challenges/. A PDF version of the Power Point presentation used during the webinar can also be found here.

The presentation covers the following topics:

  • A brief overview of the water quality regulatory history
  • Discussion of the current pending regulations and cost implications that cities should be prepared for
  • Information on cities’ legal rights with respect to wastewater permitting (for more detailed information on this, read this “Know Your Rights” handout)
  • Discussion of the CGMC Environmental Action Fund priorities and agenda

We encourage our members to watch the webinar and share it with other staff members and elected officials in your city. If you have any questions about the webinar, the CGMC’s Environmental Action Fund or how current or proposed water quality regulations may affect your city, please contact Daniel at dmmarx@flaherty-hood.com.

Each year the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities honors legislators, city officials and others who had a particularly strong positive impact on Greater Minnesota during the preceding legislative session or during the course of their careers. This year’s award winners were honored during our annual Legislative Awards Dinner, which was held July 21 in Austin, Minn. To see photos of the award winners, visit our Facebook page.

The 2016 CGMC Award winners are as follows:

Legislator of Distinction Award – Awarded to legislators who played key roles in the CGMC’s policy success or advancing CGMC priorities during the preceding session. Can be awarded to legislators from all parts of the state, and legislators can be awarded in more than one program area.

Legislator of Distinction- Tax Policy
– Sen. Rod Skoe (DFL- Clearbrook)
– Sen. Lyle Koenen (DFL- Clara City)
– Rep. Paul Marquart (DFL- Dilworth)
– Rep. Paul Anderson (R- Starbuck)

Legislator of Distinction- Economic Development
– Rep. Pat Garofalo (R- Farmington)
– Rep. Erik Simonson (DFL- Duluth)
– Sen. Vicki Jensen (DFL- Owatonna)

Legislator of Distinction- Environment
– Rep. Paul Torkelson (R- Hanska)

Rural Leadership Award – Awarded to legislators who helped advance CGMC priorities in several program areas during the preceding session.
– Majority Leader Tom Bakk (DFL- Cook)
– Sen. Kent Eken (DFL- Twin Valley)

Excellence in Service (Elected Officials) – Awarded to CGMC elected officials who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.
– Mayor Cliff Barth, Breckenridge
– Mayor Mike Poellinger, La Crescent
– Council Member Audrey Nelsen, Willmar

Excellence in Service (Appointed Officials) – Awarded to CGMC city managers/administrators or city staff who demonstrated knowledge, leadership and active participation in CGMC program areas over the preceding session and/or an extended period of time.
– City Clerk/Administrator Josh Malchow, Slayton
– City Manager Blaine Hill, Morris
– City Manager Chad Adams, Albert Lea
– Director of Public Services Roger Avelsgard, Breckenridge

Jack Murray Award for Distinguished Rural Leadership (retiring elected officials) – Awarded—upon their retirement from public service—to CGMC mayors and elected officials who have made special contributions to the CGMC over a multi-year career. The award is named after Jack Murray, former mayor of International Falls, who was instrumental in the CGMC’s formation.
– Council Member Sandra Means, Rochester
– Tim Strand, former mayor, St. Peter
– Council Member John Young, Hawley (posthumous award)

Friend of the CGMC – Awarded to individuals (not legislators or CGMC city officials) who were especially helpful to the CGMC during the preceding year.
– Jeff Freeman, Executive Director of the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority

Minnesota Legacy Award – Awarded—upon their retirement—to legislators who have demonstrated unfailing commitment and made extraordinary contributions to Greater Minnesota during their legislative careers.
– Sen. LeRoy Stumpf (DFL- Plummer)
– Sen. Kathy Sheran (DFL- Mankato)
– Rep. Kim Norton (DFL- Rochester)

President’s Award – Awarded to the outgoing CGMC president.
– Mayor Robert Broeder, Le Sueur