Monday, January 29, 2007

Week of January 28, 2007

On Monday, I attended a short session on the floor and two committees--Energy Policy & Finance (on renewable energy and transmission lines) and Heritage Finance (tour of MN History Center).

On Monday, I introduced House File 457, which would require scrap metal recyclers to boost their recordkeeping in order to crack down on the epidemic of copper and aluminum theft from utilities, abandoned houses, and construction sites. Several houses in MN have exploded due to thieves stealing copper pipes on gas connections. And...good news! The bill will receive a hearing in the Public Safety Committee on Tuesday, February 6th. On Thursday I met with a property officer with the City of Minneapolis and a police officer from Forest Lake who specialize in the problem. There is a coalition of contractors, utilities, and law enforcement that are in support, and they asked for more stuff in the bill, which I was going to revise anyway. Several thieves in the Midwest have actually been electrocuted to death when they tried to steal live copper wires. The picture I saw of one of these people was pretty graphic.

Just a quick note about the bill I introduced last week, House File 347. This bill would effectively prohibit non-compostable bags for disposal of yard waste in the seven-county metro area. The biggest contaminant in compost in the U.S. is plastic from yard waste bags. This reduces the value of the finished compost and increases costs for waste haulers, and therefore their customers (us). Several companies, including one in White Bear Lake, make compostable bags and are ready to fill the demand. Dakota County currently has an ordinance that does the same thing, and many haulers use carts anyway or require the compostable bags as well.

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (passing the LCCMR budget--the lottery proceeds for environmental purposes--and DNR budget presentation). In the afternoon, I taped a short video interview for cable access (you can listen to the audio here) and attended a large group presentation on climate change in the House chamber. I was interested to see several protesters, if that is the right word, outside the chamber wearing polar bear suits and homemade signs saying, "Hype does not help," or something to that effect.

On Wednesday, I attended a legislative breakfast organized by the Association of Recycling Managers; attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee (introduction of HF4, the renewable energy standard bill); caucus for the House DFL; and two committee caucus meetings.

On Thursday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee, which included a very intellectually stimulating presentation by several academic experts about biofuels. Session on Thursday on the House floor included passage of the Great Lakes Compact. I also attended the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (ditch buffer presentation--it's more interesting and important than it sounds) and a got a briefing from the MN National Guard.

On Friday, I visited the dentistry office of Dr. Michael Furey, DDS, in North Oaks. Dentists in Minnesota provide free dentistry to kids in need on February 2nd--Give Kids a Smile Day. Dr. Furey and his staff provided services to 19 children on Friday. He was in the middle of an extraction when I showed up so I didn't get to talk with him! Nice work, folks.

Also on Friday, I visited the Revisor's Office to draw up an amendment to HF457 to address some other ideas proposed by law enforcement. Also caught up on e-mail and other constitutent issues.

I see the MN Grocers Association has fixed its database on its web site. I and other legislators had been receiving form e-mails from Minnesotans in support of Wine with Dinner but they were from people who are not in the right districts. I went to their web site and sent myself an e-mail and it worked!

Town Hall Meetings. My legislative assistant is working on the timing and location of several town hall meetings throughout the district. Right now the plan is to hold one in Shoreview, Circle Pines/Lexington, and Lino Lakes.

Campaign finance reports for 2006 now public. The Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board has posted 2006 end-of-year campaign finance reports on-line. You can see my report and that of my opponent last year, Phil Krinkie, at this web site. If you compare our reports, you will see that I did not accept any funds from lobbyists or political action committees (PACs), and that only two of my large contributors live outside the district (that's my mother and stepfather). Several organizations from outside the district spent a lot of money on my opponent's campaign, including the Republican Party of Minnesota, the MN Realtors Association, and Fund for a Conservative Majority. So far I've added it up to $27,399.04. For outside groups supporting me or spending against my opponent the amount is $1,870.89. That's a ratio of 14.6 to 1! The groups spending in support of me or against my opponent included the DFL House Caucus ($1423.06 for one mailing), $447.28 by Education Minnesota, and $0.55 by the MN AFL-CIO. It's a lot harder to calculate how much exactly was spent independently because you have to look up the individual political fund. Anyway, I mention all of this in order to demonstrate some more transparency. Enjoy.

