Thursday, January 31, 2008

Week of January 27, 2007

I had some "aha!" moments this week on a few topics.

At Northwest Youth and Family Services in Shoreview: "A joint study conducted by the University of Minnesota and Wilder Research revealed that the state can expect a $4.89 return for every dollar spent on intervention services like the NYFS diversion program." Wow!

* A representative of the Tiller Corp. here in Ramsey County reports that his company would come out ahead with a gas tax increase because his company's trucks are losing two hours a day through congestion. If that daily delay was cut to one hour, they would save $14,000 per year per truck, or $420,000 a year.

* One constituent proposal for insuring the uninsured through Minnesota Care is that we should give program recipients a debit card to use for health care instead of having to pay a middleman HMO to insure that person. This theoretically would save money. As an example, HMOs get a 9% margin on Medicare patients and usually less for private pay patients. Twenty-five percent of Medicare patients use 75% of the dollars in the program, so such an idea could result in real savings.

: On Sunday evening I attended a house party for a presidential candidate in Shoreview. On Monday afternoon, I worked with a house media staffer on some video coverage of district issues. On Tuesday, Senator Rummel and I met with the MPCA Commissioner about the Highway 96 landfill situation and several other environmental issues. Senator Rummel and I also met with staff from the Met Council about two legislative initiatives related to drinking water and wastewater. On the phone I responded to inquiries to three different reporters about cable franchising, mining issues, and the 2008 legislative session. In the evening, I stopped by an Arden Hills-Shoreview Rotary reception in Arden Hills. On Wednesday, I met with a North Oaks resident about local issues. I also met with a representative of the Minnesota Attorney General's office about the Mounds View School Board situation. In the evening, Senator Rummel and I held a town hall meeting at the Shoreview Community Center. We had about a dozen constituents in attendance. We had a very good conversation about transportation, health care, property taxes, education, and other issues. On Thursday, Senator Rummel and I met with representatives of the East Metro Medical Society about health care issues. In the evening, I attended a meeting of the Ramsey County League of Local Government with several of my colleagues in North Oaks. Members of the Shoreview and North Oaks City Councils and the Mounds View School Board were also there. We get invited to a lot of events with other elected officials, and the discussion usually deals with stuff that most voters would find to be "inside-baseball" information. It is a little frustrating, because voters are the people who wield the most influence over legislators, and these events (I've been to half a dozen just in 30 days) are of marginal value. On Friday morning, several local legislators and I visited Northwest Youth and Family Services in Shoreview. NY&FS provides many necessary services to the community, including youth diversion for kids. These diversion programs, often for kids (and their families) who get into trouble, reduce taxpayer costs by keeping these kids out of the criminal justice system.

Visitors: lobbyist from the MN Chamber of Commerce on solid waste issues; lobbyist for several electronics manufacturers as follow-up on e-waste legislation

Constituent contacts: Shoreview nurse about public health issues, including seat belt and graduated drivers licenses; Circle Pines, Lino Lakes, and Shoreview residents supporting tougher laws on immigration; Shoreview resident about human rights issues; four district residents supporting the U of M's bonding proposals; Lino Lakes resident supporting bonding request for the Bell Museum of Natural History; Shoreview resident against breed-specific bans for dogs; Shoreview resident supporting dedicating sales tax for hunting and fishing habitat; Shoreview resident supporting property tax relief; Circle Pines resident against recent MN Supreme Court decision that would apply property taxes to some nonprofit organizations; Shoreview resident against capping of property taxes based on experience in California; Circle Pines resident about a labor regulation issue; 29 district residents sending form letters against taxpayer funding for abortion; Lino Lakes and Shoreview residents supporting "Rule of 90" for retiring teachers

