Sunday, February 25, 2007

Week of February 25, 2007

Sen. Rummel and I held a well-attended town hall meeting on Saturday March 3rd. I will sum up the issues raised in the next entry.

Blog Viewers: I now have some web statistics on blog readers starting with last Sunday. Strangely, out of 89 unique visitors during the week there were a few international visitors (one in Bangkok; three in China; one in Vanves, France; one in Mexico; one in Canada; and one in Canberra, Australia). The vast majority of the visitors were in the Twin Cities, but there was one each in Philadelphia, Milwaukee, and Ankeny (Iowa).

I thought the Pioneer Press editorial page did a very good job in Sunday's paper summarizing the issues related to a mileage tax. I agree with the concerns about the use of GPS devices in vehicles.

On Monday, I spent eight hours on the floor. Our first issue was the overwhelming adoption of the budget for the Legislative Citizens Commission on MN Resources (LCCMR). The LCCMR funding comes from lottery proceeds. The second major issue was approving the permanent rules of the House. These are the rules by which the House governs itself. I believe that about 27 amendments were introduced. Many of the amendments introduced had to do with per diem. I voted with the Republicans on the amendments that would force a vote on the floor on per diem since I believe in transparency. I also voted for an amendment (technically, I voted against re-referring it to the Rules Committee) that would require posting per diem information about members on the House web site. I also voted for Rep. Sviggum's amendment to ban former members from becoming registered lobbyists for a year. But I voted with most Democrats against amendments that were really meant to interfere with the smooth running of the House. After eight hours, the Majority Leader tabled the bill for consideration on Thursday.

After the House session, I did a phone interview with Air America Radio about HF457 (the scrap metal bill). Upon returning to my desk on the floor, I found that an inch-thick file of materials I had on the desk was gone! The pages had recycled it. Some of the staff from the Chief Clerk's office helped me find the file in a big recycling container in the hallway. (They said that this happens at least once a year.)

Just before the session, I met with Sen. Higgins about HF457 (she is the Senate author).

After session, I attended a public meeting in the City of North Oaks on the Highway 96 landfill situation. A city-funded consultant reviewed the case thoroughly and I spoke to the council briefly and to residents individually. That meeting ended at 10:00 p.m.

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (MPCA budget presentation) bright and early at 8:00 a.m., a committee caucus meeting, and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee. The last meeting included consideration of a ban of decabromodiphenylether, a suspected toxic compound found in flame retardants. The bill was tabled after almost two hours of sometimes conflicting testimony. I also taped a cable TV interview (you can hear the audio at

On Wednesday, I attended two committee caucuses and the DFL House caucus, and attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee (biomass power plant feasibility study and an overview of energy rate "de-coupling").

On Thursday, I spoke to about twenty people at the MPCA's waste conference in Bloomington this morning about product stewardship and the legislature. (So I was excused from the Environmental Finance Committee this morning.) Then I attended a floor session that ran two and half hours on amendments to the proposed permanent house rules. In the afternoon, I attended the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, where we listened to testimony on a proposed Global Climate Change Mitigation Act. I also met with Sen. Higgins about HF457.

On Friday, a lot of meetings and committees were cancelled due to weather. However, we did have the Energy Policy & Finance Committee, where we voted on or considered several bills related to geothermal energy and school bonding for energy efficiency.

Constitent contacts: Lexington resident about voter registration issues and transportation funding proposals; North Oaks resident about Highway 96 landfill; Blaine resident disappointed about Twins stadium deal; Shoreview resident about veterans' issues; Shoreview resident against efforts to address climate change; Shoreview dentist about dentistry issues; Circle Pines about disabilities issues related to the Help America Vote Act; North Oaks resident against banning fishing in lakes that don't have public access; Shoreview resident against HF1058 that would give automated technologies law enforcement powers (e.g., cameras at traffic lights); Lino Lakes resident on public employee issues; Shoreview resident against legislative interference in decisions of the MN High School League; Circle Pines resident about physical therapy issues; Shoreview resident supporting domestic partner benefits for city employees; Shoreview resident supporting the smoking ban; two Shoreview residents supporting clean car campaign; Blaine resident and North Oaks resident supporting Wine with Dinner; Shoreview resident against higher taxes; Blaine resident against a Vikings stadium; Circle Pines resident supporting childrens' health care; Lino Lakes resident and Lexington resident supporting rights for residents of manufactured homes; North Oaks resident supporting tough sex offender law (Adam Walsh Child Protection Act); two local school superintendents responding to my inquiry about a statewide health care pool proposal; Lino Lakes resident supporting a card club and other gambling at Columbus Township harness racing track before the track opens; City of Blaine seeking exemption to sales tax for cities; Shoreview resident supporting more affordable housing; Circle Pines resident recommending someone for the U of M Board of Regents; Shoreview resident against benefits for immigrants; Lexington resident on need for health care access; five residents of Circle Pines and Shoreview supporting HF 863 (clean car standards); four residents of Shoreview and Lino Lakes in favor of Climate Change Mitigation Act; North Oaks resident about Highway 96 landfill; Lino Lakes resident about problem with Department of Revenue; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF1249 to help seniors with tax credits for electronic equipment; Circle Pines nurse seeking appointment; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF1602 (inequities in teacher retirement); Shoreview resident supporting funding for the arts