Per diem: On Friday I filled out the paperwork for a legislator's per diem. The old per diem rate was $66 per day and now it is $77 per day after a Rules Committee vote. I incur costs for food at events to which I'm invited due to the lobbyist gift ban, parking when I visit groups, mileage, and so on, so I chose to claim $35 per day, which is plenty for a metro area legislator, and only for weekdays. My predecessor claimed $5,000 total per diem during the last session. (Per diem info is public information.)

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident supporting a "fair and clean elections" idea for public financing of state campaigns; two Shoreview residents & a North Oaks resident supporting a resolution opposing the escalation in Iraq; introductory letter from and e-mail with Forest Lake School District superintendent (I represent about 15 homes in the FLSD); a dentist in Shoreview about dentist's day at the capitol in March; Circle Pines, Lino Lakes, and Shoreview residents asking me to attend a global warming presentation on Tuesday; four Shoreview residents and one Lexington resident asking me to support HF4-the renewable energy standard-in its current form (which I do); Lino Lakes and Circle Pines residents asking me to support the smoking ban; Blaine resident against public financing for Vikings stadium; North Oaks resident supporting Wine with Dinner; North Oaks resident supporting bill to regulate puppy/kitten mills; Lino Lakes resident against mandatory full day kindergarten (wants it to be voluntary); North Oaks physical therapist about PT issues; Shoreview resident upset with Governor about rising property taxes; Centennial Fire Department in response to my question about recent legislative auditor's report on volunteer firefighter pensions

Non-constituent contacts: A representative from Rochester against the DM&E railroad expansion through Rochester; White Bear Lake couple asking me to co-author a bill to create a plan for reducing carbon emissions; an Oakdale couple, a Bloomington resident, and a lot of other Minnesotans from unidentified cities asking me to vote against a bill to open up the North Shore Trail to ATVs; president of MN Resource Recovery Association responding to my question about energy generation of waste-to-energy facilities; Minneapolis City Council member supporting HF457; residents of Minneapolis, Monticello, and Mound against a smoking ban; reporter from Press Publications about Wine with Dinner proposal; reporter from Sun papers about HF457; lobbyist from Parks & Trails Association of MN; 11 MN residents on HF415 that will be heard in the Environment Committee on Tuesday (about noise issues related to race tracks)

Visitors: Government affairs representative of Centre Point Energy about conservation spending requirement; Otter Tail Power on renewable energy standard; five members of the Northeast Metro ISAIAH group; lobbyist and government affairs staff for Best Buy on electronic waste bill; eight (eight!) constituents from the district supporting a smoking ban; Sierra Club lobbyist; members of the MN Wheat Board; leadership from Science Museum of MN; government relations staff from City of Minneapolis about HF457; three representatives from the Mounds View Education Association; government relations staff member from the City of Minneapolis on HF347; constituent from Circle Pines visiting during Biker Day on the Hill about increased penalties for not yielding the right of way to motorcycles; lobbyist for MN Forest Industries; government relations staff member and a lobbyist from Waste Management about electronic waste, compost, and other solid waste issues; son of constituents from Shoreview who was interviewing me as part of his college class; staff member from Board of Water & Soil Resources

Information sent: Legislative Reference Library; Office of the Legislative Auditor about upcoming reports on prevailing wages and human services administration; MN Environmental Partnership; MN State Council on Disability; Humphrey Institute & Citizens League on MN Road Pricing Summit; League of Women Voters of North Oaks, Vadnais Heights, and Mahtomedi; Leonard, Street & Deinard; Lockridge Grindal & Nauen; Rice Creek Watershed District; Ramsey County Elections re: Mounds View levy results; MN Association of School Administrators, MN Association of Secondary School Principals, and MN Elementary School Principals; MN Licensed Beverage Association against a smoking ban; MN Childrens' Platform Coalition; Taxpayers League Foundation about education funding; America's Second Harvest; North Metro Mayors Assocation on local government aid; MN Taxpayers Association; MN Township News; Council of State Governments on planning for shipments of radioactive materials through the midwestern states; League of MN Cities; MN Laborers-Employee Cooperation & Education Trust; Literacy MN; MN State College Student Association on tuition costs; Farm Bureau on legislative updates; Retirement Systems of MN about recent legislative auditor's report; MN AIDS Project; Manager for State Government Affairs for Marathon Petroleum Company; MN Seasonal Recreational Property Owners Coalition about the ad valorum tax; Metro Center for Independent Living; MN Association of Realtors (note: the realtors' literature is VERY confusing--can't quite figure out what they support); Department of Veterans Affairs; Windustry; MN Fathers & Families Network; American Heart Association & American Stroke Association; MN Association of Resources for Recovery & Chemical Health; MN Licensed Beverage Association; MN Service Station Association; Legislative Reference Library; Municipal Legislative Commission; MN Inter-County Association; Center for the American Experiment on urban sprawl conference

