Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The New Agenda

Now that the DFL is in the majority in the Legislature, a new direction is being charted for the betterment of Minnesotans. We sat down with Majority Leader Sertich for an informal breakdown.

We spent some time on education funding, specifically the desire to provide all day kindergarten to all districts. I was fortunate to find an all day kindergarten when my youngest attended Maxfield. These programs exist today based on the individual districts' ability, or desire, to fund them. The current proposal would increase a Kindergarten students' funding number to a full 1 point, from the current .5. I commented that it is almost sad we are still talking about this in 2007. It should have been a done deal long ago.

We talked about the struggle of formulating a universal health care package, one that will assist in providing coverage to those that need it, while easing the burden on those that currently subsidize the care of those uninsured. I segued into the smoking ban issue where Rep. Sertich emphatically exclaimed "It will pass!" Although he is with me in that it should be a business rights issue and not legislated, public opinion (70%+ in favor of a ban) along with a lobbying push makes some sort of a ban likely. In action yesterday, some compromise was reached in the Senate version:
The proposal approved Monday would phase in the requirements for ventilation, depending on how much alcohol the bar sells as a percentage of its revenue.

Another amendment removes a provision that allows counties and municipalities to impose stronger ordinances than any state statute.

Supporters who had hoped for a streamlined process are witnessing their first major hurdle in what is considered the Senate's most business-friendly committee, the Business Industry and Jobs Committee. It rejected a proposal to give bars until 2009 to comply with a full ban.
It was refreshing to have such a candid opportunity to visit with house leadership, especially on what was amounting to a very busy day, the Holiday not withstanding. This was even more evident, when Rep Aaron Peterson spent a half hour with us. Rep Peterson was gearing up for a major floor debate on his Renewable Energy Bill. He has been committed to this issue for some time, and now had a bill that was being recognized as having "the strongest renewable-energy standards in the nation" Peterson acknowledged that his communication with the Governor's office was positive, providing he could get a clean bill out of the house that would avoid a conference committee. Last night, he was successful:
he legislation, which passed 123-10, mandates more production of such things as wind, hydrogen and solar power and sets in motion a timetable to increase the state's use of renewable energy for the next 18 years.
Thanks to Reps. Sertich and Peterson for taking the time out of their busy days to meet with us, and to Zack for the invitation.

I would gladly accept an invitation from the GOP House leadership, have your people E-Mail my people.


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