Column: Bills address meth and consumers’ right-to-know

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 14, 2004

By Sen. Dan Sparks

It’s hard to believe, but the Minnesota Legislature is already wrapping up the second week of the 2004 legislative session. Although this year, the second of the two-year biennium, is a so-called &uot;short session,&uot; it has become obvious there is no shortage of challenging issues to be addressed.

While issues such as sports stadiums, new education standards and lower drunk-driving limits have been dominating the news, lawmakers will also be busy with other important initiatives this session, such as the capital bonding bill.

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The bonding bill will finance a variety of improvements and repairs to state facilities such as roads and bridges, higher education buildings, health care and correctional facilities, and park and trail systems such as the Shooting Star and Blazing Star Trails in our area.

This fall, the Senate Capital Investments Committee even visited Riverland Community College to gain more information on a bonding request that I am carrying in the Senate, which would grant RCC money to purchase updated science lab equipment. Hopefully, this infusion of bonding dollars into our state economy &045; and the jobs that follow &045; will be passed quickly.

Another priority DFL lawmakers have set this session is education. Last fall, I had the opportunity to visit five schools throughout our district and gained a valuable first-hand look at how our schools are dealing with the challenges they face. I met wonderful teachers and students who are doing the best they can with limited funds, but for many, recent budget cuts are becoming too much to handle.

In an effort to resume our state’s commitment to classrooms, Senate DFLers will be taking a fresh look at such things as teacher performance pay, early-childhood educational opportunities, special education reform, and a proposal for funding all-day kindergarten throughout the state.

What we must remember is that an investment in education is an investment in our state’s future economic health.

In addition to these &uot;hot button&uot; topics, there are a few initiatives of my own I will be working hard on this year.

Two bills I am carrying focus on problems that have begun to seriously affect our part of the state &045; meth production and the outsourcing of jobs.

The &uot;meth bill&uot; will make it possible for individuals caught producing drugs in front of children subject to child endangerment charges, and therefore stiffer penalties and fines.

The &uot;consumer right to know bill&uot; targets some of the consequences of sending jobs overseas. It gives consumers the right to know where they are calling when they contact a customer service provider, allows them to request to speak to someone in the U.S., and also prevents overseas operations from collecting financial or identification information.

I am also working on a bill that would establish a uniform voting system throughout the state, addressing some of the problems we ran into during the 2002 election.

In addition, I have signed on as co-author to a bill that would develop a regional public safety training center in Rochester, serving public safety personnel from 16 communities in District 27 alone.

Of course, there is other legislation I will be promoting this year, but these are bills I feel have special importance in Southeast Minnesota.

As you can see, this will be a busy session so please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or concerns. I can be reached at 651-296-9248; G-24 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155;, where you may also request my weekly e-mail newsletter.

I look forward to hearing from you in the weeks to come.

(Sen. Dan Sparks (DFL-Austin) represents Distict 27)