Invitations: MN Environmental Coalition of Labor & Industry; MN United Snowmobile Association; MN County Attorneys Association on a meth presentation; National Council on State Legislatures; MN Partnership for Biotech and Medical Geonomics; Association of Recycling Managers; Budget & Tax News from the Heartland Institute; Health Partners; Ramsey County League of Local Governments; Metro Cities, Association of Metropolitan Municipalities and MN Intercounty Association; Rochester Chamber of Commerce; Duluth Chamber of Commerce; Early Childhood Caucus; AFSCME; U of M Student Association; MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance; MN Association of Small Cities; MN Indian Affairs Council; Perpich Center for Arts Education

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Week of January 21, 2007

The week got off to a slow start because my five-year old was running a high fever on Monday and early Tuesday, and my wife is out of town. Managed to make arrangements with my in-laws so that I could attend session on Monday (short session!) and my last committee (Environment) on Tuesday afternoon.

Submitted my first bill on Monday, which would prohibit the disposal of non-compostable yard waste bags in the Twin Cities area. I got 12 co-authors on it, including a couple of Republicans. It is now HF347. I'm pleased to say that the Anoka County Watchdog, Mr. Harold Hamilton, mentioned it as a "bill to jeer" in his weekly e-mail. Mr. Hamilton was a contributor in 2006 to a Fund for a Conservative Majority, which sent out a smear mailing on me during the last week of the election campaign, so I'm not surprised for the attention. I'm working on another bill to help prevent scrap metal theft in MN--more later!

Attended a meeting of the Mounds View School Board on Tuesday evening with other legislators, as well as with a fairly large group of parents from Neighbors United afterwards.

I was back on schedule on Wednesday, with the Energy Committee (presentations by utilities) and a caucus meeting in the afternoon. Attended a luncheon with the MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance.

Thursday included attending the Environmental Finance Committee (Legislative Citizens Committee on MN Resources--money spent from lottery proceeds on the environment), a short floor session, about nine different meetings (see visitors), and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee. This last committee included a report by the Office of the Legislative Auditor Friday included a meeting about electronic waste.

Constituent contacts: Circle Pines resident about upcoming legislation affecting consulting engineers; Circle Pines resident against a proposed dog and cat breeders act; Shoreview resident supporting the Wine with Dinner proposal; Lino Lakes resident supporting Governor's proposal to exempt military pay and pensions from income tax; Shoreview resident against a Vikings stadium, for education funding, for light rail funding, and for a smoking ban; Circle Pines resident supporting a proposed dog and cat breeders act (SF121); constituent? high school student asking my position on a renewable energy standard (I support); City of Lexington and Lexington Fire Department against the recommendation of the Office of the Legislative Auditor to require volunteer fire companies to invest pensions with the State Board of Investment; Shoreview AARP member inviting me to an event for that group; a Shoreview resident and a North Oaks resident asking me to attend a joint meeting of legislators on Tuesday on climate change; Shoreview resident about MN Board of Medical Practices; Shoreview resident expressing views on about ten different topics; City of Blaine Economic Development Office; Shoreview resident supporting a smoking ban; Lino Lakes resident against a smoking ban; North Oaks resident asking about health coverage for pre-existing conditions; Shoreview resident supporting funding for the arts; Circle Pines resident and school counselor seeking appointment

Non-constituent contacts: Anonymous Minnesotan asking for a halt to the use of the MN National Guard in Iraq; Eagan resident seeking legislation to allow photovoltaic arrays on houses where local covenants might prohibit them; MN Environmental Initiative; Park Rapids resident against a smoking ban; about ten Duluth area residents against HF59 that would allow ATVs on the North Shore Trail; MN Environmental Initiative

