Monday, April 28, 2008

Week of April 27, 2008

Property Tax Refund Calculator: The House Tax Committee has unveiled a property tax bill that will allow for greater property tax refunds for many Minnesotans. It is revenue-neutral, which means that it will not require a tax increase. You can figure out your own property tax refund on-line at the House web site. Click on "Calculate property tax relief proposed in HF3149, omnibus tax bill."

Mall of America: The media has been reporting on a bill that would subsidize the cost of a parking ramp at the Mall of America II project as part of building the new mall. Part of the proposed subsidy would be funded from a pool of money called the "fiscal disparities" program which is 40% of the commercial and industrial property taxes collected in the metro area. My constituents in Anoka County have lower property taxes because of this program, so this mall bill is problematic or me and I find it unacceptable in its current form. I am also not supportive of subsidizing a private business in this way.

Bills pass: The conference committee report on HF3477 passed on the House floor on Monday afternoon. A discussion of this bill dealing with predatory lending protections for manufactured housing owners is in the previous blog entry. It passed 126-3.

One of my other bills, SF2996/HF2903, also passed on the floor on Monday. It would count wastewater effluent as a source of renewable energy in order to promote the use of research of algae for biofuels. Wastewater treatment effluent has a lot of phosphorus in it and that can be used to increase growth in algae that can be used to make biodiesel. Renewable energy status allows producers of this energy to qualify for grants and the like. This bill passed 130-0. Senator Rummel has the Senate version and they are now identical.

Blog article: Several daily newspapers in Greater MN published by Forum Communications carried an article about political blogs and blogs of elected officials this week, and I had a bit quote in it. You can read it on-line.

Burn barrel bill: My bill (HF2802) that would curb open burning of household garbage--the largest source of dioxin pollution in the United States--made some waves in Greater Minnesota this week. The weekly Agri News carried two articles on the bill and about ten farmers have called to share their views. (See "Proposed Ban on Barrel-Burning is Controversial," "Shoreview DFLer Wants Comments on Proposed Burning Ban".)

Health care attitudes: One of the things I really wanted to do in this job is get a better idea from constituents about what kind of change in our health care system that they want, with the end result being health coverage for all, lower costs per capita, and improved quality. It has been frustrating because health care policy is so complicated. MPR did a story on how consumers want change but people are conflicted about what that change should be.

Schedule: On Monday we had a lengthy floor session from about 1:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. The major bill was the E-12 education policy bill. We spent a few hours on an amendment on sex education. I've been on record supporting comprehensive sex education as long as there is an opt-out provision should parents and students want an alternative curriculum, and I supported the amendment. Before session I attended a rally by Minnesota film industry workers who were supporting the reinstatement of a rebate for their industry to help attract feature films to MN. A constituent from Blaine asked me to attend and I spoke to a few people at the rally.

On Tuesday, after taking my son to the doctor, I attended a caucus meeting at the Capitol. On Wednesday, we had a floor session from 10:30 a.m. to about 5:45 p.m. covering a lot of smaller bills, including some miscellaneous energy bills. On Thursday, we had a floor session and a caucus meeting. Major bills include the minimum wage bill (I voted in support) and a resolution to Congress supporting the Employee Free Choice Act (I voted in support). We also discussed a bill that would ban the use of decabromodiphenylether (DBPE), a flame retardant that is a persistent bio-accumulative toxin.

Visitors: three people from MN Catholic Conference asking for support of an increase in the minimum wage; grassroots organizers from AFL-CIO presenting letters of support from constituents in support of an increase in the minimum wage; Lino Lakes constituent, labor organizer, and lobbyist together to promote subsidy for Mall of America parking ramp

Constituent contacts: nine constituents sending form letters supporting the Taxpayers' League Tax Cut Petition; Shoreview constituent against "left-wing" agenda of advocates for combatting climate change; Lino Lakes resident against a bill in Congress on immigration; district resident reporting on graduated drivers license issue for Mounds View High School student newspaper; Lino Lakes resident supporting state subsidy for parking ramp at Mall of America II project; Shoreview resident with question about deductibility of federal stimulus checks from state taxes (they are exempt from taxation); Lino Lakes resident against No Child Left Behind; Lino Lakes resident supporting Judge Roy Moore of Alabama; Circle Pines resident against biofuel subsidies and subsidy for Mall of America II project; Shoreview resident supporting private school vouchers; Lino Lakes resident supporting HF4178 for comprehensive school funding; Shoreview resident and Lino Lakes resident against reduced payments to safety net hospitals; Shoreview resident supporting funding for Minnesota Principals' Academy; two Shoreview residents, Blaine resident, and North Oaks resident against subsidy for Mall of America II project; Lino Lakes resident supporting algae-to-biofuels research; Shoreview resident supporting funding for a Minneapolis veterans' home and a Lake Vermillion State Park; Shoreview resident against Central Corridor; Shoreview resident against property tax bill; Shoreview resident against Mall of America II project and supporting enforcing agreements that the state has with Northwest Airlines; Shoreview resident supporting of Staffing for Patient Safety bill for nurses; Shoreview resident supporting Employee Free Choice resolution; Shoreview resident supporting MN Taxpayers League platform; Shoreview resident supporting Rule of 90 pension proposal for teachers; North Oaks resident asking about property tax bill and its affect on seasonal recreation property; Shoreview resident supporting a photo ID to vote; three Lino Lakes residents, Circle Pines resident supporting a citizens council for proposed outdoor funding sales tax revenue allocation; Shoreview resident against current route of the Central Corridor; Shoreview business owner supporting Early Stage Capital Access bill (HF3538); Shoreview resident supporting minimum wage; Circle Pines resident supporting approval of medical marijuana; North Oaks resident, two Circle Pines residents, Lino Lakes resident, two Shoreview residents supporting comprehensive sex education; two Lino Lakes residents and Circle Pines resident against comprehensive sex education; five Lino Lakes residents and Shoreview resident on a teacher pension issue