Monday, March 26, 2007

Week of March 25, 2007

On Monday, I attended two meetings of the Energy Policy & Finance Committee to discuss the omnibus energy finance bill (HF1392, formerly the hydrogen renewable fuels bill). We will continue the discussion on Wednesday. I also attended two caucus meetings, a meeting of the property tax division of the House Tax Committee about proposed property tax relief, a meeting of first-term DFL House members, and chaired the Heritage Finance Committee as the chair was presenting the omnibus finance bill for this committee. I also sent out an e-mail to everyone who has e-mailed me so far this session to direct them to the blog posting about transportation funding.

On Tuesday, I presented a bill in the House Tax Committee; attended a short floor session; attended the Environmental Finance Committee; the DFL House caucus; and attended an evening floor session, where we passed the bonding bill.

On Wednesday, I attended a meeting of the DFL caucus of the Environmental Finance Committee; a DFL caucus meeting of the Energy Policy & Finance Committee and a full House DFL caucus; and a short floor session.

On Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Environmental Finance Committee and a meeting of the Public Safety Finance Committee. I also attended a relatively short floor session and a short meeting of the Energy Policy & Finance Committee. In the Public Safety Finance Committee, I responded to questions from the committee since a Republican member of the committee was introducing amendments that would delete or gut sections of their omnibus finance bill that includes my scrap metal regulation provisions. All of the amendments failed, so my version of the bill is intact.

In the Environment Finance Committee this week, we have been presenting and discussing the omnibus environmental finance bill. This bill is about 80 pages long and includes everything on which the state will spend money on environment and natural resources budget items. That includes the budgets of the DNR, MPCA, Board of Water & Soil Resources (BWSR-pronounced BOW-zer), metro parks, and the MN Conservation Corps. We presented the bill earlier in the week, then took testimony on Tuesday, then marked up the bill with amendments on Thursday before passing the final bill and sending it to the Finance Committee and eventually the House floor.

The controversial aspect of the bill dealt with wetlands regulations. Many county governments are opposed to the tightening of rules on the minimum amounts of wetlands that can be removed without replacing them. These are so-called de minimus exemptions. I voted against an amendment that would have removed the de minimus exemptions, so I was voting for Minnesota's wetlands.

On the positive side, the bill includes funding to ensure that all of our surface waters will get tested every ten years. In addition, several of us pushed hard for additional funding for state parks, metro parks, and state trail maintenance.

On Thursday evening, the Environmental Finance Committee met to mark up the omnibus game and fish finance bill. This is the bill with changes to hunting and fishing fees and the like. I have to confess that as someone without a hunting and fishing background I have learned a lot about people who do. For example, using smokeless powder in a muzzleloading rifle is not viewed favorably by many! And there is a Bear Guide Association of Minnesota--who knew?

On Friday, I took an in-depth tour of the MN Correctional Facility at Lino Lakes. (You can take a virtual tour from the link.) This facility is just across Apollo Drive from my district. There are about 1200 inmates there, including sex offenders. According to a Pew Foundation study cited by the Council of State Governments, the prison population is projected to increase in Minnesota by 13% from 2006 to 2011 while the general population is projected to increase by 4.7%. Directly after that I spoke to two different classes at Centennial High School. Finally, I taped a cable TV interview.

The bonding bill: On Tuesday evening we passed a bonding bill, and I voted for it. A bonding bill requires that 81 people vote for it, and it passed by a couple of votes. Once the House and Senate versions are reconciled in conference committee, it is quite possible that the Governor will either veto the whole thing or line-item veto certain projects. Items in the bill that are of interest to our district would be the funding for the Rush Line transit corridor on Highway 61 that residents of Lino Lakes could access in time and the Union Depot in St. Paul that would be the hub of several transit lines, including the Rush Line.

Just a helpful hint to constituents who might not agree with me on the big issues pending before the House or who are asking me for my views on issues: hyperbole, threatening language, profanity, and insults are not very persuasive! I am always pleased to hear well articulated arguments for and against issues--that is what representative government is all about. So keep it clean, please; it helps your argument if you do.

