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.)