Visitors: North Oaks resident supporting a bill on behalf of physical therapists; lobbyist for MN Environmental Partnership; lobbyist for Clean Water Action; lobbyist for Fresh Energy; lobbyists from MN Transportation Alliance; representative of MN Conservation Officers Association; lobbyist for Metro Area Cities; three patients of a cancer clinic concerned about the MN Medical Practices Board; meeting with the Governor's Chief of Staff (a constituent); government relations staff of MN Rural Electric Association; government relations staff for Xcel Energy; constituent of Lino Lakes who represented the Postal Credit Union on Credit Union Day at the Capitol; lobbyists for TV manufacturers on electronic waste bill; representatives of MN State Arts Board

Invitations: Association of Recycling Managers for a legislative breakfast; MN Lavender Bar Foundation; MN Chippewa Tribe; MN Zoo; U of M Joint Degree Program in Law, Health & the Life Sciences; Springbrook Nature Center; Twin Cities Public TV/Blue Cross Blue Shield; E-Democracy National Project; Land Stewardship Project

Information sent: Office of the Legislative Auditor released several reports, including on pensions for volunteer firefighters, human services administration, Departments of Finance and Employee Relations; and post-employment benefits for public employees; MN Private College Council; North Metro Realtors Association; MN Wheat Board; U of M Center for Transportation Studies; Council for Exceptional Children; Mt. Zion Temple in St. Paul; League of MN Cities; MN State High School League; MN State Lottery; Farm Bureau; MN Coalition for Battered Women; City of Blaine; U of M Academic Health Center; Legislative Reference Library; MN Department of Education; MN Central Labor Union Council of AFL-CIO; Take Action MN; Lake Zumbro Forever, Inc.; AAA Minnesota/Iowa in support of a booster seat law; MN Inter-County Association; City of Circle Pines; MN Women's Press; MN DNR Conservation Volunteer magazine; MN Pollution Control Agency's Annual 2006 Pollution Report; Clean Water Action Alliance; Education MN; Anoka County Sheriff's office on regional forensic crime laboratory; MN League of Women Voters

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Week of January 14, 2007

On Tuesday, I received an introductory call from the Governor's new chief-of-staff, who is also a constituent. Session was about ten minutes. Sat in Environmental Finance (wetlands presentation) and Environmental Committees (Great Lakes Compact bill) today. Attended a press conference for the proposed renewable energy standard for which I am a co-author. In the evening, I had a meeting with other first-term DFL house members.

On Wednesday, the Governor gave the State of the State address. I thought there was a lot of vision there but the details, particularly on education, fell flat with many of us. We also wonder about how the Governor proposed to pay for the initiatives mentioned. More analysis later. I also attended the energy committee, where there was an in-depth discussion of the capacity for renewable energy and the related transmission lines required to produce 25% of our electricity from renewable sources. Attended caucus in the evening. Also attended a meeting on recycling at the MN Pollution Control Agency.

On Thursday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (Farm bill legislation and conservation in agriculture) and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (overview of the MN Pollution Control Agency). Attended a meeting of first-term DFL House members. Met with the Tax Committee chair. Attended the short House floor session. In the evening, I spoke to the Lexington City Council. Sent out letters to the city councils of North Oaks and Lino Lakes asking for input for the session.

This week I have also been talking to House research and interested parties about ideas for two bills, one on compost and the other on scrap metal theft.

Visitors: lobbyist for Apple Computer & the Aggregate & Ready Mix Association about electronic waste and anti-theft ideas for scrap metal recycling; lobbyist for Parks & Trails Association of MN; lobbyist for MN Family Council about its positions (mostly conservative ideas that focus on family responsibilities plus a ban on gay marriage); lobbyist for Midwest Health Center for Women about a bill promoting family planning; editor for Politics in Minnesota about my entry in an upcoming directory entry; lobbyist for Rock-Tenn company talking about effort to build power plant at paper mill in St. Paul; Clean Water Action about Great Lakes Compact; MN Conservation Foundation about Great Lakes Compact