Constituent contacts: about 20 residents of a senior housing complex in Shoreview and a Lino Lakes resident supporting an increase in the reimbursement rate for nursing homes; Blaine resident supporting "puppy mill" bill (HF 1046); Shoreview resident against HF1997 on regulating endocrine disruptors; Shoreview resident concerned about property taxes; Lino Lakes resident against allowing same-sex partner benefits in city governments and against a 10-cent gas tax increase (although five cents would be OK); Shoreview resident and Circle Pines resident positively commenting on Saturday's blog; Lino Lakes resident asking about how to expedite a passport application; Shoreview resident supporting suicide prevention grants; Lino Lakes resident against taxes; Shoreview resident and Circle Pines resident against state funding of stem cell research; Circle Pines city manager about HF1221 (energy conservation and efficiency bill) and its impact on the city-owned gas utility; Circle Pines resident supporting the smoking ban; Lino Lakes resident supporting more funding for early childhood education; Shoreview resident supporting automatic voter registration plan by Secretary of State; Lino Lakes resident supporting "stand your ground" gun bill; North Oaks resident supporting changes in governance of the MPCA; Lino Lakes resident inviting me to child abuse prevention event; Circle Pines resident asking about Secretary of State's automatic voter registration proposal; Lino Lakes resident seeking support for more transportation funding for ECFE program in Centennial School District; Shoreview resident supporting bill that would cover doula expenses for childbirth; Lino Lakes resident concerned about HF1793 that would compare federal and state requirements for special education; Shoreview resident against legislative efforts to overrule MN High School League on school choice and varsity eligibility; Lino Lakes resident concerned about state commitment to special education funding; Shoreview resident against benefits for same-sex partners in cities, against abortion, and against high pay for high school coaches; North Oaks resident threatening me with violence over tax issues (see paragraph above about effective persuasion); Lino Lakes resident and Shoreview resident against the gas tax; Lino Lakes resident seeking more funding for ECFE; Shoreview resident concerned about bill on building codes; Shoreview resident against government and taxes--more foul language (see paragraph above); Circle Pines resident for an increased minimum wage; Shoreview resident protesting transit cuts; North Oaks resident sharing thoughts on about ten topics; Shoreview residents weeking tax exemption on federal employee pension; 11 district residents seeking rights for gay and lesbian Minnesotans; City of Lexington about raingardens; Circle Pines resident against per diem and against increased education funding; Shoreview resident supporting the regulation of puppy mills; Shoreview resident wanting a rebate for the $1 billion in one-time budget surplus; unidentified resident asking me what my religion is (I go to a Unitarian congregation in Arden Hills and against tax increases; North Oaks resident supporting the MN Humanities Commission; Blaine, Lino Lakes, and Shoreview residents against cuts to Positive Alternatives program for pregnant women who might otherwise seek an abortion; Shoreview resident against tax increases and inefficiency; Shoreview resident seeking support for veterans' initiatives; Shoreview resident supporting the smoking ban; Shoreview resident concerned about crime, per diem, and taxes; Shoreview resident against the smoking ban; Shoreview resident favoring an earlier primary; Shoreview resident supporting income tax increase to support property tax relief; Shoreview resident supporting the Runaway & Homeless Youth Act; North Oaks resident supporting nuclear power; Circle Pines resident against the proposed mandatory statewide health insurance plan for educators; Shoreview resident supporting the House transportation package; North Oaks resident against an increase in the income tax; Shoreview resident with questions about the transportation bill; Lino Lakes resident about crossbow legislation; Shoreview high school student supporting prohibition of mobile phone use while driving; Shoreview resident against income tax increase and more education funding; Shoreview resident pleased with the transparency of the blog; Circle Pines resident against comprehensive sex education; Shoreview resident concerned about taxes; Lino Lakes resident against tax increases; Shoreview resident and business owner concerned about taxes; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF1262 about assuming joint custody for children of divorced parents; Lino Lakes teacher overwhelmed by larger class sizes

Non-constituent contacts: director of Visit Minneapolis North thanking me for support in the Heritage Finance budget for the Amateur Sports Commission; officer from Education MN-and teacher from the district-asking about the proposed statewide health insurance pool for educators;

Visitors: Two representatives of AARP about their legislative platform; several constituent nurses about the platform of the MN Nurses Association and stem cell research; constituent members of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition (JRLC) about their social justice platform; lobbyist for Hennepin County Environmental Services about legislation promoting composting; staff and board members for the Anoka and Ramsey County library systems; mayor of Circle Pines; two members of the Centennial School Board; former recycling colleague about organics recycling; Lexington resident about building a raingarden in the city for water quality and carbon sequestration

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Special Post on Transportation Bill March 24, 2007

This is a special post on the House floor session on Saturday, March 24. The big item for this Saturday session is the Omnibus Transportation Finance Bill.

You can watch the floor session in the House video archives on-line.

Background: Minnesota suffers from a long backlog of transportation funding, especially roads. There is some useful background information on the issue from the Minnesota Transportation Alliance on-line.

Voters may recall voting for the constitutional amendment last fall that will dedicate the Motor Vehicle Sales Tax (MVST) to transportation purposes (60% roads, 40% transit). That funding by the end of a five-year phase-in will put another $300 million or so into transportation, compared to a need of $1.7 billion annually just for roads and bridges.

The bill: You can read the bill at the Legislature's web site. Look at the 3rd bill engrossment. This bill contains an increase in the gas tax of five cents per gallon this year and another five cents the year after. That would make our gas tax 30 cents per gallon by the end of two years. There is also a wheelage tax of $50 per car per year, an adjustment to license tab fees (removing the statutory cap on NEW vehicles), and a possible metrowide half-cent sales tax (if counties choose to approve it) that would support transit.

The math: According to the MN Department of Revenue, the average cost of the bill to a family of four (and that would be my family) of the gas tax would be $55 per vehicle per year. That's at 11,000 miles per year at 20 mpg. The wheelage tax could be $20 per vehicle per year. The tab fee adjustment is estimated to be about $50 per car, although there would be no increase for existing vehicles. The sales tax portion would cost a household with $75,000 in income another $100 a year. The total maximum bill for a family of four with two vehicles would therefore be $350. In my family, my car gets 30 mpg and my wife's gets 50 mpg and we have only one new car, but our household income is higher than $75,000, so my household probably would pay an additional $350 a year just like the estimate.

