Ozment, Gerlach expect big discussions this sessionA little more than a day in, Dennis Ozment said his last legislative session feels a lot like any of the 23 that have come before it.
By: Nathan Hansen, Rosemount Town Pages
A little more than a day in, Dennis Ozment said his last legislative session feels a lot like any of the 23 that have come before it.
Ozment, who has represented Rosemount in the Minnesota House since 1984, announced last month that the legislative session that began Tuesday would be his last. Several Rosemount residents have since announced plans to run for the seat in the November election.
“So far it seems like it’s a regular session,” Ozment said. “Lots of controversy. Plenty of tension. The desire to get finished in a hurry. The regular things are still on everybody’s agenda.”
According to Sen. Chris Gerlach, the “regular things” include education, health care, transportation and the environment.
“Those are the four biggies,” Gerlach said. “The biggest challenge is going to be meeting everybody’s requests and demands when there’s a deficit.”
There could be some heated discussion when it comes to transportation. The state’s infrastructure has been under a microscope since the collapse of the I-35W bridge last August.
For some that transportation talk could include light rail, a topic Gerlach hopes to avoid in favor of increased bus service in the south metro.
Gerlach ultimately expects a “showdown” over whatever transportation bill comes forward, with some legislators, including Gerlach, seeking to reallocate money to cover the costs of transportation projects and others seeking new taxes.
Ozment said he’d like to see infrastructure and transit separated when in discussions about transportation.
“The biggest hang-up people have is not that people are unwilling to invest in infrastructure. It’s concern that a tax increase would be used for something other than infrastructure,” Ozment said. “When I listen to my colleagues debate this issue it’s far more, ‘Where is the money going?’ than ‘Where is the money coming from?’”
Gerlach said he’d like to see discussion this session about adding insurance competition in the marketplace and improving education. The education discussion, he said, could focus on finding ways to make sure high schools serve all students as well as possible instead of being what he called “holding tanks for everybody.
“Yes, there are some advanced programs ... and special education but really in the classroom there’s no customization. There’s no recognition that students learn differently,” he said. “Maybe there’s an acknowledgment of that but there’s nothing done about it.”
Ozment, long a champion of environmental issues, said he’d like to see money in the bonding bill to repair ailing wastewater treatment plants and make other improvements that would protect the environment. He is supporting a constitutional amendment this fall that would dedicate new tax money to wildlife habitat.
Ozment hopes the fact he is on the way out after this year will help him get things done.
“My highest priority is to be able to facilitate some of the discussion,” Ozment said. “People now know very clearly that I don’t have any hidden agendas. I never did, but politics is a strange animal in itself. Trust is really needed to get the job done.”