Weekend of Action & Get Out the Vote

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We kicked off the Weekend of Action on Saturday, October 22. Volunteers from across the district came to knock doors on behalf of local DFL candidates. Unidos Votamos and the staff of Senator Torres-Ray brought in support to get out and talk with local voters.
Volunteers also helped local community members find their polling places and reminded them to vote early. The second weekend of action kicked off Saturday, October 29 with over 30 volunteers. Despite the rainy weather, our team got out and knocked doors and phone banked.
The Get Out the Vote action continues through 8 p.m. on Election Day. Community members can still sign up and volunteer at the Northfield DFL Office. The volunteer signup form is located here.

Recent Candidate Forums

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Over the past week, I got the chance to sit down with other House and Senate candidates from districts 20 and 58 at a few different forums hosted by the League of Women Voters, Northfield Chamber of Commerce, and KCHK Radio. We discussed a wide variety of issues including transportation, education, small businesses, the MN farmers. These conversations highlight what we have accomplished in St. Paul and the challenges that our community will face in the upcoming years.
At the candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters last week, I was proud to discuss the strides that we have made in MN education during the last legislative session. Most specifically, the investment in early childhood education and all day kindergarten will help MN schools address the achievement gap-in turn helping students across the state graduate high school prepared to enter college or the workforce.
The conversation at the Northfield Chamber of Commerce candidate forum on Tuesday, October 11th focused on MN’s economy and small businesses. Last session, I supported several pieces of legislation that addressed the workforce shortages in MN. The “Teacher Shortage Act” works to ensure that we keep the best and brightest teachers in our classrooms across the state through more flexible licensing processes, grants that help bring student teachers to shortage areas, and a statewide teacher job board to connect teachers with open positions and districts. In addition to this, I focused on making sure our students have exposure to career options before making decisions after graduation. Through career fairs, bringing in business representatives to schools, and connecting students with technical colleges as well as four-year colleges, I believe that we can address workforce development and ensure that our state workforce has the necessary skills to continue building our economy.
Last Wednesday, I talked with representatives from the Belle Plaine FFA and we discussed the issues facing farmers in Greater MN. During my time in office, I am proud to have supported bipartisan initiatives including Forever Green-which provided $1 million worth of grants to the Board of Regents at the University of Minnesota to help researchers develop and implement ways for farmers to use their land more sustainably and effectively while increasing yields-and “Buy the Farm” legislation that protected local farmers from the Capx2020 project.  
You can listen to the full debate here:
I always look forward to these discussions about the issues facing our community. Strong solutions are built off of these open-minded conversations. When we work together, we can continue moving MN in the right direction.

Weekend of Action with Mark Dayton

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We kicked off the first October door knock with Governor Mark Dayton last Saturday morning. Over 30 students and community members joined to take part in door knocking, phone banking and on-site support.
I had the pleasure of speaking with several young representatives of the DFL party that are volunteering this election cycle — as well as many long-time supporters and new members of the community.
Many supporters brought their children along, which is always a strong reminder of why the work we do in St. Paul is so important. Being a father of three, I want to make sure my children, as well as the children of this community, receive the best opportunities to get ahead in life.
It was also an honor to have Governor Dayton and Representative David Bly engaged with the community — sharing their experiences and beliefs that we can rise above to make positive changes for future generations.
Overall, this was a great way to begin the last leg of the campaign season. We have several other community events to get involved in — more info can be found on the events calendar. Feel free to send me a note as well.
I’m looking forward to earning your vote this election,

Letting Our Youth Have a Say

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Last Friday I had the pleasure of presenting a bill before the Minnesota Youth Council’s January committee meeting held here in the State Office Building.  This is one of several legislative meetings planned by The Youth Council, an initiative of the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. In 2013 I passed a bill to give standing to the Minnesota Youth Council as a legislative committee that would provide advice and recommendations to the legislature and the governor.  The Council focuses on issues affecting youth, to serve as a liaison for youth around the state to the legislature and the governor; and submit an annual report of the council’s activities and goals.  The committee consists of four members from each congressional district in the state and four members selected at large. Members are selected through an application and interview process conducted by the Minnesota Alliance with Youth. Members, of diverse backgrounds, are between ages of 13 and 19 of and serve two-year terms.  This is an excellent opportunity is to engage young people and allow them to practice important leadership skills for civic engagement, policy research, and to really understand how the legislative process works.

My bill, SF 76, was one of 5 bills presented that day.  The bill would allow school districts to levy for long term deferred maintenance projects.  Currently, the largest 25 school districts receive this “alternative facilities revenue” and my bill would extend that revenue option to the other 300 plus districts around the state.  The 30 students at the committee table asked great questions about my bill, eventually calling for a roll call vote.  My bill passed and I gained some valuable insight on what students were thinking as it related to school facilities and how we work to try and maintain them.  Other Senators and representative presented their bills on varying topics ranging from health care, higher education, and workforce development.  You could tell the students relished the opportunity to interact with legislators, on real bills, in a real committee room.

As a high school teacher for the past 31 years, I know that our young people have a lot to offer.  They love to discuss the issues of the day and they all have opinions to share.  I have noticed over the years that some of the best testifiers in our committees come from our youth.  They tell it like it is offering a glimpse into their life challenges and experiences.  As legislators we would do well to consider how our legislation affects all Minnesotans, young and old.  Our policies we put in place now have long term ramifications.  Let’s be sure to allow the next generation to weigh in every once in a while.   I look forward to future committee meetings with the Minnesota Youth Council.

Life Lessons from Mayberry

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For the past 4 or 5 years, I have presented “Life lessons from Mayberry” at our adult forum between Sunday services at the Northfield United Methodist Church.  I usually take a couple of Sundays each year highlighting an episode of my favorite TV sitcom, the Andy Griffith Show.

My interest in the show runs deep, rooted in the fact that I grew up at the same time of the show’s initial run and I grew up in a small town in Iowa, living the same values, work ethic, and developing those relationships just like in Mayberry, America’s hometown.

Over the years, my forums included episodes such as “Man in a Hurry, Opie the Birdman, Sermon for the Day, Mr. McBeevee, and Opie and the Bully” to name a few. This past Sunday, I showed “Andy Forecloses,”  this episode in which Andy is asked to serve papers evicting a family who failed to pay their mortgage on time.  Old Ben Weaver, owner of the property, is so intent on following the letter of the law that he forgets the human element, and in this case, the devastating effect on the Scobees, the family who is forced to pack up and leave their home.

The discussion, from those in attendance at the forum, reminds us of some important “life lessons” we can all do well to revisit.  We as legislators have to remember that the laws we pass, revise or repeal have real effects on real people.  Face to face discussions with other lawmakers and constituents help us connect with real stories for better understanding.  While it is easy to follow the letter of the law, what are some of the important principles behind the legislation?

As Barney, Andy, Aunt Bee, and even Opie kick off the fund drive to “Save the Scobees” we are reminded how important community is in meeting the needs of individuals.  Our civic groups, schools, our churches, and other community organizations often are asked to fill the gaps when individuals and families are “down on their luck.”  As a state, we certainly want to support these groups and communities in their efforts to assist our neighbors to ensure their basic needs are being met.  In some instances, we as a state need to step in to fill the gaps.  Those initiatives should be purposeful with input from all those who are affected.  We can turn the power of one into the power of many.  I hope we are not too busy to stop, look around, and offer a hand to those in need.  It is the Mayberry way.