However, the Texas Transportation Institute reports that the average metro driver is incurring $722 in congestion costs or $1444 in total costs for a family of four with two vehicles. Congestion costs include lost productivity, waste of gas, etc.

So, in my household, we would come out ahead with this proposal. Through this bill, more funding for local roads would filter down to our cities and counties, thereby reducing pressure on these units of government to raise necessary funds from property taxes. (See discussion of Rep. Erhardt's evaluation of the Governor's proposal below on this point.) Indeed, the city councils of Shoreview and Circle Pines have sent me resolutions supporting comprehensive transportation funding this year for this reason.

The politics: The Governor's proposal is to use bonding for about $1.7 billion over the course of several years, and he has said he would veto any gas tax. The Senate has passed a much larger bill than what the House is considering that includes all of the items in the proposals and more.

The thing is that the House and Senate will eventually have to negotiate a single bill in conference committee, vote on it, and then the Governor can choose to sign or veto the bill. So this bill will go through many changes before the Governor sees it.

Rep. Erhardt (R-Edina) pointed out in debate today that the Governor's bonding proposal "will not work." Specifically, bonding for roads at the state level cannot be used for the municipal state-aid fund and county state-aid highway fund that supports local road construction and re-construction. These funds make up 38% of where the state's current transportation funds go. Bonding would only go to the trunk highway fund. That means more pressure on property taxes at the county and city level.

The votes: We saw 18 amendments to the bill. I voted for an amendment that would require that voters get to vote on the half-cent sales tax increase for transit. I support transit fully, but like my position on the proposed Vikings Stadium sales tax increase, I think you should get to vote. The amendment failed narrowly.

I have a problem with line 5.24 to line 5.27, which is the proposal to study using a mileage tax in place of a gas tax. This would cost $5 million in the next fiscal year. The reason I have a problem with this part is that the proposal would include looking at GPS technology that can be put in your car to help calculate how many miles you are travelling. This is kind of a slippery slope in my opinion. Rep. Emmer (R-Delano) offered an amendment about this and I supported it. The amendment failed.

I also voted against the Garafalo amendment that would prohibit toll roads. I don't think we should use tolls as the first method of funding new construction, but I think in one or two corridors in the state where the right-of-way is limited and where transit is unlikely it still could be a viable option, so a prohibition would be inappropriate. The amendment passed.

The final bill passed quite easily and I voted for it for the reasons mentioned above.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Week of March 18, 2007

Shoreview Town Hall Meeting Wrap-Up: Sen. Rummel and I had a very good town hall meeting with six constituents from Shoreview and North Oaks on Sunday. One constituent said she enjoys the blog but would appreciate more substance on issues I'm working on. I will try to do that starting this week.

The budget: There are a lot of headlines out there about the budgets being proposed by the Governor, the Senate, and the House. I'm getting a lot of calls and e-mails asking about taxes of all types, so let me sum up what is going on.

* The Surplus: The headlines and sound bites about the surplus are often misleading. There is about $1 billion in one-time money in a surplus for this current fiscal year, which ends on June 30th. The other surplus discussed is for the FY2008-09 budget, which starts July 1, and it is also about $1 billion if you don't account for inflation. If you do use inflation to project the future budget, there is not really any surplus. The Governor seems to be rejecting any idea of sending out rebate checks for this year's surplus, since it would then put us in a deficit situation for FY2008-2009.

* The Governor's budget: This budget includes some new spending. In education, he includes 2% more on the education formula in 2008-09 and 2% more in 2009-2010. The second part is contingent on some requirements for school districts to have a certain number of "three-star" schools. His clean water proposals would project that we clean up our impaired waters in about 100 years. Property tax relief would net a reduction in property taxes for the average home in the $35-$40 range.

* The Senate: The Senate has been considering a wide variety of taxes, especially in transportation. It would generally be accurate to say that the Senate is looking at more revenue than the House--metrowide sales tax on transportation, gas tax increase dedicated to roads and bridges, a dedicated sales tax for outdoor funding, etc. On education, there would not be more money on the formula compared to the governor but there would be more funding for special education that would free up more resources for school districts.

* The House: The House DFL leadership came out with a more modest proposal to fund our "Stick to the Basics" agenda focused on education, health care, and property taxes. Here is a link to our budget proposal. It includes 3% and 3% on the education formula in the next two budget years, phasing in health care coverage for all uninsured children over four years, and giving property taxpayers more than half a billion dollars in permanent property tax relief. As a member of two finance committees, I can tell you that we are cutting budgets and saying no to a whole lot of new spending in order to fund these three priorities. I do not have "the fine print" yet on how a typical homeowner in our district would benefit on our propety taxes, but I will pass that on when I get it. The figure I saw in the Pioneer Press on Saturday said the average homeowner just on the property tax would likely see a $100 cut.