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident about a newly formed organization called that advocates for African Latino Asian Native Americans (ALANA); Lino Lakes resident about issues affecting realtors; Shoreview resident advocating platform of the Children's Defense Fund-MN; Shoreview resident in favor of increased use of E-85 (yes, I know what it is); Lino Lakes resident asking for reinstatement of health and physical education as a high school graduation requirement

Non-constituent contacts (note: some of these folks have been leaving info with my assistant): Education Minnesota on its 2007 legislative priorities; Coalition of MN Cities; physical therapist about Consumer Access to Physical Therapy bill; MN Utility Investors; Metro Area Cities; Messerli & Kramer for Best Buy on electronic waste issues; SE MN resident about Lake Zumbro water quality; Sierra Club about legislative platform; Otter Tail Power Company; Capitol Hill Associates; Conservation Officers Association; MN State College Faculty member about higher education issues; Wilder Foundation about caring for the elderly meeting; Brewster MN resident about management of Heron Lake Watershed District; a MN resident (city unknown) against employee drug testing, credit checks, and pre-existing condition disclosure; a Lt. Colonel serving in Iraq wishing to see the 9/10 of a cent pricing gasoline abolished; Maple Grove resident promoting candidate for U of M regent position; Bloomington sixth grader about recycling issues; Avon resident about barriers to self-representing litigants

Invitations: House speaker soliciting nominees for state legislative commissions and boards; Met Council for annual program; MN Coalition Against Sexual Assault; MN Women's Consortium; City of North Oaks 50th Anniversary; Healthy Legacy (coalition on toxic chemical exposure); North Hennepin Community College Foundation; MN Bankers Association; ISAIAH; MN Commission Serving Deaf & Hard of Hearing; Rally for Youth Day; Teamsters; Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce; ISAIAH

Information sent from: Anoka County Integrated Solid Waste Department; MN Office of the Legislative Auditor about upcoming report on postemployment benefits for state employees; Century College; AARP-MN; MN State Arts Board; MN Women's Consortium; Guthrie Theater; MN Association of Townships; MN Beer Wholesalers Association (against changing liquor laws); Free to Choose Media promoting documentary on PBS on Milton Friedman; Wal-Mart Watch; Clear Way MN (pro-smoking ban); AFL-CIO on legislative platform; Heartland Institute's Environment & Climate News (pro-market outfit); MN Business Partnership on legislative platform; Metropolitan Area Agency on Aging; Service Employees International Union (SEIU) about a pending janitor strike; MN Taxpayers Association; League of MN Cities; Community Banking News & Views; North Suburban Tobacco Compliance Project/Ramsey Tobacco Coalition; MN Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America; Congregations Concerned for Children; Teamsters about opposition to restrictions on judicial system employees' off-duty political activities; Sustainable Farming Association of MN; Northeast Metro 916 Intermediate School District; MN Board of Architecture, Engineering, Land Surveying, Landscape Architecture, Geoscience & Interior Design (they get the award for the wordiest association name); Greater MN Health Care Coalition; MN Administrators for Special Education; MN Hospital Association about deaths from medical errors; Metropolitan Council with a profile of its activities in district 53A; MN Licensed Beverage Association; Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Company; MN Citizens for the Arts; MN Trucking Association; Mental Health Legislative Network; Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Mounds View School District; The American Jewish World/Center for Jewish Studies at the U of M

Monday, January 8, 2007

Week of January 7, 2007

Finally got the phone working!

Session on the floor was short on Monday to take care of rules of the house. Session on Thursday included unanimous passage of a tax conformity bill after three hours of voting down non-germane amendments. While attending the floor session, I signed for my certificate of election, and then the clerk gave me a card that prohibits the police from arresting me! According to the state constitution, Article IV, Section 10, legislators are "privileged from all cases except treason, felony and breach of the peace." (No one told me about this at orientation! A member told me, "If you need it, you're already in trouble!")

Attended my committees: Energy Policy & Finance; Environmental Policy; and Environmental Finance. Received background briefings there from the Department of Commerce, the DNR, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources.

I co-authored a bill to prohibit per diem payments to legislators during special sessions. There are two bills of my own that I'm working on with House Research that I hope to introduce at the floor session next week.

This week I joined the House Mental Health Caucus and the 2020 Caucus. The latter is a bi-partisan group of House members seeking to highlight policy challenges that the state will face in the next two decades.

