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