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Week of January 20, 2007

Schedule: On Sunday, I attended a meet-and-greet for a candidate for U.S. Senate. On Tuesday, Senator Rummel and I met with the Circle Pines City Council. Issues we discussed included the proposed Lino Lakes library, a statewide cable franchising bill, the Rice Creek North regional trail, transportation, and education funding. We then proceeded to a meeting of the Mounds View School Board with several other legislators. As you may know, there is a bit of a flap going on because a new board member might have a conflict of interest because her husband is the lead negotiator for the Mounds View custodians. Apparently the district's attorney believes that the new member could be ousted instead of just recusing herself from voting on the custodians' contract or from contract negotiations. Personally I think this legal interpretation of a state statute is overkill but there will be a hearing soon on the matter, and I hope the board can get back to business soon.

On Wednesday, I attended a meeting of legislators and some metro county commissioners who are part of the MN Inter-County Association (MICA). It is not clear what this organization accomplishes that the Association of Minnesota Counties or the individual counties do not, so I wonder why it exists other than to have additional lobbyists down at the Capitol for county issues. In the evening, I held a town hall meeting at Lino Lakes city hall. There were five people in attendance. (It was pretty darn cold out, so I suspect that kept the attendance down despite pretty good publicity in the local papers.) Issues included climate change, transportation funding, taxes, and a few other local items. There were a few people there who were on totally opposite sides of issues, but we had a very respectful discussion.

On Friday, I attended a meeting at the MN Pollution Control Agency on how the new electronic waste law is working out for MN's counties. There was a discussion about how we can work to make sure that electronic waste is handled in an environmentally friendly fashion. There are several states working with the U.S. EPA on recycling standards, which Minnesota may adopt later this year. In the afternoon, I attended a five-hour hearing of several House and Senate committees on the opportunities and challenges of mining in Minnesota. Apparently some environmental committee chairs wanted to have a hearing on mining pollution, based on a recent research report commissioned by two environmental groups. Then legislators from the Iron Range objected and asked for a joint hearing to talk about the economic development opportunities of mining copper and nickel near Babbitt. Not all the legislators stuck around for the whole hearing, but I was there for the whole time and asked a lot of questions. The economics of mining is related to the economics of recycling, so I had questions about the connection of global market pricing to the viability of the project, financial assurance for environmental liability, and the whole love-hate relationship that the Iron Range has with development--e.g., it welcomes the jobs but chafes under out-of-state ownership and resents Twin Cities environmental groups meddling in local issues. Rep. Rukavina and Senator Tomassoni gave very good responses to me about the latter issue. Apparently it struck and nerve--the main Iron Range newspaper carried a story about it.

It is interesting to note that royalties from mining on some state lands goes to the Permanent University Fund (PUF). Every student at the U of M receives a benefit from this fund through lower tuition. Our local school districts in 53A receive about $200,000 to $300,000 a year from mining royalties as well through the Permanent School Fund. These dollars replace general fund dollars, so if it was not for this mining royalty funding, we would be raising taxes to put the same amount money into education.

Visitors: advocate from Legal Aid about that organization's legislative platform for 2008; MPCA staff and House researcher about recycling and solid waste legislation; DNR staff about how to consolidate reporting requirements to the legislature to save money and resources; advocate for MN Coalition for the Homeless about proposed hospice care legislation; staff from Eureka Recycling and the Isaac Walton League about the Governor's Climate Change Advisory Group and how recycling and composting can help lower our carbon emissions;

Constituent contacts: North Oaks resident about the Highway 96 landfill situation; Lino Lakes resident against all kinds of taxes; Lino Lakes resident preferring that town hall meetings not conflict with church meetings on Wednesday nights; Lino Lakes resident against taxpayer funding for abortions; Circle Pines resident against the Q-Comp system for teacher compensation; Circle Pines resident against closure of Circle Pines Library in favor of Lino Lakes location