To fund these priorities, in addition to doing some cutting and saying no to a lot of other stuff, our proposal would increase tax compliance for people who have not been paying their taxes, close a corporate loophole for so-called "foreign operating corporations," and create a fourth tier in the individual income tax (at nine percent) for individuals with $226,000 in income or couples with $400,000 in income after deductions. The revenue from this income tax bracket would go directly to the property tax relief package.

What do you think? Let me know at

The Pioneer Press had a front-page article on Wednesday on "tax incidence" that would be of interest to the budget discussion. It points out that the middle class is paying more in taxes as a percentage of income than some other income brackets.

On Sunday, I attended a budget planning session of the Environmental Finance Committee.

On Monday, I attended the Environment & Natural Resources Committee; a caucus for that committee; a DFL House Caucus; a short floor session; Energy Policy & Finance Committee; and MN Heritage Finance Committee. I also met with a group of visiting local government officials from the Russian Far East (I studied in the USSR in 1989 through a U.S. government exchange program).

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee; a short floor session; and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee. I also presented three bills today. One was HF1665, which is the bill mentioned last week that would let consumers freeze their credit report paying by something other than a credit card. It passed unanimously in the Commerce & Labor Committee on a voice vote. This bill was proposed to me by a constituent in Lino Lakes. The other bill was HF1895, which was brought to my attention by a law student working with indigent clients. The bill would allow indigent Minnesotans to get a free photocopy of their court file. (Most courts do this anyway, but the bill was designed to have legal backing for any courts that aren't sure whether they should do it or not. It has negligible fiscal impact.) The bill passed in about 60 seconds in the Public Safety & Civil Justice Committee. The third bill, HF2144, was a proposal to create an ombudsman at the MPCA on groundwater pollution issues. My intent was to start a dialogue with the MPCA about the need to communicate better with communities affected by leaking landfills, so I asked that the bill be tabled but I wanted to present the idea for feedback.

On Wednesday, I presented HF457 (the metal theft bill) to the Public Safety Finance Committee. This is the bill that is designed to thwart thieves of metal like copper wire and pipe. (Links to articles and the bill are on the right.) The bill had a rocky start back in February in another committee and I've worked hard during the last month and half to do my homework and get it right. The amendment I introduced Wednesday morning was well received because I had either removed controversial provisions or modified them in order to make them actually work in practice. One of the Republican critics of the bill said something to the effect that "the bill has come a long way" and that it was now "a good bill." (He introduced an amendment anyway to take out one section but the amendment failed.)

It is satisfying to see that representatives of both parties can disagree without being disagreeable on bills such as this, and I have learned a lot about a variety of statutes by working on this bill. The bill now will be "laid over for possible consideration in the omnibus public safety finance bill." That means that the bill will no longer stand alone as HF457 and will be part of a bigger bill with other public safety budget items. So my work is done for a while on this bill.

I also attended the House DFL caucus and a DFL energy committee caucus, as well as the Energy Policy & Finance Committee, where we discussed and passed the "C-BED" bill. C-BED stands for Community-Based Energy Development, or a way to encourage locally owned renewable energy production (like wind). This is the fourth of four big energy related bills this session. The other three include the renewable energy standard (passed and signed by the governor), a conservation and efficiency bill, and the global warming mitigation bill. These bills will have long-lasting positive impacts for the state, although there will likely be some short-term disruption in the next few years.

My son's sixth birthday was today. I was happy to not have a committee meeting this evening after 6:00 p.m. to help celebrate, although many of my colleagues will probably be in committee till midnight working on bills before the Friday deadline. Most of our greater Minnesota legislators miss a lot of family events because they are in St. Paul from Monday to Friday, so I feel fortunate!

On Thursday, I attended a caucus meeting of the Heritage Finance Committee; a morning meeting of the Environmental Finance Committee; a short floor session; a meeting of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee; and an evening meeting of the Environmental Finance Committee. Another 7:00 a.m. to 9:45 p.m. day!

On Friday, I attended a short floor session and a meeting of the Energy Policy & Finance Committee. But before that, I had a great visit to Top Tool, a company in Blaine right across the interstate from my district. The issues at the legislature that were mentioned as being critical to them include workforce development and health care for small businesses. They are concerned about a shrinking pool of qualified applicants for positions at the company.

"Sierra Grassroots News": There was a brief blurb about me in the Sierra Club's national web site. I only mention it because there is some information for people who do not know me that illustrates how I integrate economics with environmental protection.

