Tuesday, November 3, 2009

October 2009 Update

October turned out to be as busy as September, plus I had flu-like symptoms twice that knocked me out for a couple of days. Wash those hands!

Conservation Minnesota Award: On October 26th, I received a conservation leader award from Conservation Minnesota for my work on water conservation and solid waste. I am very honored to be in the company of Will Steger as well as my constituent Dr. Michael Kilgore for his work on the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Endocrine disruptors in Lake Owasso: The MPCA just issued a study that measured chemical compounds in our rivers and lakes that disrupt the endocrine systems of fish. Lake Owasso in Shoreview/Roseville was among those tested. The good news: Lakes where houses are connected to the city sewer have fewer endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in them. The bad news is that the EDCs go to sewage treatment plants where we can't get rid of the EDCs either. Lake Owasso has high level of organic wastewater compounds in it including DEET and high level of caffeine compared to other lakes tested.

Mental Health: Representative McFarlane and I attended a meeting hosted by NAMI-MN (National Association for Mental Illness), Health Partners, the Archdiocese Office of Social Justice, and the MN Psychiatric Society. The purpose was to discuss the Governor's unallotment and line-item veto of General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), a program that covers the health care costs of 30,000 people who have virtually no assets and are often chemically dependent and mentally ill. I voted to override the Governor's veto and Rep. McFarlane did not. My assertion in the meeting was that people with private health care coverage end up paying for people without health coverage who show up at the emergency room, and that saving GAMC is cheaper for those with insurance.

Later in the month, I met with an assistant commissioner for the Department of Human Services and his staff about their proposed re-design of State Operated Services (SOS), which are the state's treatment facilities for mental health.

On October 14th, several House committees held an informational hearing about mental health costs in the criminal justice system. We could save a lot of taxpayer dollars by better integrating information about mental health into law enforcement and corrections training.

Phone books: I had a good meeting with members of the Yellow Pages Association and Dex to hear about their efforts to allow consumers to opt-out of yellow pages delivery. State rules still require delivery of a white pages, and we might work on legislation to get rid of that rule.

Water: The MN Rural Water Association invited me to their training class on October 27th in St. Cloud about how to set water/sewer rates that create enough reserves to fund future upgrades. Not enough cities do this and they are often stuck going to the state for funding. They also talked about the conservation rate structure legislation that I authored last year.

Arsenals and race tracks: One proposal made to the City of Arden Hills for the use of the Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) is for a NASCAR track. I happen to be a NASCAR fan, but I am not a fan of this proposal. The 35W corridor between 694 and U.S. Hwy 10 is one of the most congested spots in the north metro because several corridors converge there. In addition, 694 is only two lanes wide from 35E to 35W. So this would be a congestion nightmare. Finally, the noise would likely carry for many miles.

Bioplastics/yard waste: KARE-11 did a story about my legislation on yard waste bags and the Star Tribune did an article as well. On October 19th I spoke about the topic to a national conference focused on using organic waste as an energy source. The MN Pollution Control Agency hosted a great panel discussion on-line on October 16th about biopolymers and their potential in Minnesota.

Campaign finance: A recent New York Times column outlines the many ways in which state campaign finance law there hinders democracy. The State Legislature has ceased to be an effective organization in recent months. I am pleased to say that many of the proposed reforms in the column are already law in Minnesota!

Reporting unsafe drivers: The MN Department of Public Safety has a web page where you can report unsafe drivers. The driver gets a letter notifying that somebody noticed them driving unsafely, and your contact information is not divulged.

Visited these folks or attended these meetings: Product Stewardship meeting in Eagan and Minneapolis about innovative ways to cut taxpayer costs for waste managment; gathering of north metro MN Utility Investors members in Shoreview; waste haulers in Prior Lake; White Bear Lake Area senior transportation meeting; Turtle Lake Elementary School kindergartners; water expert; Qwest area office in Shoreview; Capitol Beverage in Fridley; CTV15 cable TV station for interview on bike commuting; visit with Express Scripts in Bloomington about HF1217; boy scouts in Shoreview; Golden Lake PTA in Circle Pines; RAM/SWANA Conference on recycling, composting, etc.; Sierra Club members in Shoreview; Senator Rummel on issues of mutual interest; UPS Freight tour in Blaine

Visitors: Healthy Legacy lobbyist about state purchasing/bonding ideas that promote less toxic products; Chamber of Commerce representatives about product stewardship; group of about 20 members of the MN Council of Nonprofits learning about the legislature; lobbyists for syringe manufacturer and pharmaceutical products about my legislation; member of League of MN Cities regarding product stewardship proposals; General Accountability Office (GAO) researchers from Washington, D.C. following up on MN's e-waste recycling law; industry representatives from biopolymer sector