Legislators continue bipartisan work

Published 6:04 am Friday, April 16, 2010

Dan Sparks

Minnesota Senate

Four years ago, legislators representing the Interstate 90 corridor came together to create a unified, bipartisan working group. The group was developed by the region’s Democrat and Republican lawmakers with the mission of giving a stronger voice to Southern Minnesota’s priorities in the legislature.

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Our goal was to foster relationships that looked beyond party lines and, instead, focused on the core values and priorities we all share in the Southern Minnesota region. Basically, we realized we could be more effective as a group in promoting issues important to our region than we could be as individual legislators working on our own bills.

The I-90 Group met this week for the annual I-90 gathering, in which we invite other lawmakers, staff and friends to an event that highlights not only the group’s legislative priorities, but also features items of importance to Southern Minnesota. For instance, this year’s event featured several Hormel products, as well as other products from industries located in other communities along the I-90 corridor.

This event is a chance to showcase Southern Minnesota for other lawmakers who may not have a deep connection with the area. The I-90 Group believes if we can help other lawmakers understand the important role our region plays in Minnesota’s overall economy and success, it is easier to gain support for our priorities and interests at the State Capitol.

For instance, in the past, we have all worked together to successfully promote bonding projects that have regional significance, such as the Edgewater Park clean-up, flood mitigation efforts in several communities, and improvements to the Hormel Institute. Together, the I-90 group has been very effective in promoting road and bridge products that are needed to keep our area viable. We also have collaborated to work on agricultural policies and advocate for farmers dealing with high land values, and all residents facing rising property taxes.

Together, the group has been very effective in working on these policies. Although the members representing the I-90 communities may change in the future, we hope to keep the group in tact for years to come and continue these important working relationships.

This message of cooperation was the same one that our congressman, Tim Walz brought to the Capitol when he visited this week. He works very hard to promote our area of the state, but his other job is to provide a working link between the state legislature and the federal government. His visit gave us an opportunity to learn about several different items making progress in Washington, D.C., such as an important jobs bill moving through Congress. In addition, he was able to hear about some Minnesota lawmakers’ concerns and give us insights about what is being done to address them.

Congressman Walz’s visit was another opportunity for lawmakers to be reminded of what’s happening in our part of the state. Often times, I think it’s easy for people to believe lawmakers sit in St. Paul very disconnected from what’s happening back home. In reality, most of us are very aware of why we were elected, and we are always working on ways to promote and support the priorities of our communities.

Of course, the best way to foster this goal is to stay involved with the process. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, ideas or concerns at 651-296-9248; sen.dan.sparks@senate.mn; or 317 State Capitol, St. Paul, MN 55155.