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Local legislators score on government reform, environment panels

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news Bemidji, 56619
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Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

The 2011 session of the Legislature, which opens Tuesday, will draw on the strengths of local legislators.

Sen.-elect John Carlson, R-Bemidji, was tabbed to serve on the State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, which he requested, and the Higher Education Committee.

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Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, continues work on environmental issues in a newly arranged House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. He'll be joined there by Rep.-elect Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji.

Persell was also named to the Veterans Services Division, a panel he requested.

In addition to higher ed and government reform panels, Carlson was also named to the Senate Capital Investment Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the committees I'm on," Carlson said last week. He is a member of the new Senate majority, with Republicans taking over for the first time in 40 years.

"Now it's a matter of rolling up my sleeves and learning a lot," he said. "We have some serious challenges ahead of us but my attitude has always been, when you have serious challenges, those challenges can create tremendous opportunities."

As an adjunct professor of business education at Bemidji State University, that institution should benefit from Carlson's spot on the Higher Ed Committee. He will join on that panel Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

Carlson said he looks forward to the state government panel, as he campaigned on state government reform, especially highlighting the Association of Minnesota Counties' redesign plan and Beltrami County's Strategy Aligned Management, both focusing on outcome-based performance.

"I have spoken many times already with Chairman Parry and we're trying to figure out a time to get Tony to come down and testify to the committee," Carlson said of Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, and Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy.

"I don't know if redesign is the right word necessarily, but at least we need to look at the whole scope of government," he said. "I need to get a big, big chalkboard and start diagramming this stuff out. I won't be surprised if I run out of chalkboard."

Improving the economy and getting jobs going will be the big issue of the session, Carlson said, as lawmakers must also fill a $6.2 billion state budget hole. "We improve our private sector jobs, we help bring ourselves out of the bottom of the business cycle that we're in."

He'd like the environmental panel to look at removing silos between agencies, so a business can go to one place to gain permit, rather than getting a run around through many agencies.

"We need to provide sort of a one-stop shop for our citizens when they have an issue relative to the environment, relative to needing permits," Carlson said. "If government were a business, we'd be out of business a long time ago because people aren't going to continue to do business with people that continue to put roadblocks in front of them."

The process needs to be made simpler, but not at the expense of th4 environment, he said. "The best thing we can do is talk to the boots on the ground, talk to the people sitting in the cubicles and ask them what things are keeping them from doing their jobs."

There may be a small bonding bill, but Carlson predicts the Capital Investment Committee won't see much action this session. Members will be on call, he said.

"I'm anxious to roll up my sleeves and get to work," he said.

Democrat Persell, now in the minority in the House as he starts his second term, serves on the Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee in addition to environment and veterans panels.

He'd put education on his wish list, but Persell feels good about getting the three panels he requested.

"We've got an ag community up here for sure and they speak to me fairly regularly," Persell said, mentioning both the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the state National Farmers Union chapter.

"Policy development in the rural area aspects are particularly interesting for us here in rural Minnesota," he said. "It's certainly different up here in the northwoods than it is down in the row crop agriculture areas of the state."

A rural voice is needed, he said, as the metro area now controls the Legislature.

An issue he wants to again pursue is to convince metro lawmakers that school transportation policy is wrong, that paying school districts for the number of students bused rather than miles traveled doesn't work for Bemidji, with a school district the size of the state of Rhode Island.

"We'll request a hearing again and go for it," he said. "It's more of a rural/metro issue than it is Republican or Democrat."

Persell says he's "committed to working with anybody that wants to work on solutions to the real problems."

He served on an environmental panel last session, and has been a long-time environmental consultant for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

He sees mining as the big issue this session, as PolyMet attempts to start a nonferrous mine on the Iron Range amid roadblocks from environmentalists.

Also on tap are efforts to remove the ban on additional nuclear power plants in Minnesota, he said.

"Most of us are absolutely convinced we can do this (mining) right," he said. He agrees with new panel chairman, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, that PolyMet needs to put up funding for future closure of the operation.

"They need to have some skin in the game," Persell said. "We can do it and do it right, and have a BWCA that attracts tourists and looks clean and stays clean and protects the wild rice and still get the economic benefits of jobs and mining."

With an $11 billion tourist industry, people aren't going to come if the environment isn't clean, he said.

Persell said he requested the veterans panel in order to further Beltrami County's push for a state veterans nursing home. He doesn't believe there will be any action on a new nursing home this session, but he wants to lay the groundwork.

"I don't hold out that we're going to be pushing this veterans home, as hard as I'd like to, in the next session, but I'm going to continue to lay groundwork," he said. "We've demonstrated we have a need up in this area."

Local lawmaker committee postings

E Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji.

Capital Investment, Environment and Natural Resources, Higher Education, State Government Innovation and Veterans.

E Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.

Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance; Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance; Veterans Services Division.

E Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.

Capital Investment (chairman), Rules and Legislative Administration, Ways and Means.

E Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

Agriculture, Higher Education, Taxes.

E Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji.

Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance; Government Operations and Elections; Higher Education Policy and Finance.

