WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN) is taking on the Metropolitan Council, proposing a provision that would require a majority of the governing members to be elected officials.
Under federal law, metropolitan planning organizations (MPOs) are required to have a majority of governing members to be elected officials rather than gubernatorial appointees. The Met Council, which goes back to the 1960s, has been grandfathered into federal law, and is the only MPO in the country that does not comply with federal law.
Lewis’ proposal, an amendment to the Federal Aviation Administration Authorization Act of 2018, would end the noncompliance and require the Met Council to have locally elected officials on the governing board. Lewis highlights the Met Council’s independent authority to raise taxes, saying having local elections is a necessary step to increase the accountability of the governing board.
“Constituencies across the country deserve to have a voice in choosing who represents them and their needs on their local MPOs,” Lewis said in a press release. “The decisions made by these organizations directly affect the communities they govern. Our Met Council in Minnesota is the only MPO in the nation which does not have elected officials on their board, and yet they have independent authority to raise taxes. Having local elections increases the accountability of these regional boards.”
“As federal law mandates, Met Council membership should include those elected by the people, for the people,” Lewis added.
Critics have raised concerns over an interruption of federal funds if the Met Council has to change its governing structure. Lewis dispelled these concerns on the House floor last week, saying the Met Council would be given a transition period and the amendment “does not put in jeopardy any current or future federal investments or grants.”
Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton also spoke out against the amendment, writing a letter to the Minnesota delegation cautioning against circumventing the regional planning process. However, Lewis has maintained his amendment would do nothing to change the operations or scope of the Met Council.
“Our amendment does not seek to change the operations or scope of the Met Council,” Carter Moelk, Deputy Press Secretary for Rep. Lewis, said in a press release. “It does not attempt to change the activities of the board. It simply requires that for a board to be in compliance they need to have locally elected official representation consistent with every other MPO in the country.”
Lewis’ amendment was passed unanimously by voice. The House overwhelmingly passed the FAA authorization bill last Friday, and the bill will move onto the Senate. Watch Lewis’ remarks on the House floor here.