Constituent contacts: Lino Lakes resident supporting property tax relief; district resident against entitlement programs; Lino Lakes resident concerned about excessive tax credits, flag bill, ethanol, and equipment sales tax rebate; Circle Pines resident against Governor's anti-tax comments; Centennial Legislative Action Group; Shoreview resident seeking property tax relief; two Lino Lakes residents against tax increases; North Oaks resident supporting legislation (HF1046) to regulate dog and cat breeders; two Shoreview residents against tax increases; Shoreview resident opposed to marginalization of on-line charter schools; an unidentified resident using MPR's budget balancer feature showing his budget priorities; Shoreview resident seeking improved education funding; North Oaks resident against tax increases; four Lino Lakes residents seeking improved funding for special education; Shoreview couple against benefits for same-sex partners in city governments; two Lino Lakes residents supporting increased K-12 funding; Shoreview resident seeking reinstatement of funding for suicide prevention programs; Shoreview resident seeking changes in the way the state funds special education; Circle Pines resident asking about drivers license issue; Lino Lakes resident against cigarette advertising; Shoreview resident against the "Stand Your Ground" bill (HF498); Shoreview resident supporting bills regulating atrazine; Circle Pines resident with ideas about lowering property taxes; Shoreview resident about rebates for seniors on their property taxes; Lexington resident about an upcoming event; Shoreview mayor about 50th Anniversary celebration in our fair city; two Shoreview residents supporting comprehensive sex education; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF 1332, a bill to have MN divert holdings from companies doing business with Sudan over Darfur; Lino Lakes resident against tax increases; Lino Lakes resident concerned that adults without children will not be able to access MN Care; Shoreview resident about LGA, health care, and other issues; Shoreview resident suggesting ways to balance budget; unidentified resident supporting drug tests for welfare recipients

Non-constituent contacts: I am going to enter info here should it be something of interest to the district--the volume of this contact type is increasing and it has marginal value.

Visitors: Purchasing supervisor from MN Department of Administration about ways we can save money buying supplies, computers, etc. for the MN House of Representatives (The legislature has exempted itself from cost-saving opportunities with state contracts--go figure); two members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) from the district. One of the IBEW's positions is to cut back funding for MnSCU because the union believes that the university system is cranking out too many graduates who compete with those in the trades (I'm sure that there are more details here than I'm aware of, but that is the first time I've ever heard this idea before); representatives of St. Paul Trades & Labor Assembly of the AFL-CIO; Sierra Club lobbyist; lobbyist and employee of Xcel Energy about their position on the cold weather rule

Invitations: I am going to enter info here only should it be something of interest to the district.

Information sent: I am going to enter info here only should it be something of interest to the district--the volume of this contact type is increasing and it has marginal value.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Week of March 11, 2007

On Monday, I attended a meeting of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, two caucus meetings, a short floor session, the Energy Policy & Finance Committee (climate mitigation bill testimony), and the Heritage Finance Committee (funding for public radio and public broadcasting). I also presented a bill in the Tax Committee that would give a tax credit to scrap metal recyclers for upgrading their equipment to comply with HF457.

On Tuesday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee, visited the Senate Tax Commitee to see if the Senate version of one of my bills was being heard (I'm not allowed to testify in the Senate according to the Senate rules), attended a short floor session, attended a press conference by Rep. Marquart on property taxes, taped a cable TV interview, and attended the Environment Committee.

On Wednesday, I attended a short floor session, an Energy Committee caucus meeting, the DFL House caucus, an Environment Committee caucus, and the Energy Committee. The Energy Committee met for about seven or eight hours on the Global Warming Mitigation Act, which we passed. The main differences between Rep. Ruud's bill and the Governor's proposal to address climate change include Ruud's proposal for a cap-and-trade system of CO2 emissions and a moratorium on new carbon emissions from power plants without "offsets" until a stakeholder group sets up a climate change plan. The moratorium is opposed by utilities seeking to build the proposed Big Stone II coal-powered plant near Milbank, South Dakota, which would provide power to parts of western and southwestern Minnesota. The developers of the proposed coal gasification power plant on the Iron Range (which would store liquid CO2 underground) are also concerned that their project would not be permitted under the proposal.

Some of the opponents of the bill expressed some disdain for the whole idea of climate change, believing it to be "junk science" and so on. This led to some verbal jousting during the meeting, unfortunately, among some members.

On Thursday, I attended the Environment & Natural Resources Finance Committee and the Environment & Natural Resources Committee, as well as a lengthy floor session. The floor session included a two-hour debate about Rep. Rukavina's bill to ban sales of American flags that are not made in America. Passionate arguments were made by members from both parties but ultimately the measure passed handily. I think there would have been less debate (and the bill more meaningful and enforceable) had the bill just required that flags bought by the state government be made in America.

On Friday, I attended a short caucus meeting; a presentation by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension on their theft alert system (a model that could be used for scrap metal recyclers for my bill HF457); a meeting of the House and Senate DFL suburban caucuses; and the Energy Policy & Finance Committee. I had two bill presentations, including a revision of the cold weather rule related to gas connections for low income residents and a bill that would allow consumers to pay for their credit report freeze by check. Both bills passed their respective committees. The latter bill was suggested by a Lino Lakes constituent who was only able to freeze his credit report with one credit bureau by credit card. If your credit card gets stolen and you want to pay the $5 for the credit report freeze, how could you pay for it using a credit card?