Non-constituent contacts: Minuteman Civil Defense Corps of MN on illegal immigration; New London bait business owner against proposed aquaculture legislation; North Metro Mayors' Association supporting a transportation funding package; staff at Advocating Change Together about "remembering with dignity" bill (HF760); Shoreview resident (in another district) supporting a ban on PFOAs (chemical compounds found in groundwater in east metro) and supporting carbon tax to combat climate change; Becida resident against proposed bow hunting law changes; Rochester area resident supporting tougher laws on hunters who "shine" deer; Delano resident against SF1184 (modifications to game and fish bill); unidentified resident against smoking ban; unidentified resident against ECFE; Garfield resident against a bill on walleye fingerlings; Roseville resident against smoking ban; Duluth resident supporting mercury reduction bills; unidentified resident supporting universal health coverage; Henderson resident about charter schools; Arden Hills or New Brighton business owner against tax increases; Eden Prairie resident asking details on e-waste bill

Visitors: lobbyist for grocers concerned about theft of milk crates; a citizen advocate for MN immigrants along with four high school students supporting the MN Dream Act; teachers from Centennial and Mounds View about the Education MN legislative platform, including a statewide health insurance pool; division director of MPCA about Highway 96 landfill (by phone); lobbyist for Outfront MN about legislative platform; lobbyist for Hennepin County Sheriff's Department about HF457; AFSCME representatives for state prison employees (including a constituent); Lino Lakes resident lobbying on behalf of domestic violence issues; lobbyist for Sierra Club and Union of Concerned Scientists on proposed carbon trading legislation; several developmentally disabled constituents and their support staff supporting issues for the disabled; director and board member of Alexandra House, the only battered womens' shelter in Anoka County; Shoreview Public Works Director on local road engineering proposals; Institute for Agricultural & Trade Policy staff on flame retardants; lobbyist from Fredrikson & Byron representing the PPM? company in Oregon about community based energy development (CBED); representatives of youth diversion programs from Shoreview and White Bear Lake

Invitations: DFL Veterans' Caucus; City of North Oaks to presentation on consultant report on Highway 96 landfill; DFL Senate District 52 about a booth at the Forest Lake Home Show; Quality Construction Coalition on prevailing wage seminar; Climate Change Symposium to be given by libertarian speakers on 3/8/07; DFL Suburban Caucus; Conservation MN; National Day of Prayer; Attorney General Lori Swanson; Parks & Trails Council of MN; U of M Extension Service on program for "Are you Peddling Your Pickles Safely?" (really); Big Brothers-Big Sisters; Eyes Wide Open MN (anti-Iraq War group); Joint Religious Legislative Coalition; MN Corn Growers Association; Minnesota BioBusiness event promoting bioscience in MN; high school class at Centennial High School; Center for American Experience about medicaire reform; DFL Party event on history of the party; Planned Parenthood about its South Dakota referendum efforts

Information sent: League of Women Voters of White Bear Lake, North Oaks and Mahtomedi; City of Circle Pines supporting a comprehensive transportation package and an abolition of the sales tax for local governments; MN Telecom Alliance; Minnkota Power Cooperative; MN Independent School Forum; Roswell-Park Cancer Institute; American Cancer Society against exemptions to smoking ban; Minneapolis Central Labor Council of AFL-CIO; MN Women's Consortium; MN Transportation Alliance; Legislative Reference Library; Outfront MN; Education MN on legislative platform; Lake Zumbro Improvement Association; National Committee on State Legislatures; Coalition of MN Businesses; National Right to Work Committee against HF17 and HF363; Rep. Hortman about transportation funding; Human Life Alliance; MN Principals' Academy at U of M Consortium for Post-Secondary Academic Success; Council on State Governments Midwestern Office; Guthrie Theater; Tax Foundation; MN Fathers & Families Network; League of MN Cities; MN Transportation Alliance; MN Budget Project; State Legislative Audit Commission; National Coalition of Free Men-Twin Cities Chapter on domestic violence commited by women on men; Conservation MN on governor's proposed conservation and environment budget; Solid Waste Management Coordinating Board on electronic waste issue; citizen lobbyist on promoting stadiums; Farm Bureau; MN Citizens in Defense of Marriage; Mall of America; student candidate for U of M Board of Regents; MN Assn of School Administrators, MN Association of Secondary School Principals, and MN Elementary Schools Principals Association; MN School Counselors Association; Department of Administration's Drive to Excellence program; Early Childhood Caucus; MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance; MN Taxpayer Association; Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights against U of M policy on recent play; League of Women Voters on trail policy; Redwood Falls energy company; MN Environmental Partnership

Monday, February 19, 2007

Week of February 18, 2007

Senator Sandy Rummel and I had a town hall meeting on Saturday, February 24th at Lino Lakes City Hall. Four constituents came--the snow was really coming down so I think that was a factor. Some legislators use "robo-calls" to notify local residents of upcoming meetings. I think Sen. Rummel and I are in agreement that automated calls are sometimes helpful but more often annoying, so I have not done that.

We have our next town hall meeting on Saturday, March 3rd from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at Circle Pines City Hall, followed by a Shoreview meeting on Saturday, March 17th from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

One gentleman discussed the issue of a homeowner association denying his right to have a flagpole in his yard. Other visitors included two high school seniors from Centennial High School. They said that this blog was a subject of discussion in one of their classes. Part of the purpose of my blog was to reach out to younger constituents (as in under 30) so that they know that their voice counts, and they said it helps!

