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