Safe Routes To School Now Established In Minnesota Law
Rachel Callanan, American Heart Association
Great news - Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is now established in law as a state program! Governor, Mark Dayton signed the Omnibus Transportation bill into law Thursday May 10, 2012. The SRTS language may be found in Session Law Ch. 287 (HF2685) in Article 3, Section 45..
While not funded this year, this is an extremely important first step in promoting SRTS in Minnesota. Rarely does legislation make it through the process in a single year, so this policy language is a great victory to be celebrated in one of the most challenging and contentious sessions Ive ever seen. Minnesota is just one of a handful of states that have established a state-level SRTS program.
Here are a few highlights of the campaign:
This was a true coalition effort! A coalition of 34 organizations came together to support the SRTS legislation. These organizations included a wide range of stakeholders spanning health, bicycle, transit/transportation, education, and local government.
Strong media coverage! Thanks to a partnership between American Heart Association (AHA) and the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota (BikeMN), we were able to secure a grant to hire media consultant Steve Kinsella to help spread the word about the importance of SRTS. A very big thanks to Steve, who secured timely media coverage that highlighted the issues for policymakers across the state.
Excellent grassroots outreach!
o Both BikeMN and AHA focused on this issue for our respective days at the capitol;
o Minnesotans for Healthy Kids Coalition partners mobilized their constituencies to reach out to lawmakers at key points in the process; and
o Through the Minnesota Safe Routes to School Network we found three perfect spokespeople to testify at the hearings: Red Pine Elementary Principal Gary Anger, who has led his school's efforts to establish a model SRTS program. And high school seniors Patrick Sullivan and Samantha Kaslow (pictured with Sen. Goodwin and Principal Gary Anger), did a phenomenal job telling the story of the challenges they face in trying to bike to Mounds View High School. It was the perfect story because the federal funds may not be used for high schools.
Fabulous leadership in the Legislature! Our chief authors (Rep. Hortman and Sen. Goodwin) were champions throughout the process along with 21 House co-authors and a total of 10 Senate authors (a duplicate bill was introduced in the Senate to allow more authors to sign on!). This bill had strong bipartisan support and more authors than all but one other bonding bill introduced this session. That will definitely help us build support for next year!
Great resources to tell the story! Thanks to staff from MnDOT, Minnesota Department of Health, and Blue Cross Blue Shield who were able to provide us with information and expertise regarding current SRTS efforts across the state. They helped our coalition connect with local leaders who were able to bring their story to policymakers. This local project information was instrumental in our lobbying efforts - every policymaker always wants to know Whats happening in my district?
And finally, we had a wonderful team of lobbyists who were there at every step of the process: BikeMN and AHA lobbyists took the lead, and were supported by lobbyists from American Cancer Society, Health Partners, Transit for Livable Communities, and more!
Thanks to everyone who helped. You really made a real difference on this bill! We are already planning ahead for next year to secure the funding needed for SRTS in Minnesota.
Rachel Callanan, JD MNM, is the Regional Vice President of Advocacy, Minnesota & Wisconsin American Heart Association, Midwest Affiliate.
Article Published: 06-04-2012