Monday, January 14, 2008

Week of January 13, 2008

Governor's Bonding Proposal: On Monday morning, the Governor outlined his recommendations for capital investment. You can see copies of the presentation and a list of the detailed projects at the Department of Finance website. There is a lot of good stuff in there, and the legislature will now take a look at this proposal and incorporate its own ideas as well. The bonding bill will total about $1 billion. In particular, I noticed that the state is proposing $1 million for additional groundwater monitoring wells in the Twin Cities metro area. There is also a proposal for trunk highway bonding for the Urban Partnership Agreement (UPA) that would likely provide support for park-and-rides in the north metro area, including Lino Lakes. The Governor is also proposing $225 in borrowing for local bridge replacement. The legislature may move this into the transportation bill but I'm not sure yet. I will point out that transportation still has a dedicated source of funding (the gas tax and license tab fees) while this transportation bonding has no plan for paying back the bonds. Our interest payments on trunk highway bonds have increased by 1000% in the last five years!

A Little Bit on Health Care: The documents we're given on possible health care reform in 2008 are pretty overwhelming, so I'm digesting them a little bit at a time. The legislature's Health Care Access Commission Working Group on Cost Containment has an interesting report that talks about "health care homes" or what some call "patient centered care." My colleague Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL-St. Paul) is a co-author and she is one of four nurses in the House. The report talks about successful pilot projects where one person or clinic helps patients wade through a complex system to figure out the best care. Very outcome-based!

35-W Bridge Survivors' Web Site: Several survivors of the bridge collapse have put together a web site to encourage action by the legislature. You'll note that seven survivors come from our senate district, plus two people people who died in the collapse.

Per diem issue: I was surprised to see that the Anoka County Watchdog called me the "North Metro Taxpayer Hero" on Friday because of my low per diem rate. Usually I find the watchdog criticisms of public officials to be too subjective (and a little personal), but he does provide a valuable service in shedding some light on public records about government programs and spending.

Schedule: On Monday, I attended a workshop with the Shoreview City Council with other legislators representing Shoreview, including Senators Rummel and Chaudhary and Representatives Scalze and Knuth. The city's legislative platform included: property tax relief through an enhanced circuit breaker mechanism; commitment to the reinstatement of the homestead market value tax credit that homeowners used to get for homes valued at $400,000 or less, which the city has been funding on its own after state budget cuts in 2003; a preference that the state not impose levy limits; comprehensive transportation funding; allowing administrative fines for ordinance enforcement; opposition to any regionalized water supply system; and opposition to the statewide cable franchising bill (as currently written) discussed in a previous post.

On Tuesday, I attended a meeting of the Legislative Electric Energy Task Force. Presenters included an advisor to Governor Schwarzenegger who presented "How U.S. States Will Answer the Energy & Climate Challenges of the 21st Century," with an emphasis on cap-and-trade systems to combat global warming; a U of M professor on "Cap-and-Trade 101"; and one additional speaker from the Regulatory Assistance Project about cap-and-trade architecture. In the late afternoon, I attended a meeting of elected officials to get an introduction to Alexandra House, the only battered women's shelter in Anoka County. It was a very sobering visit. Alexandra House has 35 beds. In 2003, they lost $600,000 in funding during the budget cutting session at the Capitol and have been slowly recovering.

On Wednesday, I attended an all-day legislative policy conference for legislators at the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. In the afternoon we participated in an exercise to help us learn how to negotiate with each successfully. We'll see if it actually works this session!

