Column: Crucial work being done as the session begins to wrap up

Published 12:00 am Monday, March 25, 2002

House Speaker Steve Sviggum recently said he expects the Minnesota House to finish its business by Wednesday, March 27, before the Easter break.

Monday, March 25, 2002

House Speaker Steve Sviggum recently said he expects the Minnesota House to finish its business by Wednesday, March 27, before the Easter break. At the breakneck speed this session has been going, the Speaker may be right. This past week, the House passed the last fiscal bill that will become part of the negotiations with the Senate to balance the budget. By law, the legislature still has quite a few days left in which members can meet. However, I think it would be a service to citizens if the legislature can wrap up business sooner.

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A primary role for government

One of the primary roles of government – local, state and national – is to provide those essential public services that the free market cannot. This includes the building of public infrastructure such as roads and sewers, and police and fire protection. Protecting citizens and their property is job number one. That’s why, not long after the tragic terrorists attacks of Sept. 11, state lawmakers pledged to shore up homeland protection here in Minnesota.

I and other House members passed a $22 million anti-terrorism package on Thursday that gives state and local law enforcement more tools to deal with potential acts of terrorist acts in light of the Sept. 11 tragedy. The new legislation also makes changes in crime prevention measures as well, making it easier for law enforcement to prosecute individuals for acts of terrorism and related crimes.

While you may not see visible changes at your area police and fire departments, I’m confident that this new set of anti-terrorism, anti-crime provisions will enable our public safety agencies to work more effectively. The legislation also ensures that our first responders are better protected in their job while they work to ensure the safety of the citizens they are pledged to protect. This is good legislation and I am proud to support it.

Bureaucracy grows

Part of the House plan to address the state deficit included spending reductions in state programs and hiring freezes in state agencies. Some more conservative critics have called for reductions in the number of state employees. This is easier said than done.

A recent staff memo shows how difficult it would be to cut state workers to free up dollars for the state’s general fund. The memo showed that the state Department of Health has 1,240 employees and more than 160 vacancies. What’s interesting is that two-thirds of these employees’ paychecks come from a combination of federal funds and special revenue funds. Thus, many state employees are insulated from across-the-board reductions that would occur to free up state general fund dollars. The other worrisome aspect is that despite calls for a smaller state government, state bureaucracy tends to expand because of the growing use of federal funds. Citizens should be skeptical when state agencies cry foul over state funding cuts.


I was pleased to see the new redistricting plan that the court released this past week. My new legislative House district is growing and will now include the southern portion of Mower County, including the communities of Lyle, Adams, Rose Creek and Elkton, and Nevada, Adams, Windom and Marshall townships. These communities share some of the same concerns about agriculture, education, taxes and economic development that are important to families here in Freeborn County.

Contact Dorman at 377-9441 or at the legislature, toll-free, at 1-877-377-9441. His legislative office address is 579 State Office Building, 100 Constitution Ave., St. Paul, MN 55155. His e-mail address is: