Legislators get earful from county commissioners

Published 6:45 am Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Three local legislators received an earful of advice Tuesday morning.

The Mower County Board of Commissioners meet with state Sen. Dan Sparks and state Reps. Jeanne Poppe and Robin Brown for an early Tuesday morning roundtable discussion of issues of mutual interest.

Brian Thiel, Republican-endorsed candidate for Poppe’s House seat, was also there.

Email newsletter signup

In addition, county department heads joined the discussion.

Afterward, Richard P. Cummings, 1st District county commissioner and chairman of the county board, praised the exchange of ideas.

“We won’t know how fruitful the meeting was until next year,” Cummings said. “They received the comments well and understand the position we’re in.”

Cummings said one of the most important issues discussed was how legislators take ideas from constituents in their districts to St. Paul only to see them controlled by two or three individuals, leaving them to watch from the sidelines.

“They get put into the hands of two or three people, rather than the entire Legislature to decide,” Cummings observed.

The county commissioners have struggled for years now with problems passed down to them from the state legislature and federal government.

So serious is the situation that the Association of Minnesota Counties, the powerful lobbying organization, issued its own legislative summary and a plan of action for counties to take with the local legislators.

Such issues as unfunded mandates, transportation fumding, the delivery of health and human services’ programs and others are thorny issues for the financially-strapped counties to handle.

Most thorny may be the apparent strategy of the state government to balance the state budget “on the backs” — some disgruntled county commissioners would say — of local government.

All three legislators will return to the state capitol in 2009 to take up new legislation with their Senate and House peers.

Cummings said he believes the trio of local politicians “understand.”

“We’re definitely hopeful something can be done,” he said later Tuesday morning. “Our legislators understand the impact, but we’re not sure all of the others do.”