On Thursday morning, Senator Rummel and I met with a group of doctors at Bethesda Hospital in St. Paul as part of the East Metro Medical Society Council on Professionalism and Ethics. Rep. Jim Abeler and Rep. Erin Murphy were presenting on the Governor's Health Care Transformation Task Force. The main complaint of doctors at the meeting about health care reform proposals was that doctors are being pushed to control costs when there are other things that government and society as a whole should do to make people healthier. For example, doctors do not make people obese or poor but they must deal with the health consequences. They don't like the idea of being pushed into larger organizations like HMOs where cost becomes the driving factor. Later in the morning, I attended a meeting of the Healthy Legacy Coalition, which wants the legislature to ban certain flame retardants and plasticizers. The speaker was Mark Schapiro, who wrote a new book on the topic. In the afternoon, I met a few legislative leaders and two commissioners about water policy and ethanol. Later, I attended a joint meeting of the House Energy Committee and the House Committee on Local Government and Metropolitan Affairs. Two speakers came from Portland, Oregon came to talk about their efforts to deal with "peak oil" and declining supplies of petroleum. An MPCA staffer spoke about the agency efforts on sustainability. Finally, in the early evening I spoke to about a dozen phone canvassers at Clean Water Action about my drinking water subcommittee. (Also see under constituent contacts.)

On Friday, I visited the Forest Lake School District's early childhood program. They have a very active parent advisory council and its leaders took me around with the director of the family center. They spoke to me first-hand about how their children became ready for kindergarten, including one example of how one child avoided becoming a special education student (at possibly higher cost to the taxpayer) because of pre-school screening. I represent just a small fraction of this district in Lino Lakes but I really wanted to hear from their program and it was a good visit. As one teacher said, "It's better to build children than to repair adults!" In the afternoon, I met with a staff member of the Freshwater Society about drinking water policy.

Visitors: Staff from the MN Department of Health about a proposed water supply interconnection between Minneapolis and St. Paul; a Senator about Board of Medical Practice

Constituent contacts: Circle Pines resident and Lino Lakes resident supporting early legislative approval of the MAPE (MN Association of Professional Employees) contract; Circle Pines high school student with an idea about the minimum wage; Circle Pines resident against the Q-Comp teacher's compensation program; Shoreview resident about MN Board of Medical Practice; Circle Pines resident supporting a citizen stakeholder council for the proposed outdoor heritage fund in the proposed dedicated outdoor funding sales tax bill; Lino Lakes resident supporting lower property taxes for unimproved lakeshore property; Lino Lakes resident pleased with constituent communication and blog; about two dozen constituents supporting tougher enforcement on illegal immigration (these were all form letter e-mails); North Oaks resident concerned about lack of opportunity for public comment on the MPCA's proposed amendment to a decision document on the Highway 96 landfill situation; two Shoreview residents and Circle Pines resident opposed to government intervention in health care; Shoreview resident against a gas tax increase and local projects in the bonding bill

The folks at Clean Water Action gave to me on Thursday THIRTY-FIVE handwritten letters from constituents in Shoreview thanking me for supporting the global warming mitigation act in last year's energy bill. Wow.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Week of January 6, 2007

Additional Town Hall Meeting Scheduled: In addition to the Town Hall meeting that Senator Rummel and I will hold on January 23rd at 7:00 p.m. in Lino Lakes, we will also hold a meeting on January 30th at 7:00 p.m. at Shoreview City Hall.

Per Diem: I understand that KSTP-TV did a report on legislators' per diem and how high it is. In a previous post when all the per diem rates were decided, you will see that I voted during a rules debate to force the full House of Representatives to vote on the per diem increase to $77 per day. My own per diem is $35 per day, which is the lowest of any legislator who accepts per diem. So I'm #199 out of 201 current legislators. (#200 is a member who just won a special election, so he hasn't received any regular session per diem yet.)

Postage Returned to State: In 2007, the House alloted $1968.00 in postage for my office. (I suppose it is the same amount for other representatives.) By December 31st, I used just $820.22, which means that $1,147.78 goes back to the state treasury. I still have a bunch of stamps left over too. Anyway, it's not a huge amount, but I saved some for the taxpayer!

Income Growth Report: The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis just reported that Minnesota was number 50 (dead last) in "seasonally adjusted personal income growth" from the second to the third quarter in 2007. You can see a press release and accompanying tables on-line.

