Visits with constituents were useful

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, April 30, 2011

Column: Capitol Conversations, by Rich Murray

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter holiday. At the state Capitol, the Easter/Passover break gave lawmakers the opportunity to leave St. Paul and not have to worry about bills, committee hearings or floor sessions for a few days.

Most lawmakers used this free time to spend with their families and recharge their batteries, preparing for the final weeks of the legislative session. While I did some of that, I also used my “days off” to meet with residents around the district — my favorite part of the job.

Rich Murray

On April 20, I was invited to speak with sixth-grade classes at Lakeview Elementary School in Albert Lea. We talked for a while about the job of a state representative, the importance of legislative districts and the history of Minnesota, and then gave the students the chance to ask questions.

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The very first question asked of their state representative: “Are you having fun?”

Kids do say the darndest things. I told him I was having the time of my life.

They also wanted to know how much money I made as a state representative (roughly $31,000 each year) and if we were going to build a Vikings stadium (stay tuned).

In other words, the youngsters have many of the same questions as their parents — and it was truly a joy to visit with them.

Education meeting

At 4 p.m. that same day, the Albert Lea school board invited me to participate in an education forum prior to their board meeting at the Brookside Learning Center.

Considering that many teachers and school administrators were going to be in the audience, I thought it would be a good idea to invite some lawmakers who specialize in education policy to attend. Pat Garofalo, who chairs the House Education Finance Committee, and Branden Petersen, who serves on both the Education Finance and Policy committees, both were able to attend and participate.

In my opinion, the meeting went well, and we were all able to address many audience questions. My thanks to the school board for the invitation and for holding the event.

Fix Highway 69!

That evening, I drove to Emmons to attend a Nunda Township board meeting at the American Legion. Nearly 100 people showed up at this gathering, mainly to discuss improving Highway 69, which is in dire need of repair.

When that discussion ended, residents brought up many other legislative issues. An overwhelming majority of those who spoke said they want their state government to focus on growing jobs, and to stop spending so much money on government programs.

(Editor’s note: The Minnesota Department of Transportation plans to resurface Highway 65 and Highway 69 in 2013.)

Visit with the Rotary

At noon on April 22, I had a nice visit with the members of the Albert Lea Rotary Club. The Rotary gathering gave me a chance to sit down with business people, retirees and other community leaders and get their feedback on state laws and other issues that are impacting them locally.

Much like the Emmons forum, these meetings provide a great opportunity to speak to a large group of residents, while also giving them the chance to speak with their representative one-on-one following the event.

A church and a stadium

Every other Saturday I have breakfast with the Albert Lea mayor, and some of the City Council members often join us to discuss ways that the city and state can help each other, and to learn about issues that are important to them.

On April 23, the mayor and I attended the men’s breakfast at the First Presbyterian Church. Nearly 100 residents gathered to share fellowship and to hear from a guest speaker who overcame the adversity of drug and alcohol abuse and eventually put his life back in order.

Then on April 25, I was invited to a local restaurant by area Minnesota Vikings fans. These folks favor a new Vikings stadium and wanted to learn more about how the stadium bill is progressing at the Capitol and to find out how they can help further the cause.

So while official business at the Capitol slowed to a stop last week, I was able to gather good ideas and valuable input from many interested citizens around our district — and have a lot of fun in the process!

Have a question or concern? Constituents in District 27A including communities in Freeborn and Mower counties can write to me at 439 State Office Building, 100 Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155. Or call me at 651-296-8216 or email me at

Rich Murray, R-Albert Lea, is the state representative for House District 27A.