On Monday evening, I joined other legislators representing Shoreview for a workshop with the City Council. Their issues included: 1) reinstatement of the market value credit; 2) opposition to levy limits; 3) support for enhanced "circuit breaker" for property taxes; 4) transportation funding; 5) support a smoking ban; 6) allow for administrative citations for minor traffic violations; 7) support a solution for recycling electronic waste; 8) assistance with improvement of water quality on local lakes

On Tuesday evening, I attended a Senate District 53 DFL meeting. On Wednesday, other local legislators and I attended a meeting with local representatives of Education Minnesota about education funding issues. On Thursday, I attended a focus group of the White Bear Area Senior Program. On Friday morning, several other legislators and I attended a local meeting of the MN Elementary School Principals' Association and a meet-and-greet with staff of the MN Center for Environmental Advocacy.

Visitors: A citizen lobbyist on civil liberties issues; lobbyist for Aggregate & Ready Mix Association and Apple Computers on metal theft problems and electronic waste; Teamsters representative about proposed prohibition of political participation by court employees; volunteers from the MN Senior Federation promoted the idea of a "super circuit breaker" for people on fixed incomes on their property taxes (I like the idea); two members of the Centennial Legislative Action Committee talked to me about the full-day kindergarten proposal; lobbyist from Leonard Street and Deinard representing the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries, who came at my request to hear an idea for a bill.

Constituents: Five realtors from cities of Circle Pines, Shoreview, and North Oaks sent introductory e-mails about issues important to their profession; North Oaks resident asked me to join the Mental Health Caucus (I had done so already); Shoreview resident asking me to raise the gas tax but not allow a wheelage tax for transportation funding; Shoreview resident upset about ballot snafu for the Mounds View School District levy (he wants a re-vote); two Shoreview residents want support for a ban on smoking in bars and restaurants; Shoreview resident asked me to co-author several bills protecting homeowners on home warranty issues; Shoreview resident about accountability of MN Board of Medical Practice; Shoreview resident expressing lack of support for Iraq policy

Non-constituent contacts: Two people e-mailed opposed to a smoking ban; an Apple Valley voter was opposed to the increase in per diem payments to legislators; Eagan resident about judicial integrity; Minneapolis resident about a transportation funding proposal; Minneapolis housing advocate seeking more pressure on landlords for fairer treatment of subsidizing housing tenants

Invitations: Planned Parenthood; Minnesota Environmental Project; U of M Center for Transportation Studies on plug-in hybrids; Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board and Three Rivers Park District; Metro North Chamber of Commerce; MN Partnership for Biotech and Medical Genomics; MN Public Radio; MN Government Relations Council; MN Society for Certified Public Accountants; U of M Center for Transportation Studies to pavement conference; St. Cloud Chamber of Commerce; MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce; MN Farm Bureau; MN Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities; MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance; Perpich Center for Arts Education; Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce

Information sent from: Chestnut & Cambronne (a lobbying firm); MN Chamber of Commerce; Joint Religious Legislative Coalition; DNR report on Game & Fish Fund; MN Hospital Association; U of M Boynton Health Service; Office of Legislative Auditor; MN Catholic Conference; MN Twins/Community Fund; Agricultural Utilization Research Institute; MN Dental Association; Metro Center for Independent Living; American Institute of Architects-MN Chapter; MN Coalition for Battered Women; Association of Minnesota Counties; Kids Voting USA; MN Agriculture & Rural Leadership Program; Rural Finance Authority; Bemidji State University; Congress of MN Resorts; MN Medical Association promoting a smoking ban; MN Council of Churches; MN Association of Secondary School Principals; Service Employees International Union; League of MN Cities; MN Beverage Association about school vending policies; City of Elk River opposing "Wine with Dinner" proposal by grocers; Health Care News and Budget & Tax News (published by a free market-oriented publisher, the Heartland Institute); MN Womens Press; MN Environmental Partnership; MN Credit Union Network; MN Government Relations Council; MN Utility Investors; Council of State Governments' Midwestern Legislative Conference; MN Conservation Foundation; MN School Boards Association; MN Council of Nonprofits/MN Budget Project promoting legislative commission to end poverty; MN County Attorneys Association

A quick word about per diem: There were news stories this week about an increase in per diem payments to members of the legislature. I did not have the opportunity to vote on this, as the rules committees of the House and Senate made the decision to increase the per diem from $66 to $77 and $96, respectively. Legislators receive a salary of a little more than $31,000 annually, paid in equally parts throughout the year. I was not aware that legislators received any kind of per diem until after the election, although I did know that Greater MN legislators receive a housing allowance. I received a form on Friday asking what level of per diem I intend to accept, but I will post what I choose to do next week. (This information is made public anyway.)