Vikings Stadium Talk?: A constituent called me the other night reporting on activities of the Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission related to a possible new Vikings Stadium. While the chances for a taxpayer-funded stadium in Blaine across the highway from my district seem to have passed (FYI, I was against the stadium and supported a referendum on any proposed Anoka-County only sales tax increase), the team is looking at the possibility of tearing down the Metrodome and building a new stadium. The MSFC is touting a recently completed McGladrey Report showing the economic benefits of sports stadiums. I don't buy it and cannot support taxpayer funding for a football stadium when we have so many other needs right now. There will be an open house and public meeting in Minneapolis on January 16th at 6:30 p.m. Here's a story on the economics of the Twins stadium that will give you a flavor for any future stadium discussion.

Schedule: On Monday, I met with Senator Rummel on issues of mutual interest. In the afternoon, I attended a joint hearing of the House Environmental Finance Committee and the Senate Environment & Natural Resources Finance Committee on wastewater. Speakers included the U of M on its onsite sewage treatment program; the U of M on using phosphorus and nitrogen from wastewater treatment to create algae for biofuels; the U of M on endocrine disruptors and pharmaceuticals in wastewater; and the MPCA on wastewater project financing. In the evening, I attended a meeting and presentation by Education Minnesota members from the Mounds View and Centennial School Districts. The presentation was on their legislative agenda for 2008. Major priorities include a statewide health insurance pool for teachers and the Rule of 90 retirement rules.

On Tuesday, I participated as a Project Citizen judge at Irondale High School in New Brighton. Rep. Knuth, former Rep. Steve Dehler, and I listened to 9th grader presentations on six different issues and how those students would solve a problem. Projects included arsenic in playground equipment, phosphorus in Long Lake, E-waste recycling, the Hennepin County waste incinerator, juvenile detention alternatives, and the Mounds View Community Center. The kids did a good job, although for the rest of the day I found myself using the words "like" and "whatever" a bit too much! During mid-day, I met in St. Paul with a staffer for a Congressional campaign. In the afternoon, I spoke to a group of canvassers for Clean Water Action in Minneapolis about the work of my Drinking Water Source Protection Subcommittee. Later I met by phone with some of my House colleagues about some potential legislation on consumer issues.

On Wednesday, I visited two power plants with members and staff for the House and Senate energy committees. The first was Xcel's Monticello Nuclear Generating Plant. This is one of two nuclear power plants in Minnesota and it generates about 600 megawatts. The second was Xcel's Sherburne County Plant (Sherco) in Becker. This is the largest coal burning power plant in the state at 2,400 megawatts. (Xcel's power plants in MN generate about 15,000 megawatts by comparison, or roughly half the state's electrical capacity.) The comparison was interesting. At the nuclear plant, security was very tight. I don't want to reveal that much about it, but let's just say that security knows where you are at any moment as a visitor and the guards are heavily armed with automatic or semi-automatic weapons! The plant is upgrading so that it can produce about another 90 megawatts over the next few years. Nuclear plants make people nervous because of the possibility of an accident, but the physical footprint of the plant was quite small and the fuel rods are good for about 22 months. The Sherco plant by contrast is a sprawling site with a coal ash landfill and a huge pile of coal (about 400 tons burned an hour), it's dirty, and it is probably the biggest emitter of greenhouse gas gases--mostly carbon dioxide--in the state. As a member of the energy committee, I do the math about our electrical supply. We've set the nation's most aggressive renewable energy goal. We've passed aggressive conservation and efficiency goals. We're investing in alternative technologies. But that still won't replace big existing power plants yet because renewables and conservation won't add up to 100% of our current supply. So the question arises--if carbon emissions from coal plants are now considered really bad, and nuclear power is considered undesirable, what public policy tradeoffs will there be?

