Capitol Update for February 16, 2007

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This week’s update from John Tuma:

Celebrating Valentines Day and Energy

Valentines Day has come and gone again.  While most people associate Valentines Day with chocolates, flowers, and sweethearts, I, on the other hand, associate the day with a political radical who actually put his political beliefs into action.  Though the history of the priest Father Valentine is shrouded in some mystery, he has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the most popular saints. 

Legend has it that in the third century Roman Emperor Claudius II decreed that a single man must not marry before and during military service because he thought it made them weak soldiers.  Valentine felt that family, commitment, and love came before any decree of a warring emperor and was not afraid to put his beliefs into action.  Father Valentine continued to perform marriage ceremonies.  As a result, the emperor had him beheaded.  But every February 14th he is remembered and beloved by us all or at least those who like chocolates and flowers.

Now I’m not asking you to lose your head over your political beliefs, but in the tradition of Valentine I am asking you to put your beliefs into political action and show up at the MEP Protect Our Great Outdoors Rally on Wednesday, February 21.  Though some positive things have happened at the Capitol, there is still a great deal to be done.  I have seen many political movements stall halfway through the legislative session due to a lack of momentum.  Therefore, this rally comes at a very critical time for maintaining the green surge.  Even though you will not lose your head, hopefully future generations will remember our efforts to protect the environment in the 2007 legislative session.

Though there have been challenges, the Legislature has made good progress this week.  The Renewable Energy Standard (RES) passed out of all of its House committees this week and is set for floor action in the full House Monday evening.  As reported earlier, there was a compromise reached with utilities through the Senate process.  The Clean Energy Minnesota team was satisfied with the Senate language because it reached our goal of having 25% of our electricity come from good clean renewable sources by 2020 and it kept the more questionable renewable energy sources from counting towards a standard. 

Prior to this week, there was some question as to whether the House was going to accept the language from the Senate compromise.  At the Monday hearing in the House Energy Policy and Finance Division that question was answered quickly when the House author, Rep. Aaron Peterson (DFL-Appleton), accepted the Senate bill and language.  He urged the committee to pass the bill without amendments and send it on to the Governor for his signature.  The House Republicans in the committee did offer several amendments that were defeated.  I believe they simply needed to remind themselves they were in the minority which they did repeatedly with success when all their amendments were defeated. (note from Jon: for those who don’t know Tuma’s background, he spent most, if not all, of his time in the Minnesota legislature in the minority as part of the House Republican Caucus)

I have to say as an old political veteran that I was very impressed with how well Rep.  Peterson and the committee chair, Bill Hilty (DFL-Finlayson), handled the situation.  As a first-time chair, this was the opening big test on how Rep. Hilty will be able to handle difficult issues.  He ran the committee with grace, but with a clear conviction of where he was going.  With other major energy issues ahead of us that will present even greater challenges, Chairman Hilty’s show of firm leadership with his committee is a positive sign.

A couple of those major tasks in front of the Legislature will be the passage of the Global Warming Mitigation Act and the Next Generation of Biofuels initiative which have now been introduced in both bodies.  The Global Warming Mitigation Act of 2007 in the Senate is SF192 chief authored by Sen. Ellen Anderson (DFL-St. Paul) and in the House it is HF375 chief authored by Rep. Maria Ruud (DFL-Minnetonka).  The next generation of biofuels legislation in the Senate is SF480 authored by Sen. Gary Kubly (DFL – Granite Falls) and in the House it is HF589 authored by Rep. Aaron Peterson.  These bills will receive fast action in both bodies due to the fact that they will have to travel through many committees.  The next-generation biofuels bills will have their first hearings next Monday at 12:30 in the House Agriculture Policy Committee and on next Tuesday at 3 p.m. in the Senate Agriculture Policy Committee.

Remember, be my Valentine by showing up Wednesday at the Protect Our Great Outdoors Rally next Wednesday.

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