Today was not like any other Saturday for me. The Minnesota Legislature was in session, a double feature with the Senate in the AM, and House in PM. The Legacy bill was up. I had input on that bill for transparency and accountability standards. The castle defense/gun bill was up in the House also. Senate had several civil law bills that can have impact on consumer rights. Finally, there was the conference committee on Voter I.D.
I was thinking of spending the day at home watching the debate and tweet with others who follow the Legislature. I saw the Senate session on Legislative TV. The civil law bills dealing with statute of limitations and class action suits came up. As the bills are being debated, the tweets all of a sudden are appearing this is bad for consumers, no, it is good for the business climate. I watch the tweets on the twitter machine.
I decide to engage. I stated that business has opportunity to get legal reform because of GOP Legislature. The bills being discussed have significant impact on our consumer rights. I decide to make judgement on the two bills, I say the "consumer is neutered" by taking away their legal tools. I leave with the question, Will Governor Dayton be our consumer interest protector? Other words, veto the bills.
The Senate passed both bills. The tweets start again. With bi-partisan support both bills pass, the tweet said. Again I engage. How do you define bi-partisan I said. Some response. I left with one more "view" tweet, bi-partisan does not necessarily mean just a few votes from the other side.
By this time the adrenaline is following, I am getting itchy, I make a decision to go to the People's House.
The second feature on the double bill, the Minnesota House. I enter the Capitol, hardly any lobbyists there. The Minnesota Police Chiefs and Sheriffs Association lobbyist as well as the Minnesota Gun Owners Civil Rights is there among others. I decide to plug in with the lap top.
The Legacy bill debate starts. Again the twitter starts, the tweets describing the urban/rural split on funding. Comments about how the Legacy bill acquires property, shameful the tweet says. I engage, asking questions. Get some response. Bottom line, I left with a tweet stating what will be the Governor's role in the Legacy drama.
Being in person at the Capitol makes all the difference in the world for communication and impact on legislation. Spoke with several legislators, one indicated to me that language dealing with an issue I have been following will be stripped out of a bill, interacted with Co-Chair of a Conference Committee to see if a bill was still open to hear from Governor Dayton. Talked with a lobbyist about an alternative way to get language passed before end of session. Even set up an opportunity to talk with a lobbyist who wants input on an initiative for 2012.
I even interacted with young people and their hosts on prom dates from Central High School and St. Croix Lutheran who decided to use the inside of the Capitol for picture taking. I said to one group of young people, my prom theme was "Color My World" by Chicago, half the group knew the song and group. Their theme was "Arabian Nights". Of course I said what was going on at the Capitol, what I did, and how they can make a difference. A woman even shook my hand and said thanks.
The trailer was a short stop in the Voter I.D. Conference Committee. If the bill becomes law I want to make sure that certain data that is collected for one purpose not be used for other purposes. The position what I wanted was adopted.
The day at the People's House was productive. It is important for the people of Minnesota to understand that you can make a difference, there are 9 days left til end of session. No matter what your views are I encourage you to become engaged either through the phone, the "electronic" way, or as I still do the "face to face" way, or a combination of, on the issues you are concerned about.
Accountability, Openness, and Transparency of the Legislative process begins with you.