The 2011 session of the Legislature, which opens Tuesday, will draw on the strengths of local legislators.

Sen.-elect John Carlson, R-Bemidji, was tabbed to serve on the State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee, which he requested, and the Higher Education Committee.

Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, continues work on environmental issues in a newly arranged House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee. He'll be joined there by Rep.-elect Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji.

Persell was also named to the Veterans Services Division, a panel he requested.

In addition to higher ed and government reform panels, Carlson was also named to the Senate Capital Investment Committee and the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

"I'm absolutely thrilled with the committees I'm on," Carlson said last week. He is a member of the new Senate majority, with Republicans taking over for the first time in 40 years.

"Now it's a matter of rolling up my sleeves and learning a lot," he said. "We have some serious challenges ahead of us but my attitude has always been, when you have serious challenges, those challenges can create tremendous opportunities."

As an adjunct professor of business education at Bemidji State University, that institution should benefit from Carlson's spot on the Higher Ed Committee. He will join on that panel Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

Carlson said he looks forward to the state government panel, as he campaigned on state government reform, especially highlighting the Association of Minnesota Counties' redesign plan and Beltrami County's Strategy Aligned Management, both focusing on outcome-based performance.

"I have spoken many times already with Chairman Parry and we're trying to figure out a time to get Tony to come down and testify to the committee," Carlson said of Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, and Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy.

"I don't know if redesign is the right word necessarily, but at least we need to look at the whole scope of government," he said. "I need to get a big, big chalkboard and start diagramming this stuff out. I won't be surprised if I run out of chalkboard."

Improving the economy and getting jobs going will be the big issue of the session, Carlson said, as lawmakers must also fill a $6.2 billion state budget hole. "We improve our private sector jobs, we help bring ourselves out of the bottom of the business cycle that we're in."

He'd like the environmental panel to look at removing silos between agencies, so a business can go to one place to gain permit, rather than getting a run around through many agencies.

"We need to provide sort of a one-stop shop for our citizens when they have an issue relative to the environment, relative to needing permits," Carlson said. "If government were a business, we'd be out of business a long time ago because people aren't going to continue to do business with people that continue to put roadblocks in front of them."

The process needs to be made simpler, but not at the expense of th4 environment, he said. "The best thing we can do is talk to the boots on the ground, talk to the people sitting in the cubicles and ask them what things are keeping them from doing their jobs."

There may be a small bonding bill, but Carlson predicts the Capital Investment Committee won't see much action this session. Members will be on call, he said.

"I'm anxious to roll up my sleeves and get to work," he said.

Democrat Persell, now in the minority in the House as he starts his second term, serves on the Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance Committee in addition to environment and veterans panels.

He'd put education on his wish list, but Persell feels good about getting the three panels he requested.

"We've got an ag community up here for sure and they speak to me fairly regularly," Persell said, mentioning both the Minnesota Farm Bureau and the state National Farmers Union chapter.

"Policy development in the rural area aspects are particularly interesting for us here in rural Minnesota," he said. "It's certainly different up here in the northwoods than it is down in the row crop agriculture areas of the state."

A rural voice is needed, he said, as the metro area now controls the Legislature.

An issue he wants to again pursue is to convince metro lawmakers that school transportation policy is wrong, that paying school districts for the number of students bused rather than miles traveled doesn't work for Bemidji, with a school district the size of the state of Rhode Island.

"We'll request a hearing again and go for it," he said. "It's more of a rural/metro issue than it is Republican or Democrat."

Persell says he's "committed to working with anybody that wants to work on solutions to the real problems."

He served on an environmental panel last session, and has been a long-time environmental consultant for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe and Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe.

He sees mining as the big issue this session, as PolyMet attempts to start a nonferrous mine on the Iron Range amid roadblocks from environmentalists.

Also on tap are efforts to remove the ban on additional nuclear power plants in Minnesota, he said.

"Most of us are absolutely convinced we can do this (mining) right," he said. He agrees with new panel chairman, Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, that PolyMet needs to put up funding for future closure of the operation.

"They need to have some skin in the game," Persell said. "We can do it and do it right, and have a BWCA that attracts tourists and looks clean and stays clean and protects the wild rice and still get the economic benefits of jobs and mining."

With an $11 billion tourist industry, people aren't going to come if the environment isn't clean, he said.

Persell said he requested the veterans panel in order to further Beltrami County's push for a state veterans nursing home. He doesn't believe there will be any action on a new nursing home this session, but he wants to lay the groundwork.

"I don't hold out that we're going to be pushing this veterans home, as hard as I'd like to, in the next session, but I'm going to continue to lay groundwork," he said. "We've demonstrated we have a need up in this area."

Local lawmaker committee postings

- Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji.

Capital Investment, Environment and Natural Resources, Higher Education, State Government Innovation and Veterans.

- Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji.

Agriculture and Rural Development Policy and Finance; Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance; Veterans Services Division.

- Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker.

Capital Investment (chairman), Rules and Legislative Administration, Ways and Means.

- Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook.

Agriculture, Higher Education, Taxes.

- Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji.

Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance; Government Operations and Elections; Higher Education Policy and Finance.

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