Policy & Funding

With Blocked Bonding Bill, Strengthened Support for Transit, Bicycling, and Walking are Key as Minnesota Legislature Moves Toward Special Session

May 20, 2020

A group of Minneapolis constituents and Transportation Forward coalition partners stand in front of a mural with Representatives Gomez and Hassan.

Transit, biking, and walking are critical components of a just, equitable, and climate sustainable future. And everyone should be able to use sustainable transportation to reach the important places in their lives—whether it’s the grocery store, their job, the park, or a friend’s house. That’s why each year, Move Minnesota and our allies advocate at the State Capitol for funding and policies to improve transit, bicycling, rolling, and walking for people across the state.

This year’s legislative session looked different, with the suspension of in-person meetings and a shift to rely on digital access due to COVID-19. Minnesota’s 2020 legislative session ended on May 18, with the state’s entire bonding bill blocked by the House Minority. This isn’t the outcome anyone had hoped for at the beginning of session, and it’s unconscionable that some legislators are using our public health crisis as a political football. By refusing to pass a bonding bill, they are refusing to fund the essential projects that can help stabilize our communities and prevent even further damage to our communities, our climate, and our economy.

Despite this disappointing end, we successfully worked with our supporters to keep building traction for transit, bicycling, and walking even as the Capitol building closed and things moved online. Thanks to everyone who contacted their elected officials to share how critical walking, biking, and transit are in creating a more just world. Thanks to the partners on our entire Transportation Forward coalition, and a special shout-out to Sierra Club North Star Chapter and MN350 for their action alerts and calls!

In the coming weeks, legislators are considering a special session. Thanks to your action over the last weeks and months, we are in a stronger position to push for transit funding and important policy changes:

  • Draft bills reflected a commitment to sustainable transportation. Both the House bonding bill and the Senate bill introduced by Senator Pappas included substantial funding for metro-area Bus Rapid Transit, as well as funding for biking and walking, Greater Minnesota transit, and electric vehicle infrastructure. These bills are an important starting point to ensure transit, biking, and walking are included in the any deal reached during special session because the bonding bill needs a bipartisan three-fifths majority to pass in either the House or the Senate.
  • Supporters across the state spoke up for transit, bicycling, and walking. We spoke to people across Minnesota. People across our state told us again and again: there are statewide needs for sustainable transportation, and no matter where people live, they want to see better transportation investments in all communities—not just their own. From Bemidji to Hugo to Saint Paul, the folks in our state made sure their elected officials heard directly that transit, biking, and walking investments are a priority to advance racial equity, climate action, accessibility, and more.
  • Together, we strengthened legislative champions for transit. Move Minnesota and partners hosted nine meetings with legislators and their constituents, providing direct opportunities for residents to tell their elected officials the impact that better transit could have on their lives. In addition to in-person meetings, the hundreds of phone calls made and e-mails sent by our supporters pushed more legislators to fight for transit, biking, and walking. Thanks to everyone who reached out to their elected official, our list of state transit champions continues to grow!
  • We pushed the conversation on people-oriented fare practices. Representative Brad Tabke introduced a bill that moved forward our work on fair fare enforcement by creating a transit ambassador program and reducing the penalty for fare evasion from a criminal misdemeanor to a petty misdemeanor, the same approach as we have with parking tickets. Metropolitan Council Chair Charlie Zelle joined us in support of these changes. Ultimately the bill failed to pass, leaving existing unjust penalties and an unnecessarily hostile enforcement system in place. However, we have clear language and growing coalition ready to push these changes through in a future session.
  • Our impacts go beyond the legislative session. Many legislators responded to outreach and fought for transit, biking, and walking. With their help, we plan to take that energy and keep pushing for change at the city and county level after the legislative session ends. The calls and e-mails our supporters made to their elected officials made sure that elected know sustainable transportation isn’t just a one-time issue: we need change at all levels, and we need it now.

With conversation about a special session in June, lawmakers need to keep hearing from us on the importance of transit, biking, and walking. The last days of session moved quickly, with massive compromises, shifting priorities, and critical transportation needs left out of the final Senate bill. Transit, biking, and walking champions and opponents need to hear from us now more than ever.

We’ll be making calls, sending action alerts, and more in the coming weeks. We’re a people-powered movement, and you’re an important part! Stay in the loop by signing up for our newsletter or invest in the movement by making a donation. Thanks to everyone who has taken action so far—you continue to prove that together, we can build the future we know is possible!