LGA, Como Zoo, racial equity
Increased Local Government Aid (LGA), racial equity efforts and support for capital projects including Como Zoo and Conservatory are part of a sweeping 2021 city of St. Paul legislative agenda.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made 2020 a very difficult and challenging legislative session, it is also affecting how lawmakers are working this year, said ThaoMee Xiong, the city’s director of intergovernmental relations. Legislators held an unprecedented seven special sessions in 2020.
In 2021 the Minnesota House is doing its work online, with the Senate using a hybrid of online and in-person meetings to do business.
Xiong said city leaders city approached the 2021 legislative agenda through an equity lens. Staff from Mayor Melvin Carter’s office worked with the Racial Equity Legislative Advocacy Workgroup to select legislative policy priorities. The group is made up of 25 nonprofit organizations and city employees committed to advancing health equity and economic justice. Issues chosen for a major focus at the capitol include eviction reform, emergency services, changes to drivers’ license suspension procedures to help immigrants and support for nonprofits and microbusinesses. Other priority issues chosen by the group and added to the legislative agenda are to seek a funding mechanism for the presumption for COVID-19 workers’ compensation, economic stimulus initiatives, rebuilding of communities impacted by civil unrest, and educational investments to address learning loss and opportunity gaps.
One focus with emergency shelter is call for the state’s Emergency Fund to have a permanent base budget of $15 million. The funds are used statewide to provide temporary and permanent housing, and supportive services. Adding bonds to build affordable housing, protections for existing landlords who wish to keep rents at affordable levels, and tenants’ rights programs are among many housing-related efforts the city is supporting.
The legislative agenda notes that the zoo and conservatory are the most visited cultural destination in Minnesota. A bonding appropriation is sought for pre-design and design for the entry exhibits, including a restoration to the orangutan habitat in Phase I. Funds are also sought for energy efficient asset preservation.
A second area capital project is to support the Minnesota Department of Transportation as it seeks funding to build a land bridge over Interstate 94, as part of the Reconnect Rondo project.
Delivery fees capped
Delivery service fees that take a bite out of restaurant profits will be capped, as a result of action Jan. 13 by the St. Paul City Council. The action affects third-party delivery services, such as DoorDash and BiteSquad. It caps the fees at 15 percent, the same as in Minneapolis.
Container ban delayed
St. Paul’s ban on carryout food and beverage containers that cannot be recycled or composted was to take effect Jan. 1 but Mayor Melvin Carter issued an emergency order postponing implementation of the ordinance for a year.
In 2019 after a long community process and considerable debate, St. Paul approved a ban of carryout containers that cannot be recycled or composted.
While saying she appreciates the spirit of Carter’s order and understands the difficulties businesses have faced during the COVID-19 pandemic, Council President Amy Brendmoen expressed opposition to the delay. She said many businesses have already taken steps to switch containers. One reason for the delay was to see if a long-sought push for curbside composting was moving ahead. But that effort has stalled. The council plans to take up the issue again soon with the mayor.