There was a letter in the Quad Communities Press and the Hugo Citizen this week that mischaracterized my bill that would regulate scrap metal dealers (HF457). I should have a response letter in next week's edition that clarifies the bill's intent and effect. The St. Paul Legal Ledger and Finance & Commerce included an article about the bill that demonstrated its need to MN businesses due to their growing economic losses!

My assistant is getting quite a few calls about legislative per diem. Just to repeat, the House Rules Committee decided to increase the per diem to $77 per day. I would prefer it if both the House and Senate would vote on per diem on the floor. I chose to accept $35 per day and only on weekdays. Since we do have events to attend where the organizers cannot usually give us food for free, etc., and since we have parking, mileage, etc. when visiting the district or other places on official duty, I think the idea of a per diem is OK, especially for rural legislators who have to live temporarily in the Twin Cities and travel a lot. But I only need $35 to meet my needs. In fact, assuming we adjourn on time, the total per diem I will accept in 2007 will be a lot less than what my predecessor accepted and my rate should be near the bottom of the entire legislature. Legislators can also be reimbursed for communications expenses up to $125 per month. I submitted reimbursements for January for $88.15, which included the costs of a second phone line at home and for my Blackberry service, which allows me to communicate from just about anywhere with constituents.

On Monday, I met with Senator Rummel on issues of mutual interest. We also met with the MPCA Commissioner on the issue of the Highway 96 landfill.

I attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee where we voted on several bills. Attended two DFL caucus meetings. I ended up chairing the Heritage Finance Committee again due to the illness of the chair. (Since last week, I boned up on procedure and rules so I thought it went well.) One bill in particular (creating a council on indigenous languages) took a while due to the complexities it faces in budget committees. It would get funding from a variety of committees.

On Monday evening the House met in session to vote on the Renewable Energy Standard (SF4). It passed easily 123 to 10. Rep. Aaron Peterson, the bill's author, received a standing ovation. This standard will require that 25% of our electricity come from renewable sources by 2525. There were about eight to ten amendments that were voted down.

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (DNR budget presentations), the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (bill on lakeshore development restrictions for resorts and shoreland development regulations), a meeting of first-term DFL House members, and finally an evening meeting of the Environmental Finance Committee (wrap-up of DNR budget presentation). Congressman Oberstar spoke to a joint House-Senate transportation meeting. There was no room for many of us, so I watched and listened to the presentation on my computer in my office!

On Wednesday, I met with the revisor's office about HF457 for a potential amendment; attended two caucus meetings; attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee (Department of Commerce budget presentation)

On Thursday, I attended committees including Environmental Finance and Environment & Natural Resources. (The former is a finance committee and the latter is a policy committee. If a bill has something to do with a budget, it goes to the finance committee.) The MPCA gave the start of its budget presentation at the finance committee, and we spent a lot of time asking questions about the leaking landfill chemicals in the east metro. We may dedicate a whole hearing to this later. We had a short session at 10:00 a.m. on the House floor. We were supposed to discuss the new House rules today but the Governor scheduled a bill signing for the renewable energy standard at 10:45. Just before the session I attended a press conference for environmental legislators on recent developments. It was also History Matters day at the Capitol, so I visited some displays by the MN Historical Society in the Capitol Rotunda.

In the afternoon, the Environment & Natural Resources Committee passed HF854, which is the electronic waste recycling bill. This bill passed the committee on a voice vote, with only two no votes. This bill is a big deal--consumers who have been stashing their old TVs and computers in the basement will be able to get these recycled for free soon instead of pay $20-$30 a unit. I am the third author on the bill and worked with my colleagues to help educate them about the bill.

On Thursday, I also co-authored a bill (Marsha Swails is the chief author) that would allow homeowners to recoup their legal fees when they successfully sue builders to fulfill new home warranties.

On Friday, I attended a roundtable discussion with Rep. Melissa Hortman on "away from home" recycling of beverage containers with cities and haulers in Coon Rapids. Usually this is a pretty contentious discussion because the beverage and grocery industries don't want to see anything that results in container deposit legislation, but the MN Beverage Association and the Recycling Association of Minnesota are putting together a pilot program that looks promising in recovering more bottles and cans at places like gas stations and convenience stores.

I also attended a meeting of the I-35W Coalition, which is a group of cities in Ramsey and Anoka Counties that are on or near I-35W. The discussion was about transportation issues and funding. I-35W between 694 and Highway 10 is getting really bunched up, and the group had a proposal into the federal government to help.

