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