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