Monday, May 5, 2008

Week of May 4, 2008

Governor signs my manufactured housing bill: The Governor signed HF3477 on Monday, May 5th. This is the bill I authored to provide predatory lending protections for owners of manufactured housing, aka mobile homes.

Governor signs my algae-to-biofuels bill: The Governor signed SF2996/HF2903 last Thursday. This is the bill that allows wastewater effluent to count as a renewable energy source. This means that wastewater treatment plants can be phosphorus sources to grow algae into sources for biodiesel. The U of M is doing the research on algae.

Compost legislation amended: Parts of my solid waste bill (HF3540) ended up in other bills, but one provision that needed to get approved in a timely fashion needed to get amended to another bill in order to stay alive. Thursday afternoon, I introduced an amendment to make it easier for compost facilities to get a permit from the MPCA without the same burdensome process one needs for a landfill or transfer station. I spent a good three hours running around organizing it on Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. Eventually the amendment was put on SF3056, which went back to the Senate.

Primary seat belt provision sinks a transportation bill: Something unusual happened Thursday night. The omnibus transportation bill conference committee agreed on a bill that included a primary seat belt provision. This means that a police officer would be able to pull you over for not wearing a seat belt. Right now, you can only be fined for not wearing a seat belt if you are pulled over for another reason. This provision was not heard or voted on in the House but the Senate did approve it and Senators on the conference committee insisted on its inclusion in the final bill. The debate took quite a while, but the House voted to send the conference committee report back to the conference committee by a vote of 72 to 62. (I voted to keep it in the House so we could approve it--meaning I supported the primary seat belt provision.)

Opposition arose for several reasons. First, many House members did not like the Senate pushing so hard on a controversial measure when the House never had a hearing on the idea. Second, some members felt that this provision would lead to more racial profiling by police officers. Third, some members with a libertarian bent felt that this provision would take away individual freedom. So the opponents were most Republicans, inner city Democrats, and Democrats from northern Minnesota. It was an interesting coalition.

Updated report on special interest money in MN politics: Professor David Schulz of Hamline University issued a new report this month (which I just got) called "Price of Admission 2008: Political Money Trends in Minnesota." You can see lots of details of just how much PAC, lobbyist, and big donor contributions flowed to parties and candidates in the last two years. You can also see my campaign finance report for 2006 and 2007 in the links on the right side of the screen, where you can confirm that I didn't accept PAC or lobbyist contributions in the last campaign.

Schedule: On Monday we had a floor session from about 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. on a wide range of bills. On Tuesday, we did not have a floor session but I attended two caucus meetings and filmed a cable TV interview. On Wednesday, our floor session went from about 11:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. On Thursday, we were on the floor from 9:00 a.m. to about 1:00 a.m. Friday.

Visitors: Staff from Eureka Recycling about composting amendment; lobbyist for Municipal Legislative Commission on property tax relief proposals; lobbyist for Wells Fargo on upcoming mortgage foreclosure relief legislation; labor representative about minimum wage bill

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident about primary election process; North Oaks resident against requiring a photo ID to vote; Shoreview couple against HF1724 creating a licensing system for "naturopathic physicians"; Shoreview resident against a greater government role in health care; two Shoreview residents supporting the Central Corridor and the proposed Lake Vermillion State Park; Shoreview resident against taxes and spending generally; Lino Lakes resident supporting a primary seat belt law; Shoreview? resident supporting passage of the omnibus transportation policy bill-HF3800 with a primary seat belt provision; Circle Pines resident in favor of newborn DNA screening; Shoreview resident concerned about utility shut-offs for consumers; district resident supporting the continuation of the political contribution refund program that Republicans sought to eliminate during debate of the House tax bill; Circle Pines resident, Lexington resident about teacher pension issue; Lexington resident and Shoreview resident against House property tax relief bill; Circle Pines resident supporting HF3448 on gestational carrier arrangements (aka surrogate mother contracts); two Lino Lakes residents supporting proposed Lake Vermillion State Park; Lino Lakes resident frustrated with delaying tactics of House Republicans; district resident asking about general budget issues; Shoreview resident against clean car bill; Lino Lakes resident and Shoreview resident supporting my vote in favor of sex education; Circle Pines resident supporting additional funding for K-12 education and Rule of 90 teacher pension proposal, and against merger of two teacher pension funds; Shoreview resident supporting education funding and against subsidy for Mall of America; Circle Pines resident upset with DNR policies in general; Circle Pines resident supporting primary seat belt law & booster seat law