Friday, February 27, 2009

Week of February 22, 2009

Budget listening session in White Bear Lake: About ten of us from the legislature attended a public meeting at White Bear Lake High School on Wednesday night. The purpose was to hear ideas from the public about balancing the budget. We heard from 72 different people. The most numerous comments came from advocates for the disabled, the judiciary, health care, and quite a few people who were against taxation generally. The press coverage of a similar meeting in Woodbury pretty much sums up what we heard in White Bear Lake.

Legislation: This week four of my bills received committee hearings:

  • HF239: This bill would allow homeowners to permit the recovery of damages incurred due to faulty construction. There are several of us from the suburbs who are carrying legislation to assist homeowners related to breaches of warranties by builders and remodelers. This bill would allow homeowners to recover the cost of lodging, meals, and incidental expenses if they have to leave their house due to repairs. You can see video of Friday's hearing. The bill passed with an amendment and the resulting 1st "engrossment" will be the second draft of the bill and it will be heard in the Commerce and Labor Committee soon.
  • HF403: This bill will help create jobs and add value to the economy in both the compost industries and the bioplastics industry. The compost industry has had problems with plastic bags in yard waste, leading to lower interest from buyers like landscapers because of the contamination. The bill would expand Dakota County's existing requirement that yard waste in plastic bags must use compostable bags to the entire seven-county metro area. At the same time, Minnesota is home to many bioplastics manufacturers like Cortec Corp. in White Bear Lake, Natur Tec in Circle Pines, and NatureWorks LLC in Minnetonka who make the compostable bags. The bill passed with amendments and now goes to the Commerce and Labor Committee. You can watch video of the hearing on-line.
  • HF663: This bill would require that truth in taxation notices for your property taxes get mailed before the November general election. You can see the video of the hearing. The bill was "laid over" by the Property Tax Division of the Taxes Committee so it might get included into an omnibus bill by that division. There were several lobbyists for the school board association and the Association of Minnesota Counties as well as the Department of Revenue who testified against the bill.
  • HF170: This bill would require publishers of telephone directories to allow consumers to opt out of delivery. I asked for an informational hearing only since I want to spend most of my legislative time helping to create jobs or address the deficit. The Yellow Pages Association and R.H. Donnelly testified about the bill and demonstrated Dex's opt out web site. You can hear audio of the hearing on-line. This hearing concluded my work on this issue for the year. KARE-11 did a web article on the bill on the KARE website.
Blaine Airport meeting: On Tuesday the Concerned Citizens of the North Metro had a meeting about the possible extension of the runway at the Anoka County-Blaine Airport. It was fiery in a few spots. You can view the meeting on the North Metro 15 web site-the video on-line is a .wmv file.

Stimulus tracking site: The official web site about the recently passed federal stimulus package is at (This the site that Vice President Joe Biden forgot.)

Schedule: Monday included a meeting with Senator Jungbauer and some stakeholders about HF500 on recycled water standards, a meeting with compost stakeholders on HF403, a caucus meeting, and a floor session that went pretty long. (The floor session covered a bill regarding the fund for the 35W bridge survivors and a bill that would provide the structure necessary for the incoming federal stimulus money.) On Tuesday, I attended a bi-partisan meeting of legislators seeking to promote comprehensive immigration reform, a committee caucus meeting, a Health Care & Human Services (HCHS) Policy Committee meeting, an Environment & Natural Resources Policy Committee meeting (a joint meeting with the Transportation Committee on reducing carbon emissions in the transportation sector), and a meeting of the Concerned Citizens of the North Metro regarding the Blaine airport. Wednesday included presenting my bill HF663 in front of the Property Tax Division of the Taxes Committee, a meeting with the Speaker and Majority Leader, a meeting of House and Senate members from the fourth Congressional District regarding recommendations of a candidate for the U of M Board of Regents, a committee caucus meeting, an HCHS committee meeting on single-payer health care, a caucus meeting, and the town hall meeting at White Bear Lake South High School to hear from the public on the budget. On Thursday, I attended a pre-session caucus meeting, a short floor session, did short interviews for cable for North Metro 15 and CTV15, an HCHS committee meeting on a range of mental health legislation, and an Environment & Natural Resources Committee on the Green Acres program. On Friday, I presented my phone book bill (HF170) to the Telecommunications Division of the Commerce and Labor Committee and my homeowner warranty bill (HF239) and compost bill (HF403) to the Labor & Consumer Affairs Division of the Commerce and Labor Committee. In the afternoon I met with special education staff at Mounds View High School.

Visitors: Shoreview resident seeking reform of charitable gaming tax rates; Shoreview resident regarding funding for the developmentally disabled; lobbyists for waste haulers regarding HF403; several arts advocates from NE Metro; four constituent nurses for the MN Nurses Association day on the hill; high school student about recycling and composting issue; Lino Lakes college student about the private college grant program; three constituent dentist for the MN Dental Association day on the hill; Shoreview constituent about property tax cap legislation; St. Paul retailer about pharmaceutical product stewardship legislation; three constituent students for Support the U of M day

Constituent contacts: Shoreview resident and North Oaks resident supporting voter ID; Lino Lakes resident against taxes and spending; Shoreview resident inquiring about federal stimulus package; Shoreview resident inquiring about how to become a vendor of a product to the state; two Shoreview residents and Lino Lakes resident supporting HF1037, a bill to reduce mandates for home schools; Lino Lakes resident supporting platform of MN Dental Association; three Shoreview residents supporting single-payer health care; Shoreview resident supporting HF359 that would require health plans to cover autism treatment; Shoreview resident against cuts to providers of services to the developmentally disabled; Shoreview resident and grouse hunter supporting aquisition of conservation easements in northern MN; Lino Lakes resident with a car payment problem; Shoreview resident supporting legalization of marijuana; three Lino Lakes residents and Shoreview resident seeking integrity in the use of new dedicated sales tax revenue for the outdoors; Lino Lakes resident against Governor's proposed cuts to rehabilitation services; two Lino Lakes residents supporting medical marijuana; Shoreview resident pining for Ronald Reagan; Shoreview resident against Governor's proposed cuts to the courts; Shoreview resident supporting cutting spending; Blaine resident with idea to keep businesses from going offshore; North Oaks resident against voter ID and against mileage-based gas tax; Shoreview resident supporting racino gambling