Constitutent contacts: Shoreview doctor against SF 691 related to denials of independent medical examinations; Shoreview couple supporting a smoking ban; Lino Lakes resident supporting community mediation programs; North Oaks resident about Highway 96 landfill; Lino Lakes resident supporting Wine with Dinner; Shoreview resident supporting increased funding for school counselors; Shoreview resident wanting tough penalties for distracted drivers and a ban on use of cell phones while driving; Lino Lakes resident supporting a rebate for the state's budget surplus; Shoreview or North Oaks physical therapist supporting HF1189; North Oaks resident asking for continued support of the Q-Comp teacher compensation program; Shoreview resident in support of a gas tax increase for transportation funding; two Lino Lakes residents and Circle Pines resident in support of increased K-12 funding; unidentified constituent against a mileage tax that would use a GPS receiver in private cards; leader of Mounds View Neighbors United group about new group; Shoreview resident supporting the smoking ban; Shoreview resident for English as the official language, for banning cell phone use in cars, for dedicated sales tax revenue for the DNR but not the arts, and for more light rail; North Oaks resident supporting nuclear power as part of MN's energy mix; Circle Pines resident against the "puppy mill" bill; Circle Pines resident against Wine with Dinner; North Oaks resident supporting elimination of mercury from vaccines; Lino Lakes resident against an increase in the deed tax; North Oaks resident supporting funding for affordable housing; two Shoreview residents supporting HF1205, a bill to require relocation compensation for displaced residents of manufactured homes (formerly known as trailers); Lino Lakes City Adminstration about a possible meeting, transportation funding, and levy authority for the local water management organization; Shoreview resident about forestry issues; North Oaks resident in favor of increased education funding and more school counselors; Circle Pines or Lino Lakes resident opposed to mandatory HPV vaccinations; Lino Lakes resident and Shoreview resident against an increase in the gas tax (these were form letters); Circle Pines Iraq vet in support of veterans' issues; Shoreview resident against a legalization of ticket scalping; Shoreview resident against having the legislature expand into a new building near the Capitol and supporting a smoking ban without exemptions

Non-constituent contacts: Blaine business inviting me to visit (it is actually just outside 53A); an unidentified resident of MN concerned about the Real ID Act at the federal level that would require an RFID chip in MN drivers' licenses; unidentified Minnesotan promoting medical use of marijuana; MN Beer Wholesalers Association about theft of beer kegs ending up in scrap yards; environmental staffer from Panasonic; interview with the Shoreview Bulletin about my blog; former Shoreview resident about funding for MN Historical Society; Allina Hospitals & Clinics for a smoking ban; anonymous letter from someone who is against the smoking ban; Minnetonka resident supporting the MN Historical Society budget request; composting company in Dakota County about HF347; Department of Public Safety official about HF457; Eagan resident about the judiciary and campaign finance; two Granite Falls residents supporting budget for MN Historical Society; AAA Minnesota asking for support of a booster seat law; Salvation Army in Minneapolis asking for help in getting rid of e-waste that is being dumped on their property

Visitors: Clean Water Action about renewable energy standard and electronic waste recycling; Tinklenberg Group (a consulting firm) on transit issues in the northern suburbs; director of the MN Conservation Corps; MN Beer Wholesalers representatives (including a constituent from Lino Lakes) about my scrap metal bill (kegs are getting stolen) and their legislative platform; Lexington resident about climate change and sustainability issues; representatives from the MN Literacy Council (including a constituent from Shoreview); tribal chairman from Bois Fort Reservation and lobbyists on a woody biomass feasibility study proposal; a Circle Pines constituent about the legislative platform for construction engineers; sizable number of advocates for K-12 education from the Centennial School District; Shoreview constituent with platform of the MN Environmental Partnership; three mortgage bankers (including one from Circle Pines and two from Lino Lakes) about the platform of the Mortage Bankers Association; Outland Renewable Energy and their lobbyist (who is also a constituent) about community energy development projects; Mayor of North Oaks and Sen. Rummel about the Highway 96 landfill; two constituent physical therapists (one from Lino Lakes and the other from Circle Pines) about their industry's legislative platform; DFL Party officials dropping off the party's official platform; lobbyist for Qwest about HF457 and telecommunications competitiveness issues

Invitations: meeting on homeowner protection legislation; benefit for victim of car accident in West. St. Paul; MN Indian Affairs Council Legislative Forum; Mounds View High School Physics Fair; Liquid Renewable Fuels, Inc. for an event on biofuels; Centennial Area Education Foundation; International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49 about event on prevailing wage; Industrial Union Council of MN; Attorney General Lori Swanson; MN Agri-Growth Council; Bicycling Travel & Fitness Expo; Christ Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill; MN Historial Society; U of M Center for Transportation Studies; Animal Humane Society supporting the puppy mill bill; MN Council of Nonprofits/MN Budget Project; Early Childhood Caucus; Sen. Murphy about east metro transit meeting; North Hennepin Community College; Sheila Wellstone Institute

Information sent: MN Environmental Partnership; Ramsey County League of Local Governments; Policy Today magazine; Lavender magazine; MN Private Colleges; Center for Victims of Torture; MN Academy of Ophthamology; Citizens' Equal Rights Alliance (anti-federal Indian policy group); NAMI-MN (mental health organization); Twin Cities North Chamber; Linden Hills Power & Light; MN House Research on new publications; Clean Energy MN; Mounds View School Superintendent; MN Displaced Homemaker Pre-Employment Program; St. Paul Police Federation; MN Community Action Partnership promoting a legislative commission to end poverty; Citizens for a Safer MN against the Stand Your Ground proposal (HF498); Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Catholic Aid Association promoting fraternal benefit societies; MN Medical Association supporting a smoking ban; League of MN Cities; U of MN Academic Health Center; Farm Bureau; American Lung Association of MN promoting E85; Governor Pawlenty's office with his public events schedule; Upper Midwest Pagan Alliance in support of the having the Wiccan pentacle approved for use on veterans' grave markers (I'm not kidding); MN Legislative Auditor about release of report on State Board of Investment; MN Taxpayer Association; MCCL for their legislative dinner; Mall of America; MN School Boards Association; MN Women's Press (fact I learned: there are more women in the Legislature--40%--than ever before); School Reform News (from the Heartland Institute); MN Independent School Forum; letter from Sen. Chaudhary about a firewood ban to avoid transfer of invasive species; introductory letter from the new House Chaplain; NAMI MN about the need for discharge planning on mental health in our jails; MN Coalition for Battered Women; Council of State Governments; American Jewish World

Monday, February 12, 2007

Week of February 11, 2007

Greetings. Just FYI, I posted links to my 2006 campaign finance report and that of my opponent on the links on the right. Enjoy.

