My First Week at the Capitol

dsc000521.JPGI was sworn in on Wednesday following meetings with Early Childhood Committee chair, Nora Slawik and the DFL Caucus leadership.  I was joined in the house chamber by two friends and supporters – Cary Coop from Belle Plaine and Cynthia Child of Northfield.  I tried to talk my kids in to coming too but Julia didn’t think she could afford to fly back from Los Angeles and Gareth was working.

The House Chamber is a beautiful and impressive space. 20070103_presession_2.jpg, entered the chamber, gaveled the ceremony to order and appointed Rep. Paul Thissen temporary clerk who then read the roll first by district and then alphabetically.  We all took our oath of office and then we 20070103_speaker_2.jpgnominated and elected the new Speaker Margaret Kelliher.  I am quite impressed with Margaret and think she will make a great speaker, only the second woman to hold this post.    

You can read more about the swearing in at the MPR website  they interviewed me along with a few others.  I saw several people when I was out and about this weekend who told me they had heard my voice on the radio last Wednesday. Most of the rest of the day was spent going through piles of mail, meeting with well wishers, my new Legislative Assistant, Rebekah Smith and Rep. Bill Hilty, who will chair the Energy Committee.  I also had the chance to meet with Rep. Paul Gardner, Rep. Brita Sailer and some agency officials who wanted to talk about how to recycle Tvs and computer monitors.

20070105_pawlentycc_2.jpgThursday Committee chairs were all in training so new legislators met in caucus to talk about procedures, legislative services and how to get our phones and computers up and running.  That evening many of attended Minnesota Chamber Dinner to meet Minnesota business folks and listening to the Governor talk about the upcoming session.  

Before the dinner started, we rubbed elbows (literally, the place was packed) with hundreds of lobbyists and business people.  I ran into former speaker and my former DFL Representative, Bob Vanasek.  I now represent him.  He introduced me to a number of old friends and talked with me about old times in the House.  He mentioned that there had been talk once before about extending the school year just as this is this year.  But he had recommended then that if the school year were extended it should be with programs that were unique and different not more of the same.  I’ve actually heard several people say that that idea would make a lot of sense.  Why not offer a foreign language camp or special project oriented course that may not be feasible in the regular school calendar.

Much of what the Governor said, was also covered fairly well by MPR  and you can read about it there.  As you might imagination he touched on the issues ‘de jour’.  Education, healthcare, and transportation, the Governor still insists he will veto a gas tax.  He also talked about a desire to improve Minnesota High Schools and quoted Bill Gates.

A couple of years ago when Bill Gates addressed the Governors Association he talked about the new 3 R’s for successful high schools: Rigor, Relevance and Relationships.  Back then the only R they could remember was ‘Rigor.’  After a number of years under NCLB it seems clear that it has lost its luster and the Governor wanted to talk about ‘Relevance.’  His answer was curriculum that would make high school students ready for the world of work.  “We have schools based on a 40 year old system, for a 40 year old economy with 40 year old jobs that don’t exist anymore."  

I keep wondering when we will start talking about ‘Relationship’ I found it interesting that the folks at my table all knew that was the most important.  They all had stories about children and grand kids who needed a system with smaller schools where teachers would know their students and be able to relate to them.

Later when the Legislative leadership were interviewed by Tom Hauser, there appeared to be a willingness to work together with the Governor but also to get things done for the people of Minnesota.  That’s what I am hoping for.

Friday, I met with the MNSCU Chancellor, James McCormick, to talk about our public post secondary system.  He was impressed that I had attended two schools in the system along with two private institutions. 

Later in the day, I met with constituent, Kathy Cooper, about her many year effort to strengthen the seat belt law.  I appreciated hearing her story and her concerns about making Minnesota roads safer.

I arrived home to find an e-mail update from ‘Test Tank’ Growth and Justice, a progressive think tank describing a recent forum hosted by Mitch Perlstein of the American Experiment discussing with David Strom, Joel Kramer, Sean Kershaw and others about what conservatives should do now.  The e-mail offered a summary and link to a couple of other websites that offered further insights one by Carleton alum, Charlie Quimby, The Great Divide  and the other Citizens League , displayed a blog summary by Sean Kershaw.  I encourage you to check them out. 

Next week I look forward to the introduction of a number of important bills, my first20070103_bly_1.jpg committee meetings and a day long training about the workings of Minnesota Government.  

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