County Manager Column from Dec. 8, 2020

2021 legislative priorities take shape

Following a winding, multi-chapter 2020 legislative session in which policymakers adopted laws and adapted new practices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2021 legislative session will no doubt provide unique and serious challenges. Across the state, we will continue battling COVID-19 and its effects on the economy, employment and communities. Also, the state will begin the year staring at a significant projected budget deficit in the years ahead and 184,000 fewer Minnesota jobs than just 10 months ago. As we finalize our 2021 legislative platforms, we are well-positioned to continue pressing for priorities that support our communities.  

As our Government Relations team recapped in a recent workshop presentation (video), we’ve had many successes this year including receiving millions of state bonding dollars for a number of priority projects in the east metro. With their tireless help, we also succeeded in protecting and maintaining flexibility for federal dollars that we’ve used for our Ramsey Investment Support Efforts (RISE) to support our public health response and help for residents and families, workers and small businesses. Finally, we changed a long-time law to realign our Community Corrections department and the state courts to better serve those in the criminal justice system.

Revisit the 2020 state and federal legislative platforms

Those priorities that were not resolved in 2020 will be carried into the 2021 federal and state legislative platforms which our board will vote on next week. Our organization has a bold vision rooted in an ambitious strategic plan, and especially in these difficult times we must press the Legislature to hear and assist Minnesota’s most diverse county.

We have added some important new priorities also – the result of a countywide process which included numerous meetings with leaders and staff across our service teams, ongoing conversations with key partners and a recent formal, public engagement with the county board.

Watch a video of the board meeting

Lawmakers return to the Capitol after the holidays on Tuesday, Jan. 5. From the oaths of office lawmakers take that day through the end of session, Government Relations keeps us up-to-date on the weekly "play-by-play" through regular updates on RamseyNet. Maybe you are looking to revisit the workings of the legislature and preview 2021? Tune-in to the first-ever “Legislative Engagement 101” virtual town hall meetings – Government Relations offered a version for Ramsey County employees yesterday (view the video, passcode: 5kq9=wj2) and will offer a version for the public tomorrow.  

In the fast-paced environment of the legislative session, priorities and dynamics can change hour to hour. Looking ahead to this next session, we are thankful for our Government Relations team who are up at the Capitol (often late into the night) monitoring developments and tirelessly engaging lawmakers and partners to reinforce and draw support for our priorities.

And finally, thanks also to all the departmental staff who work with Government Relations to bring forward ideas and needs that help shape our platform to best serve our residents. The legislative session is a team effort and partnership between our board members, Government Relations and departmental staff is critical to our success. Communication and coordination are key and I appreciate the efforts of all those who are involved.