St. Louis County invades Capitol
ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators' knowledge of Duluth issues surprised C. Ryan Welles. "I'm almost blown away," said Welles, of Anchors End Tattoos. Welles and about 600 other St. Louis County residents had just completed a day at the Capitol Mon...
ST. PAUL - Minnesota legislators' knowledge of Duluth issues surprised C. Ryan Welles.
"I'm almost blown away," said Welles, of Anchors End Tattoos.
Welles and about 600 other St. Louis County residents had just completed a day at the Capitol Monday night, where they lobbied for a range of issues from Duluth Entertainment Convention Center expansion to funding rail service between Duluth and the Twin Cities.
It was the ninth annual Duluth and St. Louis County Days.
Lawmaker also surprised another young Duluth resident, Allen Richardson. He talked to many lawmakers about a proposed moratorium on growing genetically modified wild rice.
"It's amazing," he said of how much lawmakers know about the subject.
Richardson said he is interested in the wild rice issue and was encouraged there was so much interest among lawmakers across the state. The bill would stop use of genetically modified wild rice, preserving the traditional American Indian version of the plant.
Maintaining traditional wild rice is not only the ethnic thing to do, but it should help tribes across the northern part of the state make more money, Richardson added.
There are many steps left, but a proposal to get $37.9 million in state money - and authorization to slightly raise food and drink taxes - to fund the DECC expansion appears to be favored by most in the Legislature, the visitors heard.
With that in mind, much of Monday's discussion was about other issues, said David Ross, Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce president. One issue that needs more explanation is a proposal to restart passenger rail service to Duluth.
One of the key senators in the discussion had an immediate reply when asked about rail service: "They had it once, but it got shut down because of lack of ridership," Sen. Keith Langseth, DFL-Glyndon, said.
Things have changed, the Duluth delegation told him, including construction of casinos since passenger rail last ran in the 1980s.
Langseth - chairman of the committee that decides whether to fund major projects - had plenty of opportunity to learn about the proposal. Besides hosting St. Louis County guests in his office, Langseth attended an evening party that featured food from the Northland, booths from many area organizations and the St. Scholastica College Jazz Band.
The turnout from St. Louis County did not surprise Welles. It is the largest such local event at the Capitol.
"Duluth is a unique place because it produces a lot of political advocacy," Welles said.
Welles, like others in the delegation, was almost too full of information Monday night.
"I feel overwhelmed," he said, then began touring the display area.
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.