Constituent contacts: Circle Pines resident about climate change; two constituent students at Totino-Grace High School preparing for day at the capitol; Circle Pines resident against certain tax increases; Lino Lakes resident asking about how gas taxes are used; Circle Pines City Administrator with comments on HF1221 (conservation and efficiency bill); Shoreview resident against tax increases and proposed $1 fee on deer licenses to support venison food shelves; Centennial Legislative Action Committee on education funding formula; Lino Lakes resident against HF772 that would require higher insurance levels for aircraft owners; Lino Lakes resident seeking support of resolution against the situation in Darfur, Sudan; Lino Lakes city staff about park-and-ride lot situation at Highway 14 and 35E; two Shoreview residents and Circle Pines resident supporting Wine with Dinner; Lino Lakes resident interested in my position on HF1888 on increased rigor for high school students; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF1077, a bill supporting coverage of interpreter services for medical facilities; Shoreview resident supporting a bill that would give preference to mercury-free vaccines; Shoreview resident against taxes; constituent from Lexington about the developmentally disabled; Shoreview resident concerned about proposals on MPV vaccine; Circle Pines resident about outdoor and habitat funding; Centennial Lakes Police Department about local issues, including community mediation issues and metal theft; Lino Lakes resident against allowing use of crossbows during archery season; several residents of Centennial School District against my co-authoring of HF1888 that would place more "rigor" on the high school experience and supporting my co-authoring of another bill (HF1802); Lino Lakes resident against Rep. Kahn's bill to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections (I am against this bill as well); Lino Lakes resident about meeting of Taxpayers for an Anoka County Stadium Referendum; Shoreview resident about HF1595 that allows homeowners to recoup attorney's fees when getting builders to settle warranty claims; Shoreview resident supporting increased taxes on higher income brackets to support property tax relief; Shoreview resident support HF1296 that supports doulas for childbirth; Shoreview resident supporting funding for lower class sizes; Shoreview resident against tax increases; North Oaks resident about MPCA governance and ethanol regulation; North Oaks residence about unique education funding formula problems for Mounds View School District; Lexington resident supporting funding for special education; Shoreview resident asking about a possible "phishing" scam; Shoreview resident supporting legislation and funding supporting the deaf and hard of hearing; Lino Lakes resident about education funding; Shoreview resident about plastic card security act

Non-constituent contacts: Arden Hills resident against the possible discontinuation of Q Comp pay system for teachers; unidentified resident, Isanti, and St. Paul resident supporting pro-gun legislation; unidentified resident against tax increases; Ogilvie resident against bill allowing crossbow hunting; Eden Prairie resident against cell phone use in cars; Hermantown resident against funding ATV issues; Anoka County Library Director about proposed Lino Lakes library

(I've got to limit the amount of these e-mail contacts that I list here because the volume is so high and its volume for readers is pretty marginal.)

Visitors: lobbyist for Association of Metropolitan School Districts; lobbyist for Coalition of Greater MN Cities on proposed MPCA phosphorus rule; staff and lobbyist for MN Historical Society about budget request; staff member from Great River Energy about gas peaking plants and their connection to the Global Warming Mitigation Act; about ten members of the Metro North Chamber of Commerce, including representatives of several fraternal benefit organizations (transportation funding was a key concern); Shoreview constituent representing the MN Women's Consortium; Manager of North Oaks Golf Club on behalf of MN Nursery & Landscapers Association; lobbyist for PPM, an independent power producer, about community based energy development legislation; director of Institute for Renewable Energy at the U of M; policy director of Legal Aid about energy legislation; lobbyist for dairy industry about possible legislation on theft of milk crates

Invitations: Center for the American Experiment and achievement gap program; Bowhay Institute for Legislative Leadership Development; Ramsey County library opening in Maplewood; colleagues inviting us to meet John Edwards; Arts Institute International of MN; City of Shoreview on 50th Anniversary of city's incorporation; Jewish Community Relations Council of MN and the Dakotas; Hennepin Technical College

Information sent: Mounds View Public Schools lobbyist; Parents of Murdered Children; Kandiyohi Power Cooperative; Associated Contract Loggers & Truckers of MN; Fresh Energy; Conservation MN; Minnesotans for Global Warming; Energy Bulletin; MN Agriculture & Rural Leadership; Institute for Agricultural & Trade Policy; Twin Cities Habitat for Humanity; Municipal Legislative Commission; MNDOT; MN Literary Council; copies of letters from Governor asking committee chairs to include his initiatives for K-12, higher education, and health care in the pending budget; MN Center for Environmental Advocacy; MN School Boards Association; MN State Council on Disability; League of MN Cities; City of Circle Pines; Mall of America; Great River Energy; Literacy MN on the impact of adult basic education in MN; Sierra Club and Population Connection on family planning legislation; MN Terrestrial Carbon Sequestration Initiative; Teamsters Joint Council 32; Hunger Solutions MN supporting the Legislative Commission to End Poverty; MPCA on intent to issue national pollutant discharge elimination system permit; Clear Way MN (anti-tobacco group); A.B.A.T.E of MN (biker group); Capable Partners (group promoting hunting and fishing for the disabled); National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors-Minnesota with recommendations on health care; Missouri River Energy Services about new wind generation capacity; BioBusiness Alliance of MN & Life Science Alley; Ramsey County Juvenile & Family Justice Center; AARP with legislative priorities; Senior Housing Partners about long-term care

