IRRRB Amendment in Senate Tax Bill Sparks Debate

By KBJR News 1

February 18, 2013 Updated Feb 19, 2013 at 1:55 PM CST

St. Paul, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Legislation shaking up the Iron Range Resources Rehabilitation Board is on its way to the Governor's desk, but not before it received scrutiny on the house floor Monday afternoon.

House members debated the proposal as part of an Income Tax Federal Conformity bill, which in some cases, sparked more questions than answers, from the authors of the IRRRB bill.

The board provides vital funding in the way of loans and grants through the use of a taconite tax.

"It is the economic future for the people of Northeastern Minnesota," Rep. Tom Anzelc (DFL-Balsam Township) said about the IRRRB on the floor

The passionate testimony on the House Floor Monday came as members took up one of their own bills, calling for a change in the makeup of the IRRRB.

However it came with an amendment added by the Senate.

"Let's be clear about this," Rep. Anzelc said. "The Melin legislation is much preferable to the language you have before you in this bill.

That legislation, authored by Representative Carly Melin (DFL-Hibbing), called for the board to be made up of five house members and three senators.

All would have to have one third of their district in the Taconite Assistance Area.

Her bill would also repeal a 1999 statue that allowed the appointment of non-elected members on the board.

"It was never the intention of myself or any other members of the Range delegation to have this in coming to the body today to be decided this way," Rep. Jason Metsa (DFL-Virginia) said on the floor.

The Senate amendment states an additional Senator must be appointed to the board by a Senate Committee adding more geographic diversity.

Some Republican House members expressed concerns about the legislation eliminating the citizen positions.

The amendment is being met by opposition by the bill's author and other representatives in the Range delegation.

"This was a low blow from the Senate," Rep. Metsa said.

Representative Melin said her bill, in its original form, brings more accountability to the board.

"This is a way to keep politics off the IRRRB board, (because) all we're saying is if you represent the Iron Range in the legislature then you have a seat on the IRRRB. This is a fair way to do it."

Representatives Melin, Anzelc and Metsa all voted against the bill Monday saying they had no time to get public input on the senate changes, and added those changes were done with out their knowledge.

The Senate-amended tax conformity bill passed the House with a vote of 109 to 19 and is now headed to the Governor's desk.

Until the legislation is signed, the IRRRB can't seat a board.

Kevin Jacobsen
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