Area legislators review 2007 session highlights

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The Bugle sat down recently with three legislators who represent out readership to talk about the recently completed 2007 state legislative session, as well as what’s in store for the future.

1. What are you most pleased about from the 2007 session?

Sen. Ellen Anderson: This was a historic year for the environment. We passed a renewable energy standard, something I’ve been working on for the last six years. Our bill is one of the strongest in the country. We passed legislation on reducing global warming. The East and West coasts have been leading the way on this issue, but Minnesota is now poised to become a leader in the Midwest. We secured $4.5 million for the St. Paul Port Authority to study steam generation at the Rock-Tenn plant.

Sen. John Marty: I think we did a pretty good job on environ-mental legislation. We’re not where we need to be yet, especially regarding our commitments to reduce global warming, but we’re getting there. We made some progress on reducing mercury pollution although, again, there’s more to be done.

Rep. Alice Hausman: We passed good bills on energy, the environment and public safety. We finally owned up to our responsibility to fund special education, which will be an enormous help for the St. Paul School District. Although we didn’t pass the bonding bill, that legislation included 10 transit projects, all of which attracted statewide support. We’re starting to learn that states that invest in their urban core are healthy states.

2. What are you most disappointed about?

Anderson: We weren’t able to pass a bill to place a constitutional question on the ballot regarding dedicated funding for the environment. However, we have another year to work on that. We didn’t pass a bonding bill. We got a little property tax relief but not enough, and previous cuts in local government aid were not restored, which will continue to hurt St. Paul. We didn’t get as much money for education as we need.

Marty: We still don’t recognize the value and importance of investing in prevention. A greater commitment to prevention would, in the long run, reduce state expenditures on crime, health care, chemical dependency and special education. We need to learn that ignoring our problems won’t make them go away; they’ll only get worse.

Hausman: We had to scale back some of our best bills. For example, in K–12 education we had to cut the Dream Act, which would have provided in-state college tuition for immigrants who have attended elementary, junior high and high school in Minnesota. The health bill doesn’t include domestic partner benefits, which isn’t even a matter of discussion anymore in the business community.

3. What will you be working on next?

Anderson: I continue to serve on the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). We’ll be touring the state to evaluate possible environmental projects for funding with state lottery money. I think state government made some important decisions this year to improve the environ-ment. I continue to be concerned about how we can help individ-uals make environmentally beneficial decisions.

Marty: The big thing is health care reform. We now spend $6600 per person per year in this country on health care. We can’t sustain that. Health care costs will bankrupt businesses, schools and the government if we don’t do something. I favor a single-payer plan, and I’ll continue my efforts in the Senate to help Minnesota be a leader on this issue, with the hope of influencing federal legislation.

Hausman: As chair of the Capital Investment Committee, I and other committee members will be touring the state to look at projects for next year’s bonding bill. These are important decisions. A bonding bill of $1 billion provides employment for about 10,000 people, so there is a tremendous economic advantage to the state when government invests in infra-structure. I’ll also continue my emphasis on developing a regional approach to mass transit and leveraging federal money to support Minnesota projects.