Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders

Women In Government is holding a Summit on Mental Health & Substance Use Disorders today and tomorrow in Bloomington.  William Moyers, Vice President of Public Affairs, at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation talked about “Eliminating Barriers to Success.”  He said that he appreciates the use of “Substance Use Disorders” over  “Substance Abuse.” He said we need to eliminate the stigma attached to the problem and repeatedly said that “addiction doesn’t discriminate.”  People need to know that it is okay to ask for help.

Kelly O’Brien, the Executive Director of The Kennedy Forum started her presentation with a video about ” The System We Need.”  Both she and Sue Abderholden, the Executive Director of NAMI Minnesota, concentrated on the parity of mental health treatment  to physical health treatment. Basically, it sounds like mental health has a ways to go.

Senator Barb Goodwin of Minnesota and Ira Burnim, Legal Director of Judge David Bazelon Center on Mental Health talked about mental health concerns in the Criminal Justice System.  The sad fact is that we are imprisoning people that should be treated in mental health facilities.  Not only is this barbaric, it is more costly and it hardly achieves a positive outcome.

The evening concluded with a screening of If Only, a movie about drug addiction among teens.  Two men who worked on this project gave passionate presentations about the need to have community discussions on this issue because so many children are dying from this addiction.

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Emphasis on Eagan History

On Sunday, the Eagan Historical Society hosted the Reopening Celebration for Eagan’s 1914 Town Hall.  It is evident that a lot of work went into the restoration of the building that was damaged by arson in 2013. It is great to see so many interested in the history of their community!

In the evening, there was a Celebration and Concert dedicated to the life of Tony Caponi.  The event was held in the Caponi Art Park, a marvelous legacy for our community.

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Town Hall – June 9

Senator Jim Carlson and I conducted a Town Hall Meeting on June 9 at Metcalf Junior High.  A summary of the 2016 Session and the option of a special session were the main points of the agenda.

Probably the most discussion was on components of a comprehensive Transportation Bill.

Many thanks to all who participated.

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ASCENT Fountain

I attended the dedication of the Ascent Fountain this afternoon. It 2016-06-02LoneEagle.2.1has an impressive sculpture of soaring eagles. The soaring eagles symbolize “the synergies that lift and encourage the aspirations of others.”

2016-06-02LoneEagle.3.1To the side is a statue of a lone eagle. The “LONE EAGLE” represents the difference one person can make by mentoring others, with dedicated service to family, community and nation.

Foster Willey, the sculptor, was in attendance.

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Memorial Day- A Time To Reflect…

Memorial Day is a day to pause and reflect on the lives that were lost fighting for our country, for our freedom. A time to offer gratitude to those who have secured the freedom we enjoy.

The weather today was beautiful for the Memorial Day observances. In Burnsville, the main observance was held at the Bicentennial Garden. It is a lovely area in the midst of trees, next to a fountain, and lots of flowers in the area.

In Eagan, the memorial ceremony was held at the Memorial Plaza. The Eagan Mens Chorus sang the song of each branch of the Armed Forces.

While it is important to pay tribute to those who gave their lives for their country, the question is how many lives have to be sacrificed before we find ways of settling our differences without resorting to war.

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New York Times Crossword Puzzle

EAGAN was one of the answers in Sunday’s crossword puzzle.  That is pretty cool!

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Coffee Chat on Saturday Morning

We had a good group and some lively discussion.  One man expressed his disappointment that the legislature did not pass a transportation bill. He said businesses have expressed strong support for improving our infrastructure if Minnesota is to remain competitive.  He suggested that the legislature pass the major bills two weeks before the end of session to avoid the ending that just occurred.

Another man opposed the funding of the light rail project because he thought it was too expensive to build and to maintain.  He thought the gas receipts should show the amount of state and federal taxes that were paid.

On the topic of transportation, a third man said it is critical to cut down on fossil fuels if we are to minimize the climate change.


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End of Session 2016

The 2016 Session ended about 11:57 p.m. on May 22, 2016 amidst a clamor of representatives still trying to be recognized.  Part of the fury had to do with the fact that the Bonding Bill was made available about 11:15 p.m.  this gave the DFL representatives little  time to digest the revised bill. The DFL Caucus went out into the hallway to discuss the bill, once it was determined that there were a number of significant projects included,the members returned to the Chamber to vote.  The Bonding Bill needs a super majority to pass. The bill passed and was sent to the Senate. The Senate added an amendment and planned to return the bill to the House.  However, since the House had adjourned early and could not vote on the amended bill and the Senate’s efforts to take off the amendment took too much time, the bill was not viable.

Earlier in the day, the Tax Bill, HF 848, passed 123-10. It does include the Burnsville TIF provision that I carried. This will provide the city with resources to prepare the landfill property for development.

But at the end of the day, the Republican majority did not present a comprehensive Transportation Bill  and they fumbled on the Bonding Bill. The majority party has control over bills getting out of committee as well as being heard on the floor.

Given that Minnesota has a healthy surplus, it is disappointing to see so little get done when there are so many needs to be addressed. There were so many missed opportunities!

There is a possibility that the Governor could call the legislature back to get the Bonding Bill done. The Bonding Bill covers a lot of projects across the state, and the fact that our infrastructure is aging out is a problem that should be taken care of as soon as possible.


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Real ID Implementation

Today, the House of Representatives took up legislation on Real ID Implementation.  Senate File 3589 was the bill that was actually placed before us. The Senate had passed their bill and it seemed to be a workable bill that addressed some of the challenges this legislation has.  One of which is heeding the timeframe that the agency charged with the implementation says is realistic.

However, Representative Smith, the author of the bill had an amendment to insert the House language into the bill and the House Majority supported him.  The House language had several controversial and unnecessary components. In addition, there were some additional amendments added.  I voted for the bill, because it  had a two-tiered system and it will mean the bill will move on to a conference committee.   The two-tiered system means that people who are  uncomfortable with the Real ID card have another option they can use. So long has people can choose, it makes no sense to bog the bill down with unnecessary items. Hopefully, the conference committee will come up with a compromise that will enable us to get the job done. We need to be finished by Sunday evening.


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Change to Investment In Landfill Trust

On May 16, the House passed a bill that will require the Metropolitan Landfill Contingency Action Trust (MLCAT) to be managed to maximize long-term gain through the State Board of Investment (SBI).  MLCAT is to provide funding for “necessary and reasonable care” at sites that have closed.  Currently the fund has been earning 0.5% interest and the expectation is that it will be earning 4.5% under the new arrangement.

I had introduced HF 2723 at the beginning of this session to accomplish this increase and  Senator Jim Carlson has the Senate companion.  Representative Denny McNamara, the Chair of the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee introduced an identical bill, HF 2481 shortly afterwards and it has no Senate companion. This is the bill that Representative McNamara presented yesterday.  I am a coauthor on this bill.

Last year,  Representative McNamara had legislation to drain some of the money out of the landfill accounts.  Fortunately, Governor Dayton vetoed the Environment Bill and changes were made to replace the taking from the surplus later that year.

The money in the account comes from landfill fees, so when emergencies arise, there will be resources available to help correct the problems.  From recent experience, we know the corrections are very expensive.


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