Legislative Priorities

St. Louis County encompasses abundant natural resources, culture and history, and people. We work hard to serve our residents, and to preserve all the rest. This is clear in our bonding requests and other legislative priorities.

Top Bonding Priorities

Integrated Solid Waste Management Campus 

$6M Request

St. Louis County's Integrated Solid Waste Management Campus aligns with the State's goal to protect ecosystem health, remediate PFAS (Per-and Polyfluoroalkyl substances) contaminated sites, and manage PFAS in waste by constructing an advanced leachate treatment facility in Canyon that will provide a solution for the entire Northeast region. This new facility will serve as a repository for leachate generated by landfills within the region as well as consolidate old landfills and dumps into a lined facility to contain PFAS-contaminated waste.

What is PFAS?

PFAS is a large family of man-made chemicals that are forever present in the environment due to frequent use since the 1930s. At certain levels they are toxic--causing adverse health effects in humans, fish, and wildlife.

Addressing PFAS now and into the future

St. Louis County Heritage & Arts Center (The Depot) Asset Renovation
$11.342M Request 

The St. Louis County Heritage and Arts Center (The Depot) has received $1.5M to make life safety improvements, but is still in need of critical infrastructure improvements for its historic building so the Depot can continue to:

  • Serve as a regional hub of education for diverse audiences in arts, history, culture, and agriculture.
  • Provide opportunities for community engagement through free events and community collaborations.
  • Enable multiple non-profit organizations to contribute to the vibrancy of the arts and culture in St. Louis County and the region.
  • Preserve integrity of structure and lead to energy efficiencies and a reduction in carbon footprint.
  • Support the statewide goals of Northern Lights Express (NLX) of fiscal growth, economic development, job growth and increased tourism revenue (due to its adjacency).


Revitalize an Icon

Ash River Wastewater Treatment and Collection System 

$7M Request

The Ash River Sanitary District is made up of a mix of residential and commercial properties served by aging septic systems. Inspection data indicates sewage is being discharged from 78% of septic or holding tanks to inadequate subsurface dispersal systems. This leads to pollution of groundwater and surface water systems, including Ash River and Lake Kabetogama - deemed Outstanding Resource Value Waters by MPCA, and part of the Voyageurs National Park system. The proposed collection and treatment system would eliminate existing septic systems and improve surface and groundwater quality.


Additional Bonding Requests

  • Bridge Bonding 
  • Local Road Wetland Replacement Program
  • Local Road Improvement Program

Urgent Care Behavioral Health Center (Clarity Project) - funding fix

The Urgent Care Behavioral Health Center (originally called the Clarity Project) will greatly improve access and the system of care for individuals in need of mental health, behavioral health or substance use urgent care/crisis care and stabilization. A legislative 'fix' to the funding awarded in 2023 is needed--a retroactive award of $2.5 million to St. Louis County in cash instead of bond proceeds. In addition, state support for negotiating a sustainable and equitable reimbursement structure for all individuals and payer groups is needed.

New statutes governing tax-delinquent properties

The United States Supreme Court ruled in Tyler v. Hennepin County that Minnesota’s tax-forfeiture laws are unconstitutional and result in violation of the Takings Clause. This ruling has resulted in several class action lawsuits and requires a complete rework of statutes governing tax-delinquent property.

St. Louis County manages over 900,000 acres of Tax-Forfeited lands on behalf of the State of MN for the benefit of schools, townships, cities and County. New legislation is needed to provide a path forward that:

  • Protects our ability to manage these lands for timber, mining, recreation and environmental purposes
  • Streamlines process to manage tax-delinquent properties
  • Protects the Mineral Estate
  • Provides sustainable funding for blight clean up, land sales, and County mandates

Address issues created by 48-Hour Rule changes

The Legislature amended Sec. 7, Minn. Statute 2022, § 253B.10 subdivision 1(b) so that Minnesota has 48 hours after a bed becomes available to move a civilly committed individual out of a jail and into a mental health treatment setting.

Unintended consequences of this change:

  • Individuals languish in inappropriate environments without treatment—waiting on average 90 days in jail to be transferred
  • Jails cannot provide the necessary treatment due to the severity of the mental health issues individuals are experiencing
  • With forensic facilities at capacity, individuals are being inappropriately placed—taking bed space away from others in need of hospital-level care
  • County property taxpayers are having to pay 100% of the cost of placements that do not provide individuals with the appropriate level of care
  • Critical beds are not available for those who are committing serious crimes
What's needed:
  • Understand the significance of the lack of high acuity resources statewide and the impact this has on local Emergency Departments and St. Louis County Jail, and other County costs for people stuck in inappropriate settings
  • Expansion of the State's role in assuring Safety Net services through the availability of beds and staffing needed for Minnesota’s Direct Care and Treatment System
  • Sustainable funding to build out services to expand capacity (so there are more services available to treat people with severe mental health issues)

Lands Bill Legislation

Lands Bill Legislation

We have five requests in this category:  

  • St. Louis River Estuary - provide a legislative solution to the land ownership issue in the St. Louis River Estuary. This would allow for the realignment of dredge islands with the MnDNR, memorialize existing dredge-constructed docks with private land holdings, dissolve parcels fully submerged and greatly improve ownership records. The MnDNR and Port are interested in supporting this project.
  • Usual Lands Bill - special sale of existing forfeited properties per 282
  • Inclusion of biomass in the climate goal for 2040, MPCA led/Hibbing PUC focused
  • Housing Rehabilitation with AEOA and IRRR
  • Mine Fencing Funding

Remaining Initiatives & Statewide County Issues

Statewide County Legislation:

  • Support strategic long-term strategies associated with service delivery and sustainability of Rural EMS
  • Enhance funding for adult and adolescent mental health services and facilities as per AMC, MICA, MACCSA legislative priorities.
  • Tax Shift of Clinics/Hospital Taxing Districts
  • The 2024 legislative platform incorporates the AMC and MICA legislative platform priorities.
Other County Initiatives
  • Historical Society Funding restriction (383C.74), and members of Boards and Commissions: Terms of Office (383C.07)
  • NERCC - 1 megawatt solar farm ($4M)
  • Recognized trade school eligibility for County scholarship program 298.2215


John Ongaro
Intergovernmental Relations Director

100 North 5th Avenue West
Room 202
Duluth, MN 55802