Minnesota cities ask for special legislative session

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(ABC 6 News) – The League of Minnesota Cities sent a letter to Governor Tim Walz and state lawmakers asking again for a special legislative session to pass spending bills. This echos the cries of local governments in southeast Minnesota. City council members in Austin and Albert Lea are speaking out about their own crumbling infrastructure.

The Austin City Council says they desperately need help with things like infrastructure projects, THC edible regulations and law enforcement shortages.

Austin’s wastewater treatment plant is more than 100 years old.

"We don’t have a choice to wait," said Austin City Council member Jason Baskin.

Baskin says after waiting for years for help from the state legislature, the deadline to fund the plant’s reconstruction is looming.

"If we don’t get those dollars from the state, then those $20 million have to be paid for out of sewer and utility rates at the local level."

Projects like this would have been funded in the 2022 bonding bill, had the legislature passed it. According to Baskin, Austin also needs body-worn cameras for their police department.

"Do we want to do the right thing to increase police transparency, because we absolutely support our police, or do you have to kind of kick that can down the road?" he asked.

Rochester City council member Patrick Keane says he would also like to see a special session. Rochester is working with the League to develop THC edible regulations, according to Keane.

"I’m concerned about being ready in the forefront, but I’m not feeling pressure that we need to act quickly, or that we need to take the lead in Rochester," Keane said of the issue.

The Austin City Council is taking a stronger stance, and is currently drafting an ordinance to regulate THC use in the city.

Representative Liz Boldon (DFL – Rochester) says she wants the governor to call a special session so she and her fellow lawmakers can get this work done.

"I really just think it’s unconscionable that there are such needs across our state, and we have the resources. We have billions of dollars in resources," Boldon said.

The only way to reconvene for a special session is for the governor to call lawmakers back together. However, during an election year, and months after the end of the regular session, many at the local level are not confident that is a possibility.

The League of Minnesota Cities’ letter to Governor Tim Walz can be found here.