The 2017 Session of the Minnesota Legislature convened on January 3rd and got off to a fast start. The first week of the session focused on Health Insurance and getting premium assistance to people who have experienced astronomical rate increases for 2017. House File 1 and Senate file 1, relating to premium relief, were the first bills filed in the session. Perhaps as a foretaste of things to come, the Governor and the Legislature offered different plans and, as of the date of this writing, have failed to agree on a bill even though they share the same goal.
Transportation is another shared goal of the administration and the legislature. Senate file 2 is the Senate version of the transportation bill. We quickly discovered that one of the first things that this bill does is ELIMINATE THE UNREFUNDED GAS TAX. If this provision were to be enacted into law, the balance in the dedicated fund would be cut in half.
MnUSA immediately went to work and met with all of the key senators, beginning with Senate Majority Leader Gazelka. We also lobbied in the House of Representatives and received assurances that the provision would not be included in the House version of the bill. Politically active MnUSA members contacted their Senators and quickly gained their support for MnUSA and opposition to the anti-snowmobiling provision of Senate File 2. We worked with ATVAM to insure that legislators knew that the motorized recreational community was united in its opposition to this provision. January 17th DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr testified before the Senate Environment Committee that this provision would destroy the finest snowmobile trail system in the United States.
As of this writing, the provision appears to be dead.
This week, MnUSA legislation to eliminate the sales tax for snowmobile trail building materials will be introduced. We are optimistic about this bill's prospects for becoming law this year. We have also had meetings with legislators urging support for legislation further honoring the late Rep. David Dill. Both of these initiatives are priorities adopted by the MnUSA Board of Directors.
I often write to urge snowmobilers to be in close relationships with their legislators. The early effort to eliminate the unrefunded gas tax is one example of why I stay on my soapbox. Without the efforts of MnUSA members, our legislative impact would be horribly diminished. Thank you to those of you who quickly contacted your legislators. Without your commitment, our trail system would be nothing more than a wonderful memory.