Letters to the editor for March 29, 2013

Welcome surprise

To the Editor:

I’ve only been in St. Paul for a few months now, and one of the biggest and most welcomed surprises for me so far has been that despite the spirited debate over the big issues like the health insurance exchange and the budget, legislators from both sides of the aisle come together every day on bills that are good for their communities and good for Minnesota.

I also am surprised at how little media coverage the good bipartisan work gets.

The media tends to fixate on the disagreements between the two parties on hot-button issues, so I wanted to share with you some examples of points of agreement where people are working together.

These issues might not grab all the headlines but that doesn’t make them any less important.

Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend a press conference unveiling a piece of bipartisan gun legislation. This bill makes it tougher for violent felons and criminals to purchase guns and improves criminal data-sharing for state and local law enforcement agencies.

It has over 70 co-authors from both sides of the aisle, is chief-authored by DFL Rep. Debra Hillstrom and has the support of gun-rights proponent GOP Rep. Tony Cornish as well as the NRA and several law enforcement leaders.

A truly great example of legislators coming together on an oftentimes controversial topic.

I’ve made a point to try and work with members of the majority to advance bills that are good for our local community as well.

I’ve partnered with DFL Rep. Jerry Newton on legislation to secure funding for Anoka-Ramsey Community College and Anoka Technical College (HF442 and HF443).

DFL Rep. Michael Nelson chief-authored and I signed on as a co-author for HF400, which proposes funding to extend Highway 610 to Highway 94 in Maple Grove. This is a project that will be a boon for commerce in our area and is long overdue.

A number of bipartisan co-authors have signed on to DFL Rep. Jason Isaacson’s bill HF1091 to help fight aquatic invasive species which are plaguing lakes and rivers not only here in Champlin and Coon Rapids, but around our state.

While it may not seem like it, there is good bipartisan work being done on a daily basis on issues good for Champlin, Coon Rapids and the state as a whole.

I hope if you have an idea for a common-sense bill that you’ll contact me and let me know. I’m in St. Paul to serve our community, and am making an effort every day to work to promote good ideas to help our state, regardless of party.

Mark Uglem
R-House District 36A

Cooperation behind scenes

To the Editor:

The most common criticism I hear about politics these days is that it’s too partisan. Democrats and Republicans can’t get along long enough to agree which way the wind is blowing.

I wish they could see what really goes on behind the scenes here in St. Paul. Behind the scenes there is cooperation not opposition.

I first served in the House of Representatives from 2009 to 2010 and was returned last November. I can tell you the environment today is much better and much more suited toward reaching across aisles to get things done now than it was then.

The controversial health insurance exchange bill is perfect example. When it first came to the floor of the House, only one representative from the GOP side crossed party lines and voted for passage. But behind the scenes, Republicans had a great deal of impact in the shaping the final bill.

I serve on two committees that heard the bill. Many amendments offered by the Republicans were approved and worked into the bill. Once it got to the floor, the GOP minority offered dozens of amendments. The DFL majority accepted some of them and the bill was made better.

I introduced a bill to appropriate $30 million to add a third travel lane in each direction on U.S. Highway 10 from the interchange with Hanson Boulevard to the interchange with Round Lake Boulevard in the city of Coon Rapids.

Signing onto that bill were Republican Reps. Mark Uglem, Peggy Scott and Jim Abeler. I have signed onto bills of theirs and they have signed onto bills of mine.

Government works best when we don’t see party labels. This cooperative spirit gives me great hope for what we will accomplish come the end of the session.

Rep. Jerry Newton
Coon Rapids

Opposes park bond issue

To the Editor;

The proposed tax increase to pay for upgrades to the city parks by Coon Rapids is a bad idea.

Borrowing between $15 to $20 million for recreational amenities creates an unsustainable burden for the local taxpayer.

If the city estimates are close to accurate, the proposed funding amount will exceed a double-digit increase in the city portion of my 2013 real estate tax.

But it gets worse!

The timing of the proposed levy referendum is suspect. Off-year voting initiatives are notorious for poor voter turnouts.

This clearly favors the well funded city government and well organized unions that benefit from the construction contracts.

By energizing their bases, just a few hundred votes can significantly influence the results.

If the city truly wants to give the residents an opportunity to be heard on this overly expensive extravagance, holding the proposed levy referendum during an election year featuring the mayor and several council members on the ballot would be a significant improvement.

Anoka County has been able to reduce taxes and promote the county parks as some of the best in the state. It is disappointing Coon Rapids is unable to do the same.

James B. Hafner
Coon Rapids

Put focus on creating jobs

To the Editor:

What is State Rep. Jerry Newton up to now? Unfortunately, it’s not creating jobs as he promised; but rather he is proposing bills like HF 1249, a “snack food” tax.

Taxes like this directly target the pocketbook of parents who pack their kid’s lunch for school, which may include a small bag of chips.

This tax will also target foods, which I thought were healthy to eat, like seeds and nuts.

Mark Pereira, a nutrition and disease researcher at the University of Minnesota, is sceptical of the bill since it only applies to individual snack packages weighing eight ounces or less.

“That’s illogical. It’s almost like it’s backwards because most of us in public health nutrition feel like it’s progress to be reducing the portion sizes, because relatively compelling science has shown that the more you serve somebody, the more they eat,” Pereira said.

“Personally, I am confused, to say the least.

This is not why the residents of Coon Rapids elected Jerry. Please call Jerry’s legislative office at 651-296-5369 and tell him to focus on creating jobs.

Kirk Burback
Coon Rapids

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