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Hennepin County spent $310,000 on lobbyists in 2023 to influence state and federal lawmakers.

The Hennepin County Board intergovernmental relations committee got an annual update of those efforts Nov. 14. Lobbying costs for the county are expected to be similar next year, with the exact amount set in December when commissioners approve the 2024 budget.

A summary provided by county officials shows that $120,000 was spent on lobbying the federal government and the remaining $190,000 was dedicated to influencing state lawmakers on a variety of topics including infrastructure, housing and social services.

Commissioner Marion Greene, who represents District 3, noted that the county had a number of important funding and policy successes during a busy legislative session when lawmakers approved a nearly $70 billion two-year budget.

"Our team was ready to be partners with legislators during that intense session," Greene said. "I'm so impressed with our team."

A big win this year was the Legislature's approval of $26 million for an anaerobic digester the county wants to build in Brooklyn Park to dispose of organic waste. To get the money, the County Board needs to approve a plan to close the Hennepin Energy Recovery Center (HERC) on the edge of downtown Minneapolis that burns garbage to create energy.

The HERC is a controversial facility that environmental and social justice advocates say has a disproportionate impact on the county's most at-risk populations. But some county staffers argue the incinerator's emissions are well below acceptable levels and that burning trash is better than sending it to a landfill.

In October, the County Board ordered staff to come up with options by February to close the HERC between 2028 and 2040.

The state infrastructure bill also included $3.5 million to help fund the rehabilitation of the Hennepin Avenue Bridge. County officials hoped to get $8.6 million more in the coming legislative session to help pay for that project.

Hennepin County's lobbying goes beyond money for infrastructure. The County Board's legislative priorities for 2024 include:

Waste: To close the HERC, residents need to dramatically reduce the trash they create. County leaders say state funding and policy changes will be needed to aid in that effort.

Health and human services: County leaders need state and federal help to continue to provide equitable care and services to residents. Officials want state leaders to do more to address the growing shortage of nurses and other health care workers.

Housing: County officials want the Legislature to continue to invest in affordable housing through aid to renters and subsidies to housing providers. They also back a "livable" minimum wage of $15 per hour or more.

Transportation: County leaders want new state investments in transit projects, including the Blue Line light-rail extension and an ongoing Arterial Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project led by the Metropolitan Council.

The County Board is expected to formally approve its legislative platform when it meets Nov. 28.