Minnesota State Sen. Foung Hawj (67-DFL)
ST. PAUL (Feb. 20, 2014) — First and foremost, let me say it has been an honor to serve the people of East St. Paul over the last year.
My first legislative session has taught me so much, and I’m looking forward to making changes and bettering our community as I prepare for the start of my second legislative session. For starters, this session is primarily a bonding year, which means the Senate Capital Investment Committee has been touring the state looking at projects that are requesting money.
There are a number of very deserving projects in our district that I have been working hard to promote. In addition to bonding, the past few months have kept me busy as I keep my eye on issues in the community, prepare for a possibly contentious minimum wage debate as well as draft and find co-sponsors for several bills I am introducing this year.
I’d like to take the time to talk about the bonding projects in East St. Paul that are requesting bonding money. Metropolitan State University has been increasing its enrollment and the number of people graduating with science degrees. However, it’s the only college within the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU) that does not have a dedicated science building. Metro State is requesting $35.86 million to build a Science Education Center.
This building will allow the school to increase its science course offerings and teach students in state-of-the-art classrooms and labs. Students with advanced science degrees can go on to discover new technologies and change the world. Let’s provide the necessary tools to students in order for them to make a difference right here in the Twin Cities.
I am the chief author of the bill requesting money for the Lower Phalen Creek Project at the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary. The Sanctuary is an award-winning park that currently houses a vacant four-story warehouse that project leaders hope to turn into the Wakan Tipi Center. The project began as the brainchild of St. Paul resident Tracy Sides and the winner of this fall’s $1 million Forever St. Paul Challenge.
The project is requesting $3.5 million to turn the warehouse into a vibrant multi-use center including a community-based food hub. I believe the Wakan Tipi Center will make a trip to this beautiful sanctuary even better by offering a variety of cultural activities and learning opportunities.
I’m also chief authoring a bill on behalf of Ramsey County for a $2 million request to design and build a winter recreation area at Battle Creek Regional Park. Battle Creek is a 1440 acre park that is a well-known area for cross country skiing. The money will be used to build a snow-making system that will have the capacity to establish a cross-country ski trail with an 18-inch base of snow. A garage will also be built to house the pumping station and provide space for equipment storage.
A set of differing opinions about a proposed bike trail has also been keeping me busy this interim. The trail is designed to run along Highway 35 from Arden Hills all the way to University Avenue, The Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) along with Ramsey County has been hosting meetings in communities in close proximity to the bike trail. Not everyone can agree where exactly the trail should go and how it should be shaped. I’d like to reassure my constituents that I’ve been attending these meetings and I’m working on securing the best scenario for our community.
Finally, I’d like to talk about the minimum wage debate. It’s hard to find consensus on how much it should be raised, even within the DFL party. But I am making a stand; minimum wage must be raised for the good of all Minnesotans. When you put more dollars in the pockets of those who work a minimum wage job, not only does that money help that person and their family, it also puts more money into the local economy. I am prepared to vote yes on a bill that would raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.
This session should prove to help better the lives of residents living in East St. Paul. I will work to include your bonding projects in the final bill, I will fight to raise the minimum wage, and as always, I remain committed to my constituents and community.
If you have questions or would like to discuss a different topic, please email me at [email protected] or call my office at 651-296-5285.