On Thursday morning, I attended a meeting in Blaine where Anoka County presented its 2008 legislative agenda. The 2007 one is on-line so perhaps the new one will be on-line soon. Later in the day, I attended a presentation of "checks" to two arts groups in our area that came from the Metro Regional Arts Council. One of the recipients was the City of Shoreview, which got a $1,600 grant for the summer concert series at its pavillion. In the evening, I attended a reception for legislators at a joint meeting of the Metro North, Anoka, and Twin Cities North Chambers of Commerce. I was sort of expecting the chambers to tell us (there were about 15 legislators present) what their platform is but they wanted us to talk.

On Friday, Senator Rummel and I attended a legislative breakfast with the Centennial School District board, administration, and parent advocacy groups. Our education budget in 2007 included a significant down payment on special education mandates for school districts, so Centennial received some much needed funding that way this year. Two other legislators in attendance brought out the issue of "equity", saying that the formula dollars currently allocated should be shuffled differently among school districts without consideration for the number of special education students or those with language issues. Respectfully, this is just code for "I don't want to put in any more money into education," and I've seen these statements before! The most compelling argument for education funding reform is from a groups called P.S. Minnesota, which is suggesting that we need to figure out what it actually costs to educate a child and work backwards from there in the budget process. The Centennial Legislative Action Committee also has a platform available on-line.

Later in the morning, I attended a joint House-Senate hearing on the Minnesota Climate Change Advisory Group (MCCAG), which is recommending policy options for the 2008 legislation on how to combat global warming. The MCCAG gave us tables showing us dozens of ways (no till agricultural crop management, urban forestry, lowering the speed limit, better appliance standards, etc.) to reduce carbon emissions through 2025 and the cost per ton of those reductions. Of particular interest to me are the components that involve recycling, solid waste, and composting. (Recycling gives an extremely big bang for the buck on carbon emission reductions, FYI.) The MCCAG will complete their recommendations by the end of the month.

In the afternoon, I attended another joint House-Senate hearing on state parks and trails from the DNR. The DNR showed us a list of $143,640 in projects that have not been completed due to lack of funding. They include things like facility protection, campground renovation, and the like. In addition, the agency is discussing the possibility of acquiring a new state park on Lake Vermillion for roughly $40 from U.S. Steel, which would otherwise sell the land to developers. Much discussion ensued as to whether we have the money to secure the land and meet the needs of other state parks.

Constituent contacts: North Oaks resident supporting treatment for adolescent depression and school violence; Lexington resident supporting legalization of marijuana for medical purposes; Lino Lakes resident supporting use of lottery proceeds for additional purposes; Lino Lakes resident and Shoreview resident supporting a ban on hunting of mourning doves; four Lino Lakes residents against a ban on hunting mourning doves; Lino Lakes resident supporting the Governor's latest initiative against illegal immigration; North Oaks resident about buckthorn; Lino Lakes resident asking about Met Council rules and procedures; five constituents sending form letter e-mails asking for crackdown on illegal immigration; Lino Lakes resident against taxpayer funding for a Vikings Stadium; Blaine resident about crime issues in her area; Shoreview resident regarding MN Board of Medical Practice; Lino Lakes resident supporting dedicating funding bill for the outdoors

Friday, January 4, 2008

Week of December 30, 2007-January 5, 2008

Town hall meeting: With the legislative session coming up on February 12th, Senator Rummel and I will be holding a town hall meeting to meet with constituents on Wednesday, January 23rd at 7:00 p.m. at Lino Lakes City Hall. Directions are on the home page of the Lino Lakes web site.

Health Care Transformation Task Force: Many different commissions, task forces, and committees have been meeting during the summer, fall, and winter to propose changes to the health care system. One of the key ones is the Health Care Transformation Task Force. Expect to hear more on this blog about what might be in store during the legislative session. Of particular interest is how we can reduce costs for those people who already have health coverage. Here is a chart summarizing systemwide potential health care cost savings that could reach 17.5% by 2015. Additional reports and supporting materials for the task force can also be found on the web at the Department of Health web site.

Several other commissions have been meeting on a variety of issues, and their recommendations are located on the web.

