Saturday, November 29, 2008

Week of November 23, 2008

Sick and tired of unwanted phone books (or want more?): While I spent time knocking on doors this fall, constituents had just received a new phone book and many asked how to avoid getting them. I worked on legislation on this issue in 2008 to give consumers the option to "opt out" of getting a phonebook. Since Dex has created a solution to give consumers the option of controlling how many, if any, phone books you would like to receive, I thought I would like to know how to go about it.

Dex has developed an online web page which allows users to find out which directories they are currently receiving and alter what type and how many they would like to receive in the future. There is also a link to the phone numbers for other directory publishers.

Here are the steps required to alter the amount of directories you receive.

Step # 1 - Go to
Step # 2 - On right hand side of the screen, enter your zip code
Step #3 - Near bottom of the screen click “Proceed to select your Dex link”
Step #4 - Fill out information on right side of screen. Under “Available Directories in Your Area” make sure you’ve checked the number “0” next to each listed directory if you do not want to receive anymore phone books. (You can also order additional directories if you choose.

Dex has a toll-free number (1-866-547-5100) available for anyone who would rather change their phonebook service via telephone rather than use the Internet. Other publications include Yellow Book (800-YB-YELLOW) and Verizon (800-555-4833).

Visit to District Court in Anoka: One of my constituents is a district court judge in Anoka, and she invited me to observe the court system at the Tenth Judicial District on Tuesday, November 25th. During the morning, I sat through about a dozen probation violation hearings, three short trials where drivers were contesting their tickets, and a few felony hearings for drug violations. There were plenty of defendants who I think probably were scared straight because of their experience with the criminal justice system, and there were a few people who were never going to get their act together. Two years ago I had the opportunity to tour the Lino Lakes prison, and I plan to do a ride-along with some local law enforcement agency soon, so I'll have the complete picture!

Centennial Community Education: I met with staff from Centennial School District regarding community education initiatives, such as "educational, recreational, social, and cultural programs [that] include enrichment classes, outings, drivers education, swimming lessons, and more." I was particularly interested in the Adult Continuing Education program, which includes help with GED preparation among other opportunities. Statistics about who is going back for a GED were particularly enlightening.

Schedule: No committee or working group meetings during this short holiday week

Visitors: A Senator regarding paratransit issues; constituent dentist about dental licensing policy; Centennial School District community education staff regarding their programs

Constituent contacts: Lino Lakes resident supporting Rule of 90 teacher pension legislation; two constituents reporting that pollsters called them asking about why they voted the way they did for the 53A race earlier this month; North Oaks resident reacting to story about the Fergus Falls school superintendent recruiting Chinese students; Shoreview resident about upcoming reconstruction of Highway 49 through Shoreview; Shoreview resident about the hazards of buying gift cards for retailers who are entering bankruptcy or who are closing for good; Shoreview resident supporting Wine with Dinner legislation to allow wine sales in grocery stores; Shoreview resident asking if I am a member of ISAIAH and whether I endorse its views (see link to organization on the right); Shoreview resident supportive of Blaine airport runway extension; Lino Lakes resident seeking additional financial support for K-12 education; Circle Pines resident supporting legislation to increase recycling of cans and bottles

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Week of November 16, 2008

Met Council Water Supply Plan: The Metropolitan Council has prepared a draft of its Master Water Supply Plan. Since I work on drinking water issues, I have been plowing through the draft, which is available on the web. There are public meetings coming up before the end of the year, and you can see when these meetings will be held on the link above. You can also read the plan.

Airport follow-up: The Metropolitan Airports Commission has a web page on the Blaine Airport (aka Janes Field), as does Anoka County. I also found a list of noise abatement procedures for the airport. ABC Newspapers did a pretty complete article on the recent situation. The operator of the airport is Key Air. Finally, legislation would be required to expand the airport runway to 6,000 feet, since it would move from a minor airport to an intermediate airport. (Look at subdivision 4 for details in Minnesota Statutes 473.641.) The MAC also has a noise complaint website where you can report airport noise issues.

Schedule: Monday, November 17th included meetings with the Citizens League on their water governance initiative, Senator Rummel on drinking water issues, and a former intern who is working on an instant runoff voting initiative. Tuesday, November 18th included attendance at the Anoka County Airport Committee (see next post), a meeting with St. Paul-Ramsey County Environmental Health Division staff about solid waste issues; and a visit to a Lutheran Social Services intermediate care facility in Shoreview where eight developmentally disabled adults live. The latter included an in-depth discussion of state funding issues that affect this facility. It was an eye-opener! In the evening, I attended a meeting of the full House DFL Caucus. On Wednesday, November 19th I met with a North Oaks resident about a health care legislative proposal and met with canvassers at Clean Water Action to discuss my work on drinking water. (I also turned 41 on the 19th.) On Thursday, November 20th, I attended a meeting of the Minnesota Historical Society, whose state funds are allocated by a committee I serve on. On Friday, November 21st, I met with two St. Thomas students working on a class project on scrap tire recycling and met with different house researchers about potential legislation. In the afternoon, I attended a meeting of the Working Group on Ethnic Heritage & New Americans. We participated in a video conference with the Iowa Workforce Development agency and a similar Illinois agency about their efforts to integrate immigrants into their workforce.

Constituent contacts: Approximately two dozen constituents e-mailed me about the proposed Blaine airport expansion. One was neutral on the issue and two were in favor, and the rest were against it. Shoreview resident seeking an interview for a college paper; North Oaks resident and high school student seeking meeting about class project; Lino Lakes resident seeking information about how to start a recall petition for Anoka County Commissioners; district resident asking about stipulations for contractors on Twins stadium; Lino Lakes resident supporting get-tough policy on immigration; North Oaks resident about special education

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Blaine Airport Expansion Public Meeting

The Blaine Airport expansion issue has gotten a lot of attention during the last few days. This morning in Anoka, the county's airport committee (Commissioners LeDoux, Erhart, and West) recessed their meeting so that a public meeting could be held to get input from local residents.

That meeting will be December 2nd at 7:00 p.m. at Kingswood Church, 1264 109th Ave NE, Blaine (just west of Hwy 65). Representatives of Key Air (which operates the airport) and the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) will be there.

[11/21 note: This meeting has now been cancelled as Anoka County will not be acting on the resolution to support airport expansion.]

There were several dozen county residents in attendance this morning as well as numerous reporters.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Early November 2008

Blaine Airport Expansion: I just received word that Anoka County is considering an expansion of the Blaine Airport from 5,000 feet to 6,000 feet. About four years ago I was aware that an original expansion to 5,000 feet would allow planes to do "instrument landings," meaning that they could land without having the engine cranked up and therefore could reduce noise over my district in Lexington, Circle Pines, Lino Lakes, and possibly Shoreview. The expansion to 6,000 feet would allow more safety but would bump up the Blaine Airport up to "intermediate airport" status, which could allow more flights and larger planes flying over 53A. Minnesota Statutes 360.365 has a list of the aircraft that can fly into an intermediate airport: single engine or light to medium multiengine aircraft. Right now the airport can accommodate single engine or light multiengine planes.

[11/17 update: I have received a ton of e-mail from constituents in Circle Pines, Lino Lakes, Lexington, and Shoreview complaining about increased noise from flights just in the last year.]

Anoka County is considering a resolution that would support the expansion, but there hasn't been a whole lot of public information about it. However, on Tuesday, November 18th, Anoka County's airport committee and intergovernmental committees will be meeting to act on the resolution starting at 11:00 a.m. in the Anoka County Government Center. The legislature would have to act on this expansion as well but this would be a good opportunity for citizens to give their input. I will be attending the meeting, and would appreciate any input from district residents to pass along.

Park and ride update: The Met Council informs me that a park-and-ride at Highway 14 and 35W (in Lino Lakes just a few blocks east of Centerville) is likely to be designed in 2009 and then built in 2010 or 2011.

Shoreview to Minneapolis express bus to stay: Metro Transit reports that it will keep running the 261 express bus from Shoreview City Hall to Minneapolis three times a day in each direction. Metro Transit set up a demonstration route of the route last year by extending to route from Roseville City Hall to Shoreview. If there were more than 16 riders between Shoreview and Roseville, the route would stay. The ridership has been strong and steady, and the route is now permanent!

E-waste: There was a story on 60 Minutes on November 9th about how some electronic waste from the United States ends up poisoning communities in China. I'm working on some legislation that would help address this issue in Minnesota, but much of the responsibility and enforcement lies with the federal government. In another development, a non-profit group called the Electronics TakeBack Coalition just issued a report card on the major TV manufacturers on their recycling programs.

Conservation Rate Structure legislation follow-up: Legislation I authored last year required public water suppliers to create a conservation rate structure to promote conservation of our drinking water supply. The DNR has prepared a two-page primer for water authorities to better understand how the rates work.

Higher Education Veterans Programs: While at Century College in November, I found a helpful brochure and web site informing veterans, military personnel, and their families of their opportunites for higher education.

Schedule: Things have picked up since the election! On Thursday, November 6th, I spoke at the Recycling Association of Minnesota's annual conference about legislation related to solid waste and recycling. In the evening, the House DFL Caucus met in St. Paul and we elected Margaret Kelliher as Speaker and Tony Sertich as Majority Leader. On Monday, November 10th, I attended a Metropolitan Council District Dialogue in Maplewood, where Peter Bell gave an update on actions by the Met Council. Many city, county, and state elected officials attended. Later, I attended a meeting of the Lincoln Bicentennial Commission in St. Paul. Rep. Dean Urdahl (R-Grove City) is the organizer and I'm the DFLer on the committee. On Thursday, November 13th, I spoke to a group of canvassers at Clean Water Action in Minneapolis about recent drinking water issues at the Legislature. In the afternoon, I attended a Veterans' Day ceremony at Century College to help open a new veterans' center. My colleague Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake), who has been a member of the MN National Guard for several decades, gave the keynote address. Later in the afternoon, I attended a meeting in Circle Pines regarding the future opening of a county library in Lino Lakes, and then I stopped by a reception in North Oaks to welcome the new members of the city council. On Friday, November 14th, I participated in a meeting by the MPCA on product stewardship of beverage containers. The states of Wisconsin and Minnesota are engaging the beverage industry about how to increase recycling of cans and bottles. (Recycling cans in particular helps reduce energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.)

During this period I have also been working with House Research staff to figure out what legislation I will be working on in 2009. Constituents and colleagues have been suggesting a ton of ideas of things to address where I might be able to help. I also managed to clean up my office so I can find stuff and be ready for the session.

Constituent contacts: Lino Lakes and Circle Pines residents about proposed Blaine Airport expansion; Shoreview resident asking about legislative plans to balance the budget for the 2010-2011 biennium; Shoreview resident about Congressional action on a federal lands issue; Shoreview resident asking for legislation prohibiting dog tethering (we all got about 200 identical e-mails on this from all over the state); Lino Lakes resident and Circle Pines resident supporting get-tough strategy for illegal immigration

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Results & Next Steps

The election brought a victory of more than 1,000 votes on Tuesday evening. Thanks to the voters for their support of my re-election! Big thanks also go to my campaign team of Tom McSteen, Matt & Jennifer Percy, Dawn Reckinger, Mike Spellman, and Judy Ohannesian. They and dozens of others did an incredible job. My opponent John Kappler also worked very hard (I can attest to how many doors he knocked!) and I enjoyed getting to know him during the campaign.

The legislative session will start Tuesday, January 6th. In the meantime, the House DFL Caucus will meet Thursday evening, November 6th, where we are likely to elect a Speaker and Majority Leader. We will also meet again in November and December to begin looking at our legislative strategy for 2009. Balancing the budget will be a major challenge with the economic downturn.

If you are interested in getting e-mail updates from me during the legislative session, you can sign up at

More to follow!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Immigration Mailing & Per Diem mailing

Saturday, November 1 brought a new mailer from the Freedom Club PAC talking about voting record about illegal immigration. Here's some context.

DREAM Act: In state tuition for students whose parents came here illegally

I support this provision because demographers tell us that the number of high school graduates is declining at a time when baby boomers are retiring. Businesses are concerned that there will not be enough college graduates to fill needed positions over the next two decades. The Minnesota Chamber of Commerce also supported this position. The group ISAIAH has some other rationale for this legislation at

Sanctuary Cities

I voted for an amendment to allow local law enforcement to ask about immigration status at traffic stops in so-called sanctuary cities but I voted against an amendment to withhold local government aid unless law enforcement was required to ask about immigration status. The federal government rarely picks up people who are detained over their immigration status by local officers, so we end up picking up the tab as we clog up our courts enforcing federal law. Law enforcement agencies in Minneapolis and St. Paul have been against this legislation because it keeps otherwise law-abiding residents from assisting police in solving crimes.

Gas Tax Refund

An amendment was introduced to make undocumented immigrants ineligible for the $25 tax rebate that Minnesotans in the lowest income tax bracket can qualify for to offset the recent gas tax increase. Why would someone here illegally A) file a tax return to draw attention to themselves and B) push their luck with the authorities by applying for a $25 tax refund?

Photo ID to vote

In 2006, less than 20 people voted as non-citizens in Minnesota out of 3 million voters. A photo ID requirement would suppress many more votes than 20. I’ve got 34 constituents who are nuns who get around on Metro Mobility and don’t drive. They would have to get bussed to the courthouse and show a birth certificate to PAY for a photo ID just to vote. Election judges are already empowered to challenge a voter’s eligibility at the polls. The League of Women Voters has a very good explanation why requiring a photo ID at the polls is not a good idea at

Also see this Politico article about the myth of voter fraud:


Minnesota has prohibited the use of welfare benefits for immigrants who are here illegally. You have to provide a social security number anyway to get benefits, thus allowing increased protection against fraud. It should be noted that a staff member of Gov. Pawlenty's Human Services Department was recently indicted for welfare fraud when he funneled $1 million to a private account, which is just as heinous. Here is a summary of the national discussion:

Republican Party Mailing: There was another mailing late last week "How Much More Can You Afford?" with someone lighting a $100 bill. It mentions my vote in favor of the comprehensive transportation bill but also cites House Journal 4052 on a vote in favor of higher per diem and year-round housing for legislators. This is a little misleading. With this one exception, I have voted with the Republicans at every turn to allow the House as a whole to vote on the per diem increase. The House Rules Committee voted to increase it from $66 per day to $77 day without a floor vote. (My per diem is $35 per day on weekdays only while we are in session, one of the lowest in the legislature--and lower than that of any Republican.)

For housing for legislators--this only applies to legislators who live 50 miles or more from the Capitol and I didn't feel I had the knowledge to know whether or not the current housing allowance is the right number. The reason I voted in April 2007 in HJ4052 was because Rep. Steve Sviggum was trying to set a specific per diem rate in statute, and I have a problem with putting specific dollar figures into law--for example, we could LOWER per diem but we'd have to repeal the figure in Rep. Sviggum's proposed legislation. This is another case where the minority was trying to come up with all sorts of votes to use at election time.