Trials and tribulations at the Legislature


I have been at the Minnesota Legislature for a long time influencing public policy. I have been guided by my viewpoint what I think is important for civil liberties, privacy, and open government. But life as a concerned citizen has not always been a bed of roses. My satisfaction of getting laws and initiatives passed with which I have had a hand in has been quite satisfying. Many of my actions for or against legislation will never affect me, but I know it will with others. But the trial and tribulation one goes through is another story.

This year I have been called “sinister”, questioned several times why I have an interest in pieces of legislation because I should not have an interest in, according to others; shouted in an angry way by the head of association because of a tweet I did promoting my take on a bill. Even by a new director of an association a view I took on LPR legislation via twitter. He did not like my tweet stated it was untrue. I felt like saying in reply your background in public relations/media and what the hell do you know about license plate readers and the impact of them on people’s rights and liberties. Basically I wanted to say I know helluva lot more about it then you do. But I was polite and just chalked it up as………

But this is not new, as someone who has gained knowledge about the “dance of the legislators”, gained awareness and mastery of privacy and open government from others, experience, and reading, I have knowledge and information to share with legislators.

And sometimes entrenched special interests, lobbyists, and even legislators get mad, teed of, and even damn in your face about it because I am an unpaid person who may sometimes upset their applecart to improve, modify or impinge, or eat their apples(legislation/proposal).

When I first started hanging around the legislature in the late seventies I was a person who took an interest in a bill or two, known a bit to testify once in a while, but mostly hung out, observing. Gained insight to the dance of the legislators, by working with such people as Senators Randy Peterson and Gene Merriam. Who helped develop my astuteness of privacy was coming in contact with Don Gemberling in 1979 when I had a question about wanting to get access to my private data held by a government agency.

So I was on my way learning, observing, remembering, going to the law libraries to research legislation and court cases and by the early 80’s had some knowledge. By the mid 80’s I was being asked why are you doing this and who are you by others who hung around the Capitol because more than likely I was beginning to make a difference.

As time went on the trials and tribulations started, many I remember well. My all time classic is by a top law official who snidely in his own humorous way stated basically we should have set you up in a bad situation and share it with legislators. In other words, I was a stumbling block is his attempts to get legislation passed the way the agency wanted. I shared with Senators what I thought the bill did and they had a special hearing on it. The bill was passed, but a sunset was put on it for a year. Policymakers and I came back the next session with measures to protect our privacy with accountability.

Another one is is the legislator who confronted me about pulling the “race card”. I was startled. He had legislation that could have had in my judgement a disparate impact on community of colors. I called the Council on Black Minnesotans about the bill who organized people and organizations to oppose aspects of it. As I have stated before in previous posts many people sometimes do not know whats go on in the People’s House. I try to let them know.

I was asked by a legislator why I “shitcan” his bills. I said they were bad bills. One I laughed at when an elected official did in public was when I came to a hearing and he knew I was going to testify against his bill, he would say……”Your mother is calling you”. Indirectly, saying leave my bill alone and leave the hearing room.

A recent one is the legislator who said I am not interested to listen what you have to say because you represent no one. “You represent no group or organization, you are not my constituent” I said fine. I think he was teed at me for the issues I raised about his bill which eventually did not become law the previous year.

I have learned the dance of the legislators well. Bills that I see that are not good or good for privacy and open government sometimes I go to leadership, no matter what party, and share with them benefits, implications, traps, and pitfalls of a bill. And going to the Chairs of Committees explaining in detail why a bill good is bad or good. It is all part of the inside process I have learned.

But in the last analysis, this a place of human behavior and relationships. I have apologized to a legislator or two over the years. But the difference between the great many people who influence policy here at the Capitol and myself is that they are paid and are here full time and have have vast resources. When they get the difficulty and anxiety about the legislative process they see it and feel it in a different way then I do.

I come with a tenacity, persistence, good information, and a passion for what I believe in, but it can be and is tiring. Thanks to the great majority of legislators who are willing to listen to the public and me over the years.

By the way the person who called me “sinister” shook my hand yesterday maybe I am not so bad after all.