Sunday, March 30, 2008

Week of March 23, 2008

There was a letter in the Shoreview and Quad Communities Press this week disagreeing with my vote for the transportation bill. There was one point raised about the difference between bonding/borrowing for roads vs. bonding in the capital investment bill (the "bonding bill"), so I want to clarify this issue.

Every two years, the legislature puts together a bonding bill that borrows money for things like colleges, universities, state buildings, regional projects, and so on. According to a thirty-year old custom (arbitrarily set by Gov. Perpich), the legislature has a guideline to not incur debt service greater than three percent of general fund revenues in a bonding bill. This is not a law but it has served us well so far so that we don't get in over our heads. The idea is that we have a plan for paying back the bonds.

Borrowing for roads is not a bad thing UNLESS the legislature has no plan for paying back the bonds, and this was exactly what the legislature did in 2003 and 2005. The amount of interest we are paying for road borrowing went up by more than 500% since 2003. However, in this year's transportation bill, the legislature is still borrowing quite a bit for roads, but we have a plan to pay off the bonds--a 3.5 cent per gallon surcharge that will not kick in completely for several years.

Schedule: We had Easter Break through Tuesday. On Monday, I visited a Fridley beer wholesaler owned and operated by a constituent (Capitol Beverage Sales Ltd.) to hear about legislative issues related to that industry. On Tuesday, we had a floor session and two caucus meetings. I also attended short meetings of the Environment & Natural Resources Committee and the Heritage Finance Committee. In the evening from about 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. the Environmental Finance Committee met to mark up its omnibus finance bill (HF4201) and to pass out about ten bills to the floor.

My drinking water bill (HF3238) and solid waste bill (HF3540) were partially included in the omnibus bill. The parts of HF3238 included was the conservation rate structure for public water suppliers. (I made a few oral amendments to my language during the meeting and had a written amendment about consolidating reports on drinking water from state agencies.)

The included parts of HF3540 were three reports requested of the MPCA to tell the legislature how the state can reach 60% recycling and 15% composting goals by 2020; how to set up a comprehensive product stewardship for selected waste products; and how to reach a 40% recycling rate for construction and demolition debris in the seven-county metro by 2012. The reports will come back by the next legislative session.

On Wednesday, I attended a caucus meeting in the afternoon. Unfortunately I missed a few meetings because my drains were all backed up and I was waiting for a drain guy to show up! (Water was all over the kitchen floor and leaking in the basement.)

On Thursday we had a lengthy floor session dealing with "good faith legislation" which has been the focus of a lot of lobbying by the insurance industry.

On Friday, my bill on retail signage about phosphorus in fertilizer (HF3789) went to the Rules Committee. Another member felt that this bill should have gone to the Commerce Committee instead of right to the floor from the Agriculture Policy Committee. That was fine with me but since policy committee deadlines have passed the bill needed to go to Rules first.

Visitors: lobbyist and staff from Rock-Tenn Company about my drinking water bill; several members of the Farm Bureau from Watonwan County about their legislative agenda as part of their "Adopt-a-Legislator" program; several parents from Anoka-Washington County Head Start promoting early childhood programs; several students and staff from Oak Grove High School in North Oaks; Xcel lobbyists regarding an ash landfill in Washington County

Constituent contacts: Lino Lakes resident against ethanol, transit; five Lino Lakes residents supporting additional K-12 funding; Lino Lakes resident supporting PE requirements for K-12 education; Shoreview resident against health care reform proposals; Shoreview resident against ethanol subsidies; two Blaine residents, Lino Lakes resident, Shoreview resident supporting bill for animal chiropractic professionals; Shoreview resident supporting comprehensive sex education; Circle Pines resident against Q-Comp; Lino Lakes resident against HF3296 on independent contractors in the courier business; Lino Lakes resident against taxes generally; Circle Pines resident supporting cuts to state patrol who are handing out too many tickets; Blaine? resident against transportation bill; Shoreview resident against good faith bill; Shoreview resident against taxes; two Shoreview residents supporting Clean Cars legislation; two Centennial High School students writing on the death penalty--one for, one against; 15 constituents sending postcards in favor of Sportsmen for Change agenda; Shoreview resident and Circle Pines resident against sanctuary cities; Shoreview resident against comprehensive sex education; Shoreview resident against taxes; Circle Pines resident supporting "car repair for poverty" program (HF3113); four Shoreview residents supporting comprehensive sex education; Shoreview senior couple concerned about property taxes; Shoreview vet against animal chiropractic legislation; Shoreview? resident against taxes; Shoreview resident supporting "pedalpub" legislation (HF3849); two Circle Pines residents against new school report card legislation; Lino Lakes and North Oaks resident supporting delay in health care payment reform legislation; North Oaks resident against Governor's proposal to raid the Health Care Access Fund; Lino Lakes resident against removing funding for ATVs from gas tax revenues; about 20 callers about the transportation bill--half for, half against; Shoreview resident supporting transportation bill; two Shoreview residents against "good faith" legislation; Shoreview resident supporting transportation bill; Shoreview resident supporting E85; Circle Pines resident, Lino Lakes resident against health care reform proposal; two North Oaks resident and Shoreview resident against raiding the Health Care Access Fund to balance the budget; Shoreview resident asking that a specific nonprofit be included in legislation on a proposed statewide crisis phone network