Monday, January 1, 2007

Week of December 31, 2006

Still awaiting a working phone at the Capitol as of Friday afternoon. Got my House laptop on Friday afternoon and that's working!

The legislature was sworn in on Wednesday, January 3rd. It was a very exciting process, although the space was pretty tight! You can also watch on-line at using Windows Media Player.

I attended the MN Chamber of Commerce legislative priorities dinner Thursday evening. I sat as a guest of Waste Management, although by law I paid for my own ticket.

On Friday, I attended a meeting for legislators of the Association of Metropolitan School Districts; a meeting of the Anoka County legislative delegation in Blaine; and met with Senator Rummel and a group of students from Oak Grove High School in North Oaks.

Constituent contacts: A 14-year old Shoreview resident called about his interest in tackling the problem of climate change. Also received an e-mail from a North Oaks resident on the same issue. Three high schools students in a civil liberties class (at Mounds View?) asked about my views on a proposed Vikings stadium and about curbing childhood obesity. A doctor in Shoreview asked for support for a comprehensive smoking ban. A Shoreview resident e-mailed to ask for support of a Downtown East location for a Vikings stadium. A Shoreview resident asked that I support continued support of our nation's efforts in Iraq. A Shoreview resident asked if I support a "tax and spend" agenda and asked how much money I get from the "education lobby." A Shoreview resident and a Lino Lakes resident asked for support of early childhood programs.

Non-constituent contacts: A Stillwater resident suggested a solution for dedicated outdoor funding on the sale taxes; a member of the MN Enlisted Retirees Association from Milaca e-mailed about exempting Minnesota's retired veterans from state taxes.

Invitations: A lobbyist for Lindquist & Vennum invited me to the MN Chamber of Commerce event on January 4th. (I was already going.) Also received invitations for events from U of M Humphrey Institute on a transportation session for legislators; MN CPAs; IBEW (electricians' union); Ramsey County League of Local Governments; MN Trial Lawyers Association for "Law School for Legislators" training session; MN General Crime Victim Coalition for the Third Annual General Crime Victims Day on the Hill

Lobbyist visits: Ted Grindal; Joan Archer from MN Beverage Association; lobbyist for MN Seasonal Property Owners Association; Bob Johnson, who represents Mpls police. (If you leave your office door open, people pop in!)

Media: I was quoted on MPR in a story about metal theft. MPR also has a Minnesota Fantasy Legislature site where regular folks set up teams of six legislators who earn points for their legislative action. I got picked by one team captain for the "Maroon Team."

I was also quoted in the Press Publications but there was an error in the quote about transportation that I wanted to correct. The article gives the impression that I support park and rides, busways, or rail along 694 between 35E and 35W. In fact, I support an additional lane of car traffice on this route, but support the idea of transit in the Rush Line Corridor along Highway 61.

Bills: One of the bills I'd like to work on is requiring scrap metal businesses to record ID of people who bring in scrap metal. Meth addicts are stealing copper all over the country to feed their habit. A lobbyist for the Aggregate and Ready Mix Association contacted me about the issue. I also met this week with House colleagues and staff from the MPCA about possible electronic waste recycling legislation.

Letters of introduction/background info sent: MN Military Museum at Camp Ripley; MN Association of School Administrators; MN Social Service Association; U of M Humphrey Institute summarizing an immigration conference; MN Catholic Conference; U of M Institute for Renewable Energy and Environment; Midwest Health Center for Women; Messerli & Kramer (a lobbying firm); Como Park Zoo and Conservatory; American Institute of Architects-MN; Astellas Pharma US; Health Partners; Ready 4 K; Office of Legislative Auditor about recent report on nonprofit grants from the state; Corporation for National and Community Service