Town Meetings Schedule:

2/24 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Lino Lakes City Hall: 600 Town Center Parkway; Lino Lakes, MN 55014
3/3 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Circle Pines City Hall: 200 Civic Heights Circle; Circle Pines, MN 55014
3/17 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Shoreview Community Center: 4580 Victoria St. N; Shoreview, MN 55126

Town meetings are open to all--just keep the language clean. :)

Welcome to another week at the Legislature! On Monday, I attended a pre-session caucus and a short floor session, followed by a short training on floor procedure by the Chief Clerk. At today's Energy Policy & Finance Committee, we approved the Senate substitute file for the renewable energy standard, which would now be 25% renewable electricity by 2025. Several amendments were introduced and voted down (politely). Attended the Heritage Finance Committee, where we heard proposals for the omnibus finance bill on FarmAmerica in Waseca, a burial site in Becker County, and a commission on Minnesota's ethnic heritage. Since the final bill was authored by the chair, Rep. Jaros, I got to chair the committee for the first time. The committee was patient and courteous as I worked through the procedure! Finally, I attended a meeting of local officials and legislators about the Rush Line transit corridor.

I was supposed to have a bill hearing on HF347 on Thursday, but I asked that it be removed from Thursday's agenda in the Environment committee. I'm just hearing from some of the stakeholders on Monday and I didn't feel I had a handle on the data needed to present this week in committee.

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (more on DNR's budget, notably the ecological services budget) and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (presentations on biofuels). We also had a two hour floor session to pass a bill to switch around some money in the Secretary of State's office to meet obligations of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). The other side introduced about six or seven amendments that, to put it mildly, did not relate to the bill under consideration, although they had something to do with elections. None of them passed or were deemed to be "germane," and therefore were not considered. During consideration of one amendment that would have required a picture ID for voters to vote, the Minority Leader, Rep. Seifert, stated that "we have a bill going through the House that would require people to show an ID to drop off their aluminum cans," so why can't we require an ID to vote? He was poking fun at HF457, my bill to stem the theft of copper and other metal and subsequent sale to scrap metal recyclers. Note: No one recycling cans at drop-off sites or at the curb would have to show an ID under my bill! I also had e-mail discussions with stakeholders on HF457.

On education, Senator Rummel continues to be a leader! Because of inquiries she and I have both received about prospects for funding for education, I thought I would summarize her recent comments to me.

"There will be more funding for education --
* You can expect something on the general formula and there will be discussions about changing how the formula is figured
* [Sen Rummel is] chief author of a bill to get additional support for special education (which relieves pressure on the general fund in districts)
* There will be support for early childhood education and possibly voluntary all-day kindergarten which will help with the achievement gap
* There may be some debt equity adjustments (which will help [Centennial] big time) and
* There will probably be other property tax relief"

On Wednesday, I spent time working on revisions to HF457 in the morning and met, along with Rep. Wagenius, with officals from the MPCA on landfill cleanup issues (including the Highway 96 landfill). Filmed a 10 minute cable TV interview. (The audio for these weekly interviews is linked at Attended caucus meetings. (By the way, I don't report on the content of our committee caucuses or DFL House caucus meetings in this blog! Otherwise I will be on double-secret probation.) Attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee. I was the only DFLer on the committee to vote against Rep. Kahn's "light pollution" bill and we voted to pass a bill for a feasibility study on a proposed plasma gasification facility in International Falls.

On Thursday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (DNR budget presentation on waters division), a 90 minute floor session (setting committee deadlines for the session), the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (voting on several relatively minor bills and a more significant bill on ditch buffer regulation), a meeting of first-year DFL members, and finally an evening session of the Environmental Finance Committee (more on DNR's waters program). The ditch buffer thing is actually quite significant--which I didn't realize until recently. There are about 15,000 miles of drainage ditches in the state, mostly in NW and W Minnesota, that were created to promote cultivation. They are a source of water pollution because of the agricultural runoff of pesticides, excess nitrogen, etc. Ditches that are upgraded or undergo maintenance must then have a 16 1/2 foot buffer of vegetation installed to help filter the water. The bill today would have required use of perennial vegetation instead of grass buffers and some other requirements. This is a big deal in farm country.

There was a good column by the Shoreview Bulletin this week about the interesting meeting I had with the Sierra Club members in Shoreview last week with Reps. Scalze and Knuth.

