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2010 election: Olson will seek second term

Sen. Mary Olson, DFL-Bemidji, will seek a second term in 2010, she said Wednesday evening at a kickoff fundraiser at her rural Bemidji home.

"I decided that if I am re-elected, I'd be privileged to go down for two more years ... and continue the work I've been doing with all of your help," Olson said, noting that with the upcoming U.S. Census and reapportionment, senators will serve only two years.

Olson said the decision came "after a lot of thought, after a lot of time spent on the trails with my husband and our horses -- a chance to get away and reflect a little bit."

Elected in 2006 by defeating first-term Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, Olson said the decision didn't come easy as the political process didn't move as fast as she thought it would on her key issues of health care, cell phone regulations, credit card regulations and credit scoring.

"I had to come home back here, dust myself off a little bit, pick myself up again and think things out whether I really wanted to get back down to the Capitol and continue to fight these battles," Olson said, "because I don't like it when something doesn't happen as soon as I'd to see it happen,"

Olson, an attorney who is vice chairwoman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, spoke to about 45 people who ate split pea soup and also came to listen to Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, a 2010 Democratic candidate for governor.

So far, the only announced opponent to Olson is Greg Paquin of Bemidji, who is seeking the DFL endorsement for the Senate 4 post. Republicans are still looking to field a candidate.

Aside from local issues that she carried the past four years, Olson cited as positive reasons to seek re-election several issues of statewide notice.

First is the passage of her Star Lakes program to recognize best practices lake management by lake associations, a bill which major input from aquatic biologist Dann Siems. The only drawback was this last session when Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty line-item vetoed the $200,000 to provide grants to the program in the new sales tax Legacy Amendment funding.

"It's something to this day I still don't understand," she said about the only item in the Legacy bill Pawlenty used his red pen on.

Another bill Olson introduced last year will get a hearing Jan. 15 in Bemidji at a special committee meeting of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

"It basically sunsets all the natural resources management agencies in the state ... two years from now," Olson said. "It requires everyone to sit down at the table and come up with a really good, efficient way to manage our natural resources that wasn't just based on how things have evolved historically."

The bill faces opposition from the agencies, she said about the bill to integrate management. "This year the Senate is going to target natural resources management reform as an area we are going to be moving forward."

Thirdly, Olson cited her efforts, as a legislative designee to the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council, to secure Legacy Amendment funding and $1.5 million in grants to help preserve American Indian culture and language in Minnesota.

"For the first time, the state took the initiative to come to the tribes and say we want to help you preserve your culture," she said. A working group, which includes several Bemidji area representatives, is now working on that project in conjunction with the state Education Department.

"Every single day you walk into that building (the State Capitol), it really brings home to you the importance of the work that you're doing and what a privilege it is to be there," Olson said.