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Bemidji Day at the Capitol: Bemidji heads to St. Paul Tuesday

Plaid-clad Bemidjians head to St. Paul on Tuesday to lobby legislators on issues that affect Bemidji businesses and local government.

About 50 Bemidji people representing business and government and wearing Paul Bunyan plaid sweaters or vests will travel by bus to the State Capitol on Tuesday for the sixth annual Bemidji Day at the Capitol.

The day of lobbying for Bemidji issues includes a meeting with Gov. Mark Dayton at 3:30 p.m. in the Governor's Reception Room.

New this year is several meetings with legislative leaders, outside of the Bemidji team meetings with individual legislators, says Lori Paris, president of the sponsoring Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce.

The morning starts out with comments from local legislators as the Bemidji delegation gathers in the Great Hall of the Capitol.

At 11:30 a.m. in the State Office Building, the Bemidji delegation can meet with Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, chairman of the House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, and members of the panel who may come.

Both Reps. John Persell, DFL-Bemijdi, and Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, are members of that panel.

"It will be kind of a forum, question and answer sort of thing," Paris said.

Back in the Capitol at 12:30 p.m., the Bemidji delegation will meet with Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhansen, chairwoman of the Senate Taxes Committee, and members of that panel who may attend.

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, is a member of that penel, while Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, helped set of the forum.

"Those are different things than we had before," Paris said. "We wanted to have more time with a few committees.

At 4:15 p.m., House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, will address the delegation in the Great Hall, right before the delegation has its traditional photo taken on the steps of the State Capitol.

The day is followed by a reception for legislators and staff at the Kelly Inn before the bus heads north about 7 p.m.

The Bemidji group will lobby on some of the same issues which have yet to e resolved, such as school transportation funding, Paris said. With a district as large as the state of Rhode Island, the Bemidji School District must subsidize its bus program from general funds as the state reimburses only for the number of students bused, not miles bused.

"We're going to be carrying a message of government redesign, following what Beltrami County's been doing," she said.

Beltrami County Administrator Tony Murphy has already testified before House and Senate committees on the county's Strategy Aligned Management program, where outcome-based priorities are guiding county spending priorities.

The Bemidji delegation seeks a new management method for state government, one that waives or exempts local governments from ineffective state agency rules.

"We'd like to see reform of the rule-making process to place greater emphasis on measuring and delivering outcomes," she said. The Bemidji delegation also supports streamlining the permitting process, something that Dayton has issued an executive order on and is part of House File 1.

The Bemidji agenda includes items calling for the protection of Local Government Aid, on forestry and seeking bonding funds for the Paul Bunyan Trail bridge in Bemidji, if there is a bonding bill.

The Bemidji delegation also supports the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities' biennium $48 million budget increase.

"We try not to have big asks, more policy than money," Paris said, referring to the state budget deficit of $6.2 billion. "But there always seems to be money requests on the list."

Bemidji teams of three or four people will visit every lawmaker or an aide during the day, and will leave for them a gift of a chocolate Paul Bunyan and Babe from Chocolates Plus, with the theme of "Bemidji: Sweet Spot of the North."