Schedule: On Wednesday, I met with the finance director and city manager in Shoreview to learn how their water and sewer rates are set. My drinking water subcommittee is looking at how sewer and water rates create incentives or disincentives for conservation, so the meeting was very helpful! Shoreview does a pretty good job where if you use more than a basic level of water (15,000 gallons per quarter in the non-summer months) you are charged a higher rate. The same goes for sewer usage. However, water use has gone down over the last ten years in Shoreview and the "base rate" for water availability will need to be re-set so that the volume charge for water doesn't subsidize the basic connection costs. Later in the day I met with two different House researchers helping me draft two bills on drinking water and solid waste.

On Thursday, I attended an all-day retreat of the DFL House Caucus to discuss the upcoming session. (Blog readers will note that I don't give details on the contents of caucus meetings, since it is a chance for all DFLers in the House to express their frank views, and it is important to maintain the confidentiality of these meetings in order to encourage those frank discussions.)

On Thursday evening, I met with the Lexington City Council to discuss major issues coming before the legislature and to hear of those issues that affect the city. And here they are!

* Cable franchising: A bill in the legislature would create a statewide cable franchising system to theoretically create more competition (and possibly lower prices) for cable services. For example, Qwest would be able to have the right to enter the cable market to compete with Comcast in our area without having to negotiate individual franchise arrangements with local cable access commissions (like CTV 15 and North Metro 15). Local cable commissions are concerned that, as written, the bill will drastically cut the "PEG fees" that support local cable programming. They are also concerned that they will lose control over the franchising process but only wealthier communities with lots of cable consumers will get the benefits.

* Transportation: The City of Lexington and its taxpayers would benefit from a comprehensive transportation package. According to the state constitution, cities and counties receive 33% of gas tax and license tab fee revenues, which helps avoid more increases in city and county property taxes. This chart shows how it works. This is why I don't support the Governor's and House Republican proposals to bond more for trunk highways because trunk highway bonds can only pay for trunk highways, not city and county roads like the gas tax and license tab fees. We now owe about ten times more interest on trunk highway bonds than we did before 2003, when the legislature bonded for a large chunk of transportation funding. This is also why I supported increasing the gas tax in 2007--we can pay now or pay a lot more later.

* Local government aid (LGA): Lexington receives several hundred thousand dollars in LGA annually. The City of Lexington would like to see a recommitment to LGA in the 2009 budget. Interestingly, because the LGA funding formula in 2006 started giving cities with less than 5,000 population $6 per capita, the City of North Oaks gets about $26,000 in LGA, which tends to irritate other metro cities who are not getting LGA.

* Library: City Council members expressed an interest in communicating concerns about the possible closure of the Circle Pines library should a proposed Lino Lakes library get built. They would like to see some basic services remain for seniors and others who do not drive. (I just noticed that Anoka County Libraries has a Books by Mail service for homebound residents.)

* Rice Creek Trail: I'm authoring a bill to support construction of the Rice Creek North Regional Trail through the Rice Creek Chain of Lakes park in Lino Lakes and then through Circle Pines. The City Council was interested in supporting this request.

* Administrative fines: Forty percent of the city's budget is for public safety. Officers for the Centennial Lakes Police Department spend a lot of time at the county courthouse at city expense when they could issue city administrative fines for traffic violations instead. Currently the city must issue tickets through the county.

And, on Saturday, I met with parents from the Golden Lake Elementary PTA in Circle Pines.

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident about a Cub Scout visit to the Capitol; Lino Lakes resident about an upcoming education meeting; Shoreview resident asking about the campaign finance system in Minnesota; Shoreview resident passing along article about a Mexican health care initiative that has reduced hypertension in patients; two Circle Pines residents about a proposed cable franchising bill; two Lino Lakes residents, Shoreview resident, and Circle Pines resident supporting a ban on hunting morning doves; Shoreview resident asking about upcoming drinking water subcommittee meeting; North Oaks resident about health care