(I've got to limit the amount of the information sent section that I list here because the volume is so high and its volume for readers is pretty marginal.)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Week of March 4, 2007

Reminder about Property Tax Hotline & Website. The House Property Tax Relief and Local Sales Tax Division, chaired by Rep. Paul Marquart, launched a 1-800 comment line and website designed to let taxpayers have a say in how the Legislature addresses rapidly rising property taxes. Share your stories about rising property taxes by calling this comment line or logging on to the website. Minnesota's Property Tax Comment line: 1-800-551-5520. Minnesota's Property Tax Comment website:

Circle Pines Town Hall Meeting Wrap-Up: There were about 15 people who attended the Circle Pines Town Hall Meeting with Sen. Rummel and me. Topics included transportation funding, ethanol, wine with dinner, education funding, county compost sites charging fees, the Iraq War, animal rights, immigration and voting fraud, income taxes, electronic waste recycling, funding for parks, water, and trails, and property taxes. I will be sending out a letter or e-mail to the people who attended to follow up.

On Monday, I prepared for my bill hearing on HF457 in the Local Government & Metropolitan Affairs Committee and presented the amended bill in the evening. It passed on a voice vote to the next committee. I attended a short floor session at 12:30 as well as a caucus meeting. I was saddened to learn of the death of former Sen. Dallas Sams, who was a leader on environmental issues in rural Minnesota. Sams had bravely battled with cancer for the last few years. I attended a short meeting of the DFL Suburban Caucus, the Energy Policy & Finance Committee (testimony on conservation and efficiency bill), and the Heritage Finance Committee (budget presentations by several councils).

On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the Environmental Finance Committee (hearing on the groundwater contamination issue in the east metro from 3M plants & budget presentation on MN Conservation Corps); attended a meeting with Sen. Higgins and Senate staff on HF457; met with a committee administrator about the fiscal note for HF457; attended a committee caucus meeting; and attended the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (markup on Climate Change Mitigation bill).

On Wednesday, I attended a short floor session in the morning; a DFL energy committee meeting caucus; a Senate hearing of the Senate version of my scrap metal bill (but I had to leave before Sen. Higgins presented the bill); the Energy Policy & Finance Committee; and caucus. In the Energy Committee, we passed a significant energy conservation and efficiency bill.

On Thursday, I attended the Environmental Finance Committee (various bills, including the electronic waste bill, which passed); a meeting of legislators about a bill that would assist the Rock-Tenn paper mill in St. Paul; a short floor session; the Environment & Natural Resources Committee (various bills, including a ban on some brominated flame retardants); caucus meeting; and a joint convention of the House and Senate to elect several U of M regents. I don't think I like the new process used to select regents--it's much too political a process. In the end, we elected Venora Hung, Maureen Cisneros, Linda Cohen, and Dean Johnson.

On Friday, I visited Great Western Recycling in St. Paul. There I met with representatives of several metro area scrap metal recyclers about HF457. It reminded me of my work in recycling for nine years--you never forget the smell. (And that's a good thing!) It was very instructive in contemplating changes to the bill. I attended a meeting of the DFL members of the Energy Policy & Finance Committee and the Environmental Finance Committee about the budget. In the afternoon, I attended the full Energy Policy & Finance Committee where we considered several bills.

Constituent contacts: Lexington, Blaine, Circle Pines, and Shoreview residents asking for support of climate change mitigation act; Lino Lakes resident supporting focusing education efforts on improving the high school experience; Circle Pines resident supporting MN Dog and Cat Breeders Act; Lino Lakes resident seeking better opportunities for individuals to purchase health insurance; three Shoreview residents against tax increases; Shoreview resident about bills affecting the developmentally disabled; Circle Pines resident, two Lino Lakes residents, and Shoreview resident in support of a statewide health insurance pool for educators; Shoreview resident about Board of Medical Practices; Lino Lakes resident about auto fuel efficiency; Shoreview couple for a smoking ban, for a gas tax, and against an income tax hike for education; North Oaks resident supporting HF705 that would support Minnesotans with disabilities; two Shoreview residents on issues affecting the developmentally disabled; North Oaks couple against off-road vehicles; Circle Pines resident supporting platform of Union of Concerned Scientists; two Lino Lakes residents against bill that would have negative impact on insurance agents; e-mail from Centennial Legislative Action Committee; Lino Lakes resident about application of criminal defamation statute to electronic communications; Shoreview resident against any tax increase; Circle Pines? resident in favor of a constitutional amendment for habitat funding and against an increase in the pheasant hunting limit; Shoreview resident supporting increased funding for early childhood education and a bill to prohibit 4x4s on state forest land; North Oaks resident in favor of Wine with Dinner; three Shoreview residents supporting increased funding of parks and trails; two North Oaks urologists supporting HF1077, a bill to require health plans to pay for interpreters; Shoreview resident supporting smaller class sizes and a statewide health insurance plan for educators; two Circle Pines resident s supporting $100 million for clean water funding; two Lino Lakes residents supporting increased K-12 funding for Centennial schools; Blaine resident in favor of HF784 that would increase the eligibility requirements for general medical assistance; Shoreview couple regarding the Board of Medical Practices; Lexington resident about an ATV law on "snorkels"

