Capitol Catchall: The town hall meetings are coming


Minnesota’s members of the House of Representatives are back in their home districts gauging how constituents feel about federal issues. That feedback will also include town hall meetings for a number of Congress members including Reps. Tim Walz, Collin Peterson and Michele Bachmann. Will Minnesota’s town halls get as rowdy as ones around the nation? Time will tell. Here’s what Minnesota’s Congressional delegation was up to this week.

Rep. Tim Walz toured the new Veterans Administration Community-Based Outpatient Clinic in Rochester on Monday. “This is one small part of paying back a debt that can never be paid to our veterans,” he said.

Walz Also on Wednesday, Walz joined Sen. Al Franken for a tour of St. Cloud’s VA Medical Center and held a private meeting with VA officials.

Walz has planned a two-hour town hall meeting for Thursday, Aug. 20, at Mankato East High School. Doors will open at 5:30 pm.

Rep. John Kline has been railing against No Child Left Behind in the wake of school performance numbers being released this week. “While its overall goal of ensuring children are not systematically left behind in our nation’s schools is right on target, the heavy-handed involvement of the federal government in administering the program has tied the hands of local schools and districts and prevented them from making the targeted decisions necessary to address their specific challenges,” said Kline.

Kline does not have a town hall meeting scheduled but has told the media that he is meeting with chambers of commerce and will host an education roundtable. He is also planning a telephone town hall meeting.

Rep. Erik Paulsen will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting and a get-together with various interest groups in the district.

Rep. Betty McCollum held a health care town hall in July. The Strib reports that she’s considering hosting another.

Rep. Keith Ellison, on a tour of Africa, is talking with leaders, activists and non-governmental organizations about genocide, HIV, malaria, poverty, violence against women and a host of other issues impacting the continent. On Twitter Thursday, he said he couldn’t wait to get home. “Niarobi: Mpls next. Praises! Not that I don’t love Africa. Khartoum, Darfur, Juba, Niarobi, Kisumu, Dadaab, but there’s no place like home.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann will hold a health care town hall meeting on the 27th, but details are still in the works.

Rep. Collin Peterson has scheduled a series of town hall meetings — three so far. On is on Friday in Willmar at 2 p.m. at the Kandiyohi County Health and Human Services Building. The other is Monday in Bemidji.

Rep. James Oberstar chastised states this week that have been slow in implementing their stimulus projects. “Unfortunately, a few states have fallen far behind in putting their Recovery Act highway formula funds to work. Florida has been the slowest state in utilizing its funding allocation, while Hawaii and South Carolina rank 50th and 49th respectively.”

Officials in Florida have shot back saying their projects are more complicated.

Oberstar will be touring transportation projects around the state funded by the stimulus package.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar was in New Hampshire on Monday to promote tourism. Klobuchar also addressed the growing problem of cell phones in prisons. “Inmates should not be allowed to continue to commit crimes once they are locked up. We need to stop prisoners from using smuggled cell phones to continue their illegal activities.”

Klobuchar has also been working on a 20-year-old murder case involving a Minnesota woman who was killed in New York.

Minnesota’s senior senator is renewing her fight for a passenger’s bill of rights following the Continental “nightmare flight” last Friday in Rochester, in which passengers were planebound for six hours. “I think it is long overdue. Time and time again we keep being told, ‘Oh, it’s going to be OK, you don’t need any minimum standards for passengers,’ and then something like this happens,” Klobuchar said.

Klobuchar has no town halls scheduled but will tour more then 20 Minnesota counties in the next few weeks.

Sen. Al Franken was part of a dairy farmers forum on Wednesday. While the forum was open to the public, organizers noted that the meeting would stay on topic. Franken also toured the VA in St. Cloud with Rep. Tim Walz on Wednesday.

Franken toured the Natural Resources Research Institute in Duluth on Thursday to talk about Great Lakes restoration projects.

Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh told the Park Rapids Enterprise that Franken will be traveling the state in coming weeks. “He’s hosting a couple of roundtables to hear from key constituencies on the health care reform debate, meeting with leaders in the agriculture community, touring the Mayo Clinic and other Minnesota businesses and institutions, and, of course, the State Fair.”

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