On Friday, I attended a large meeting of stakeholders and legislative authors involved with an electronics waste bill. There will be a hearing in the Senate on Wednesday, Feb. 21 and in the House on Feb. 22. Spent a good part of the day working on HF457. On this bill, I have learned a little about statutes related to data practices, commerce, sales taxes, public safety, utilities, criminal law, civil law, and even liquor (since steel beer kegs are often stolen and sold to scrap recyclers).

I also received my "postage report" from the House. My office is allotted $1,872.00 (I don't know how they got that number) for 2007 for postage, and I've spent $39.00! You can tell that electronic communication is helping save some money for taxpayers.

Constituent contacts: North Oaks couple in favor of a statewide smoking ban; several Lino Lakes parents about education funding for Centennial School District; 35 district residents (realtors?) opposed to SF442 that would raise the state deed tax to support affordable housing; Centennial Legislative Action Committee; Centennial Area Education Foundation; Circle Pines resident about process for appointing members to the Iron Range Resources Agency; North Oaks mayor; North Oaks couple about Highway 96 landfill; 20 teachers from the Centennial School District supporting a statewide health insurance plan for school employees; Lino Lakes resident in favor of puppy mill licensing bill; Shoreview resident supporting tougher laws on off-road vehicles; Circle Pines resident asking about check fraud; physical therapist from North Oaks on PT issues; Shoreview resident positive about communication from my office; Lino Lakes resident against the deed tax and seeking flexibility in No Child Left Behind; Lino Lakes resident about geographic information systems (GIS) funding at the DNR; Lino Lakes resident about recent Pioneer Press article about suburban DFLers; Shoreview resident asking my position on immigration proposals introduced this week; several state employees asking for support of MAPE's legislative platform; Circle Pines high school student positively commenting on the blog; nurse from Shoreview about stem cell research; Lino Lakes resident about full-day kindergarten proposal; Shoreview resident supporting a 3/16th outdoor funding bill; Chief of Police from Lino Lakes against an Anoka County forensics lab; Lexington resident about increasing child care co-pays; Lexington parent against PE graduation requirements; Shoreview resident supporting Wine with Dinner proposal; Shoreview city manager responding to my inquiry about a bill allowing local administrative fines for traffic violations; Lino Lakes resident against a smoking ban; Lino Lakes resident supporting Wine with Dinner; North Oaks resident about education issues in the Mounds View District

Non-constituent contacts: Star Tribune reporter about east metro landfill issues; Phi Theta Kappa advisor at Century College; Rogers business owner having problems with biodiesel in cold weather; MN Association of Mortgage Brokers; MN Beverage Association and Anoka County about a 2/23 workshop on recycling in Coon Rapids; Burnsville and St. Paul residents asking for support of MN Historical Society budget; National Alliance on Mental Illness of MN; Granite Falls residents supporting a smoking ban; MN Center for Environmental Advocacy; EdWatch on mental health screening: Panasonic representative about e-waste; Bemidji residents about Pine Island State Park peat mining project; Shoreview resident (in 54B) about federal Real ID Act; citizen lobbyist for Mounds View School District; Fort Ripley resident about property taxes; MN Citizens' Conference for Climate and Energy Action; City of St. Paul about the Rush Line; Roseville resident upset about U of M play the Lion and the Witch; North Metro Mayors Association about administrative fines for traffic violations and LGA proposals; Shoreview Bulletin editor about my blog; Eagan resient against judicial gratuities; Duluth resident against Wine with Dinner; McLeod County resident complaining of unethical banking

Visitors: other representative on woody biomass supply; Lexington resident against the Wine with Dinner proposal; compost industry representatives; constituents from St. Odilia's Catholic Church in Shoreview about social justice issues; Nature Conservancy representatives; City of Minneapolis solid waste staff about HF347; lobbyist for dairy companies concerned about theft of reusable milk crates; lobbyist from St. Paul Chamber of Commerce (and a constituent!); Majority Leader Sertich; Circle Pines constituent who was visiting the Capitol for the day; district residents representing the MN Association of Public Employees (MAPE) on their legislative platform; representatives of the MN Federation of the Blind; lobbyists for Hewlett-Packard about electronic waste legislation; assistant commissioner of the DNR on the agency's budget request; lobbyist for MN Power; Legal Aid lobbyist about legislative platform; representatives of the construction waste industry about recycling debris from construction and demolition debris sites; lobbyists for and representatives of scrap metal recycling industry discussing elements of HF457; lobbyist and representative of Great River Energy; staffer from Attorney General's Office about consumer issues going through environment committee; staff and lobbyist from Minnesota Zoo on their budget request; legislative director for MN Environmental Partnership on legislative platform

Invitations: MN Lavender Bar Association; Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program; Quality Construction Coalition on prevailing wages; MN Citizens Concerned for Life; Ramsey County League of Local Governments; MN Zoo; MN Chamber of Commerce on energy conference; U of M Center for Early Education & Development; Century College; St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce; lobbyist for MN Medical Group Association; Arts Educators of MN; University of MN State of the University address; reception and dinner for Dean Johnson; Office of Congresswoman Michele Bachmann for Woodbury open house; MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance

