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Hancock settles in as House 2B rep

Rep. Dave Hancock, right, R-Bemidji, listens to questions from Bemidji residents during Bemidji Day at the Capitol earlier this month. With him is House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Finance and Policy Chairman Denny McNamara, R-Hastings. Pioneer Photo/Brad Swenson

ST. PAUL -- A month after being sworn in as House 2B's representative, Dave Hancock is finding his way around the State Capitol.

"There are a lot of adjectives," Hancock, R-Bemidji, says of the first month on the job. "First of all, it's a very humbling experience, just walking into the Capitol two or three times a week and realize the history and heritage that goes through there."

Last fall, Hancock defeated three-term Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, for the 2B seat and was part of a Republican takeover of the Minnesota House from the Democrats.

"It's really a privilege to represent the people of District 2B and a great responsibility," he said in an interview earlier this month as Bemidjians partook in Bemidji Day at the Capitol. "I look forward to days when we can meet with Bemidji people, and actually look forward to the e-mails and the calls to gather information.

"That's really what it's all about -- trying to represent the people of District 2B in a manner that they expect, and we may not always agree, but I certainly want to be receptive to any concerns and recommendations they would have," Hancock said. "It's a full day; it's not a part-time job."

Hancock, a retired tire store owner, serves on the Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, Government Operations and Elections Committee and the Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee.

As of Friday, Hancock had signed onto 27 bills, including H.F. 1, which streamlines the environmental permitting process and modifies environmental review requirements.

"The idea behind it is this -- the election to me was about trying to create jobs and trying to get the economy moving in Minnesota, not just in my district or outstate," Hancock said.

"One of the real hindrances to that growth in terms of companies either expanding into Minnesota or actually starting a business in Minnesota is some of the permitting and restrictions timetables that go with that," he added.

H.F. 1 isn't the cure-all bill, he says, but is a step in the right direction.

"It doesn't really change some of our environmental concerns," he said. "What it does is try to make the process more efficient and thus more appealing to business growth and business expansion."

The bill was passed by the House on Thursday, with the Senate version yet to receive a hearing.

Hancock has also supported the Republican $894 million budget cut bill that Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed on Thursday. One of his reasons for veto was the impact on Local Government Aid to cities and the resulting rise in property taxes to make up the gap.

"LGA is vital to rural Minnesota," says Hancock. "I will fight for retaining LGA. There is the use of semantics and saying it's a cut. Basically what we did is make the (Gov. Tim Pawlenty 2010) unallotments permanent for 2011. We gave either what the 2010 amount was or what was certified for 2011ds -- the lesser of the two."

It will still hurt cities, Hancock admits, "but it's part of our commitment, part of why we were elected. We came here to live within our means, to really form a balanced budget."

Hancock says he looks at it the same as he did during the campaign. "We are expecting revenue increases of 5 or 6 percent. Our expenditures for the next biennium are not going to be less than they were the previous biennium. '

The $6.2 billion budget gap lawmakers face actually comes from increased expenditures, he said. "What we need to do, and we need the help of all our citizens with input, is reduce the increase from $38 billion to the $32 billion we expect in revenues.

"That is going to take a real concerted effort on the part of everyone to make sure that we protect the most vulnerable in our society," Hancock adds. "We're all committed to that -- the nursing homes, the safety net, the disabled, we need to protect them. We certainly need to fund education adequately, and there are some issues with transportation funding."

First, however, "we're going to have to request everyone, individually and collectively, to really look at their expenditures," he said. "We also need to address state mandates."

Controlling spending and controlling the taxes on the business community, reducing some of the restrictions and regulations, "then we can really begin to get job growth, which is the essence for long-term revenue generation," he said.

H.F. 1 is a logical firs step, Hancock said, "and says to everyone we are serious about doing this and we want to do it in as an efficient manner as we can, but we have to live within means."

The only bill Hancock has chief authored thus far is H.F. 220, which modifies the definition for electricity sales for the calculation of the state's renewable energy standard. It exempts from the standard retail electric sales of electricity generated by hydropower by a federal power agency.

The standard demands that 25 percent of the power generated in Minnesota come from renewable sources by 2025.

"We are asking that the hydropower that is used by Minnkota and some of the others that's retailed to the cooperatives ... be taken out pf the total retail figure, so that it doesn't count toward the 25 percent by 2025 and doesn't count in the total as well," he said.

The bill is designed to limit carbon-based electric power.

So far, Hancock has supported efforts for a photo ID in voting and efforts to lift the ban on additional nuclear power generation in Minnesota.

He also supported efforts to remove the ban on additional coal-based energy from North Dakota. "I think that's a step toward the concept that we need to use all energy sources. We are going to expand and we need energy for the mines that hopefully will be reopened."