Non-constituent contacts: Hawley resident against "puppy mill" legislation; Eagan tournament bass fisherman against the game and fish bill (HF1184); unidentified resident against the Real ID Act; Panasonic executive about electronic waste recycling; Henning resident supporting funding to combat aquatic invasive species; several unidentified residents against HF1241 that would allow use of crossbows for hunting; unidentified resident against restrictions on jeep use on trails in HF1127; unidentifed resident supporting medical use of marijuana; several MN residents seeking support of pro-gun legislation; Minneapolis and Falcon Heights residents supporting funding for the MN Historical Society; Great River Energy lobbyist about Climate Change Mitigation bill; Big Lake resident against HF615, a comprehensive sex education bill ("This is a blatant attempt to promote an entirely biased, pro-homosexual, anti-family and anti-religion agenda in the schools and will undermine the fabric of our society....I STRONGLY urge you to vote against this type of cultural suicide."); Marietta couple about a consumer issue; Red Wing resident against coal gasification plant in northern MN; lobbyist for Institute for Agricultural & Trade Policy supporting a mercury product ban bill

Visitors: Spoke with several lobbyists about HF457 prior to the bill hearing on Monday; lobbyists for an electrical utility in SW MN; lobbyist and staff from MPR about budget request; three constituent members from Service Employees International Union about the SEIU platform; Maureen Cisneros, candidate for U of M Board of Regents; Xcel Energy lobbyist on HF1624 (also responded to my questions on nuclear power); constituent from MN Medical Group Association; three AFSCME union members on AFSCME day at the capitol; Shoreview dentist on dentists' day at the capitol; arts advocates from the northern suburbs; ISAIAH members from northern suburbs; lobbyist for White Earth Reservation about proposed ethanol plant; lobbyist for White Earth Recovery Project on wild rice bill; Blaine resident about private college tuition grant; lobbyist for the Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries

Invitations: 916 Education Foundation Spring Gala; Climate Change Symposium sponsored by four Republican House members called "What Science Really Says about Global Warming"; Citizens League Policy and a Pint "Health Care Handcuffs"; MN Catholic Conference for meeting with Roman Catholic Bishops of MN; Eastern Transportation Alliance; Industrial Council Union; Big Brothers Big Sisters; Outfront MN; MN Outdoor Heritage Alliance; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy; Council of State Governments; Sandia National Laboratories; Sierra Club; MN Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve; Center for the American Experiment on the achievement gap; American Legislative Exchange Council; Met Council on proposed regional sanitary sewer improvements in Circle Pines; International Union of Operating Engineers Local 49; Council of State Governments; Shoreview Rotary Club; Campaign for Conservation; ground water organizations

Information sent: Introductory material about Venora M. Hung, candidate for the U of M Board of Regents; AAA Minnesota/Iowa supporting SF122 (booster seat law); MN Planetarium; Association of MN Public Educational Radio Stations; MN Sentencing Guidelines Commission report on drug offender sentencing issues; Yellow Ribbon Suicide Prevention Program; material from retired teachers about HF1602 (pre-1969 teacher pension inequity bill); Center for the American Experiment about new Minneapolis school board member; Lake Zumbro resident supporting clean-up efforts on the lake; Christian Alliance for Indian Child Welfare; Youth Intervention Program Association; Institute for Local Self-Reliance; Conservation MN; resolution from City of Shoreview supporting increased transportation funding from the state; Coalition of Greater MN Cities about phosphorus limits set by MPCA; MN Aids Project; MN 4WD Association against proposed elimination of 4x4 trails from public lands; MN Coalition for Battered Women; MN Psychiatric Society responding to DVD recently distributed to legislators (I haven't received one) called "Psychiatry: Industry of Death"; MN Family Council against legalization of marijuana for medical purposes; Sexual Abuse Prevention Network; State of MN Indian Affairs Council; League of MN Cities; Otter Tail Power about need for base load energy; Rep. Mariani supporting selection of Maureen Cisneros to the U of M Board of Regents; letter from the Governor to legislators urging fiscal restraint; Wood Fiber Employees Joint Legislative Council; Linda Cohen on her candidacy for the U of M Board of Regents; North American Water Office supporting phase-out of Monticello nuclear plant; LaRouche PAC against prevailing views on climate change; Canterbury Park; MN Zoo; MN Legislative Library; U of M Academic Health Center; MN Women's Press; Coalition of MN Businesses; MN Association of Realtors; MN State College Faculty; Childhood Sexual Abuse victim advocates about HF1239; MnSCU on recycling; Epilepsy Foundation of MN; MN Nursery & Landscape Association; MN Women's Consortium; Anoka Commissioner Sivarajah on mental wellness campaign for Anoka Co.; U of M Center for Early Education and Development; Architecture-MN; Council of State Governments; National Caucus for Environmental Legislators about phosphorus in dishwasher detergent; unidentified resident against bills regulating 4x4s; Specialty Equipment Market Association; unidentifed resident against smoking ban; MN Technology Inc.