Information sent: several disability organizations opposed to amendments to HF160; Elderberry Institute on Living at Home/Block Nurse Program; Center for Rural Policy & Development; MN Electrical Association; U of M Academic Health Center; Conservation MN; Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans; League of MN Cities; Office of the Legislative Auditor; MN School Boards Association; MN Association of Alternative Programs; Farm Bureau; St. Paul Trades & Labor Assembly; Mall of America; Info Tech & Telecom News (from the Heartland Institute, the free market people); MN State High School League; U of M Tourism Center; MN Pollution Control Agency; University of Colorado student opposing the Great Lakes Compact; American Coalition for Fathers and Children; MN Forestry Association; MN Women's Consortium; National Conference of State Legislatures; MN Private Colleges; Center for the American Experience on urban sprawl; Council for Affordable Health Insurance (came with Health Care News, a publication of...the Heartland Institute); MN Historical Society; MN Coalition for Battered Women; Conservation MN; Circle Pines City Council; MN Chamber of Commerce; MN Taxpayers Association; Mounds View School District about Laurentian Center; Sandy Lake Band of Mississippi Objibwe; materials on rising tuition from MN State University Association; copy of Governor's letter on immigration proposals; Growth & Justice's latest report; Astellas Pharma US, Inc.; Anoka County Parks & Recreation; Parents of Murdered Children; Anoka County Attorney in support of a county forensic lab; MN State Fire Chiefs Association; Sierra Club Northstar Chapter; PERM (Proper Economic Resource Management)--this group seems to be a hunting and fishing advocacy group but one that is against tribal claims on fishing rights, etc.; Center for the American Experiment promoting vouchers; MN Association of School Business Officials with its platform; Fresh Energy; Environment and Climate Newss (another publication of the libertarian The Heartland Institute--where do these guys get their money?); MN Agricultural Education Leadership Council's Newsletter; MN Business for Early Learning; Mounds View School District

Monday, February 5, 2007

Week of February 4, 2007

I am being told that staffers in the House are checking out this blog in increasing numbers. Well, it's no Colbert Nation, but my blog was described by columnist Mark Nicklawske of Press Publications in this week's Shoreview Press as "a fascinating picture into big time state politics." (Would someone e-mail me to tell me if you use the Atom feed? I can't figure out how to put the RSS feed on here.)

Rep. Paul Marquart, head of the Property Tax Division of the House Tax Committee, has a MN property tax comment line. If you have an idea about changing property taxes, he'd like to know! The metro number to call is 651-297-8391 or go on-line.

Congratulations to Phil Krinkie for being appointed as the new President of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota! Seriously. I think it is a good fit for him, and I wish him well in the new position!

Busy day on Monday. My bill to fight theft of metals from utilities, abandoned homes, etc. (HF457) had a hearing on Tuesday at 12:30 in the Public Safety Committee, so there was a lot of preparation. That includes preparing an amendment to take into account comments from law enforcement, legislative colleagues, and so on. (So you won't see the latest language on-line until the "first engrossment" is complete.) WCCO TV covered the bill and the related issue on Monday night. You can view the story on-line.

Had e-mail discussions with House colleagues and the MPCA about the possibility of getting the most value out of the state's recycling program and "green" purchasing plans. Attended a short floor session.

Was told by several colleagues that my predecessor was in the State Office Building on Monday, but alas, he didn't stop by my office! :)

Attended the Energy Policy & Finance Committee in the afternoon to continue testimony on the renewable energy standard bill (HF4). Toured the Science Museum of Minnesota with other members of the MN Heritage Finance Committee.

On Tuesday, I prepared for the bill hearing for HF457 in the Public Safety & Civil Justice Committee. The hearing went OK, and the committee passed the bill 11 to 6. Four of the Republican members had numerous questions and eventually asked that the bill be tabled. That motion failed and the bill passed. Numerous police and fire officials testified in favor of the bill, and one scrap metal recycler testified against. There are some changes I will propose in response to input before the next hearing in front of the Local Government & Metro Affairs Committee. Was pleased to see two constituents in the back of the room, including a county commissioner!

After the hearing, I held a press conference and joined Rep. Mullery and Sen Higgins of a tour of a house in Minneapolis that got burned out as a result of copper pipes being stolen. Not a pretty sight.

After that I attended a meeting of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee for a hearing of HF415 about noise regulation on racetracks in the state. Then I attended a training meeting for freshmen DFL members and then went to a DFL Senate District meeting.

On Wednesday, I attended: morning reception by MN Environmental Coalition of Labor & Industry, hosted mostly by the soft drink bottlers and Xcel Energy from what I could tell (some of the bottlers contributed to my opponent in 2006 :) ); caucus meetings; Energy Policy & Finance Committee (about the renewable energy standard); a legislative reception by the new Attorney General; and a forum in Shoreview for the Sierra Club with Rep. Scalze and Rep. Knuth. The Sierra Club meeting was interesting, mostly because several Republican activists showed up to tell us we were wrong to believe that global climate change is a problem among other things. (One asked me "I heard you are an athiest--is that true?" Answer: No.) Otherwise, there were some thoughtful questions about electronic waste; biofuels; climate change; and renewable energy.

On Tuesday and Wednesday I did a bunch of print, radio, and TV interviews on HF457 and started researching potential changes to the bill to improve it. The Session Weekly (page 8) featured a blurb on the bill with a picture of a burnt house.

On Thursday I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (budget presentations by the DNR); a short floor session; attended a rally of sorts by ISAIAH (see link on the right) with a pastor from the district; Environment & Natural Resources Committee (presentations by a business and labor alliance); and a political gathering in Shoreview with my supporters, Speaker Kelliher, and House Majority Leader Sertich in the evening.

