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Greater Minnesota-Con kicks off in Duluth, outstate issues front and center

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Was this year's round of lawmaking in St. Paul really "the Greater Minnesota Session?"

That's the big question Wednesday, the first day of the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities' (CGMC) 2015 summer conference in Duluth.

The question refers to a promise a number of lawmakers and political hopefuls made last year about the 2015 legislative session, according to the Star Tribune.

Representatives of the cities that belong to the coalition were not impressed with the outcome, however, and called the session a "great disappointment" and a "wasted opportunity" to address the needs of Minnesota's rural communities.

CGMC President Heidi Omerza said in a June news release the Legislature failed to pass a major transportation bill that would have provided long-term funding for roads and bridges, and tax credits for workforce housing development, among other hoped-for legislation.

According to ABC 6, at least one lawmaker admitted they fell short of going to bat for outstate Minnesota.

"[Greater Minnesota issues] just didn't seem to get traction, didn't get the right amount of discussion," Rep. Jeanne Poppe of Austin told the station. "Things that were highlighted were probably more minor issues, but definitely there were a number of areas that we could have done more."

Nonetheless, among the conference's events is a "Legislative Awards dinner" on Thursday evening, in which the CGMC honors lawmakers at the state and city level who "worked tirelessly to advance Greater Minnesota's interests over the past year."

The conference, which gathers city leaders from across the state, runs through Friday and features talks with key legislators such as DFL House Speaker Paul Thissen and a speech from Lt. Gov. Tina Smith. Attendees also took a tour of Duluth, including stops at some of its breweries, according to the event schedule.

The CGMC is a nonprofit group made up of 85 cities outside the Twin Cities area, dedicated to building a "strong Greater Minnesota" through developing business- and family-friendly communities, and providing a voice for outstate Minnesota's economic interests in the Legislature.

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