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Beltrami DFL holds convention

BEMIDJI -- The Beltrami County DFL held its annual convention Sunday, hosting candidate speeches, voting on delegates and proposing changes to the state party platform.

Rep. Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, was the first candidate for state office to speak. He said the GOP was marshalling a statewide effort to regain a majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives, and it would be a hard road to November.

"You can just tell that they're take back control of the House," Erickson said. "It's going to be a difficult race."

Erickson had a bone to pick with the Republicans regarding the recent announcement of a rare state budget surplus.

"The one thing that I really am just mystified at: they're claiming responsibility for the budget surplus," he said. "That was our (the DFL's) budget that set this surplus up."

Next to speak was State Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji. He said the DFL-controlled House and Senate has been making progress in Minnesota, and there was more bipartisanship in St. Paul than the media was letting on.

"I would challenge anybody to go look at the hundreds, hundreds of bills that are bipartisan, that are good bills that are going to get passed, where we worked across the aisle," he said. "Rep. Erickson and I are on a lot of those bills."

Persell talked at length about the environment, comparing the way today's youth are dissatisfied with those in power to the dissatisfaction of the 60's counterculture movement with Vietnam-era leaders. Today's young people are beckoning for alternatives to conventional fossil fuels, Persell said, but he can only respond by saying progress has been made.

"It's so deliberate that it's painful, but we have progress," he said. "Probably not the greatest answer in the world, but by golly, we've got progress, and we need people to keep pushing."

Persell said he and Erickson, along with other area legislators, were working toward getting a four-year forestry major at Bemidji State University. The only existing four-year program in the state, he said, is through the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities.

"(It's) in the middle of a concrete jungle," Persell said. "They have to bus kids to take them to the forest. Why don't we have that here, in the middle of a forest?"

After the speakers, the convention attendees voted by ballot on which changes to the state party platform they wanted. They passed resolutions to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 an hour indexed to inflation, to oppose the wolf hunt and to restore the two-thirds funding mechanism to higher education whereby students only pay a third of the cost of college in tuition. The convention also passed a resolution to make state funding for public school transportation calculated both by number of students and by geographic area of the particular district, giving the school whichever amount is larger.

Much like the county GOP convention earlier in March, the DFLers considered some relatively standard changes to the platform and others that were less conventional. One resolution called for "establishing clear laws that distinguish performances of an adult-oriented or sexual nature in Minnesota from criminal prostitution... and that allow the development of an online, film or video-based business and industry creating adult entertainment in Minnesota."

That resolution did not make it to the the list of those bound for the state platform commission although it is unclear how many votes it received, if any.

The Beltrami DFL also voted on delegates to attend the district and state conventions.

Delegates elected to the Seventh Congressional District Convention were Ross Dybvig, Delores Cloud-Hammitt, Mike Simpkins, Kathy Winger, Carol Doctor and Steve Nelson. Delegates elected to the Eighth District Convention were John McCarthy, Pam McCrory and Soren Sorenson.