On Friday, I visited the Perpich Center for Arts Education in Golden Valley. This is an independent and state funded arts-focused school for 11th and 12th graders from all around the state. (It even has a dorm.) I found the students to be very mature and highly motivated! Two of my constituents invited me to come and three other legislators were there. After that I attended a meeting with the Anoka County Community Action Partnership in Coon Rapids to learn of their activities for Head Start, senior programs, housing assistance, and so on. A class of preschoolers sang an alphabet song for us! Unfortunately only Sen. Vanderveer, Commissioner Sivarajah and I were the only elected officials there.

Visitors: Lobbyist for MOAPP (family planning organization); Qwest government relations staff about HF457; MN Utility Investors staff about renewable energy bill; Shoreview constituent about funding for forest management in the DNR budget; staff from Pipefitters 455 union (including a constituent) on an introductory visit; government relations staff and lobbyist from IBM about electronic waste; staff from Institute for Local Self-Reliance about brominated flame retardants; Transit for Livable Communities; lobbyist for the Jack Pine Coalition on off-road vehicle issues; lobbyists for Metro Cities/Association of Metropolitan Municipalities; two backers (including a North Oaks constituent) updating me on a proposed arc plasma gasification plant in International Falls; lobbyist for the All Parks Alliance for Change (a "mobile home" resident advocate); lobbyist for Sexual Abuse Prevention Network

Constituent contacts: A Lino Lakes resident and three Shoreview residents thanking me for supporting a family planning bill; a Shoreview resident and a Blaine resident against public financing for a Vikings stadium; a former Shoreview resident supporting a renewable energy standard; a North Oaks resident supporting tougher regulation of "puppy mills"; a Lino Lakes resident supporting tax cuts and against a pro-tenant bill; a Shoreview resident thanking me for coming to meet with parents in the Mounds View School District recently; Circle Pines resident about issues affecting the blind; Shoreview resident about pro-homeowner legislation; Shoreview resident about treatment of aquative invasive species; two Shoreview residents and a Circle Pines resident asking for support of a resolution against the escalation in Iraq; Lexington resident asking me to support the "guaranteed relocation bill"; Centennial Legislative Action Committee in support of the platform of P.S. Minnesota; North Oaks resident supporting reinstatement of physical education for graduation requirements; Shoreview resident supporting better pay for state employees; North Oaks business against a smoking ban; North Oaks resident about Land Stewardship Project; Lino Lakes resident supporting early childhood education; Shoreview resident for the smoking ban; Shoreview couple supporting Wine with Dinner; North Oaks couple about the Highway 96 landfill problem; Shoreview resident about the school levy ballot snafu in the Mounds View School District; resident from Blaine? with irate comments about Hennepin County and the inability to get a deal struck on the purchase of land for a new Twins stadium

Non-constituent contacts: The e-mail continues to flow from all over the state in support of HF415, which would effectively ban lawsuits based on noise from local racetracks in MN; a few local residents in Mower County are against the bill; a few people against HF59 that would allow ATVs on the North Shore State Trail; a Finlayson veteran in support of the Governor's veteran initiatives; White Bear Lake resident against the smoking ban; environmental staff at Panasonic about electronic waste legislation; Rogers resident against a smoking ban; State Auditor's office about a report on municipal liquor stores (note: Lexington has gross profit of $544,140 annually from its liquor store); recycling colleagues about ideas on efficiency of recycling centers; composting company in Bloomington; Brooklyn Center resident about crime; White Bear Lake resident supporting a smoking ban; Service Employees International Union; Panasonic executive about electronic waste; copy of letter from Gov. Pawlenty on stem cell research; EdWatch opposing full-day kindergarten (this is a new anti-government outfit from what I can tell)

Invitations: League of Women Voters in North Oaks, Mahtomedi, and Vadnais Heights; North Metro Mayors Association; U of M Center for Transportation Studies; Ramsey County Juvenile & Family Justice Center; 2020 Caucus about a meeting on an aging study

Information sent: Rice Creek Watershed District; Office of the Legislative Auditor on recently released report on prevailing wages; A MN Without Poverty, a group promoting covering all kids for health care and an anti-poverty initiative; Association of Metropolitan School Districts; Legal Aid; MN Council for Nonprofits; American Bikers for Awareness, Training & Education (ABATE); MN Credit Union Network; MN State Arts Board; Mall of America promoting expansion; MN Budget Project; League of MN Cities; Office of the Legislative Auditor on report about prevailing wages; MN Earth Science Teachers Association about MCA II testing on science for high school; U of M "Bio" Magazine on biofuels; MN Ballpark Authority about its new organization; MN Coalition for Battered Women; Conservation MN; Minnesotans for Compassionate Care supporting medical use of marijuana; MN School Board Association; MN Association of Public Accountants; Department of Revenue on MN's tax system; Wilder Foundation on caregivers for the elderly; All Parks Alliance for Change Mobile Justice Campaign (this is a organization promoting tenants' rights for what we used to call mobile home courts); MN Women's Consortium; MN Women's Press (interesting article: did you know that women with a college degree or greater make up only 17% of female cigarette smokers?); Great River Energy; Midwestern Office of Council of State Governments; Anoka County Federal Credit Union in Circle Pines; Centennial Area Advocates for Education