April 9, 2015 at 3:05 p.m.

Over spring break Nolan hits the road, re-connects

Over spring break Nolan hits the road, re-connects
Over spring break Nolan hits the road, re-connects

Congressman Rick Nolan shared some of his frustrations and his successes,  in a speaking appearance last week at the North Branch Rotary Club meeting.  Nolan was re-elected to his second term for the U.S. House in 2014.  He returned to Washington D.C. after about a 30-year break from first representing Minnesota in the 70s.  He told the Rotarians that he was part of an effort recruiting Minnesotans to run for Congress about five years ago, and he ended up being convinced that he ought to be the candidate.

 In the midst of Congress’s spring recess Democrat Rep. Nolan, is traveling his expansive 8th district;  that starts at the Canadian border and goes to the south end of Chisago County,  reconnecting with constituents.

Some of the frustrations he spoke about include the 56 times that the Affordable Care Act has had an up or down House vote.  Nolan said the measure never comes up under “open rule” which is the process when members can offer and debate amendments.

He said, even though the ACA has “plenty of room for improvement” the House leadership isn’t providing the appropriate forum in which to revise any portions of the Act.

It is also frustrating to still be hearing about getting rid of the EPA and how environmental standards and goals for cleaning-up pollution are a bad thing.

Decades ago, in his first stint in Congress, the environmental concerns were just beginning to be tackled. He sees very positive results such as clean rivers, smog reduction, less chemical industrial waste. He said the lifespan of an American has been doubled over the previous generation’s life expectancy, but there’s still much to do.

Climate change is a result of an “overwhelming” amount of carbon dumped into the Earth’s atmosphere and Nolan hopes to work to “incentivize” cleaner energy, perhaps with a fee on polluters going to rebates for preferred technologies.

In his travels, he said he has learned from manufacturing sector leaders that much of the growth in orders and hiring are a direct result of the market for environmentally friendly products, alternative energy components and innovations.

Nolan also shared that not all of Congress operates in the gridlock fashion the national media portrays.  He has found Republican leaders that he can work with and trust.  “I’ve had a Republican partner on everything I have done,” he said.

An issue he is clearly passionate about are what he called “wars of choice” that America is embroiled in.  

He said, “War has been holding back the U.S. economy.”   For what Americans have spent just for the Afghanistan conflict , every college student here could have attended school for free. (Trillions in expenditures compared to existing college loan debt.)

Rep. Nolan said he is not against protecting the United States and providing for a strong defense,  but the “duplicitous environment” and complex, centuries old arguments and affiliations that lead to warfare on the other side of the globe can’t be “won.”  He added, “I believe the U.S. intentions are good”  but it’s time to step out of this and concentrate on the problems here.

Nolan announced that as part of his service on the House Transportation Committee he and his staff have been involved in Highway 70 issues. The highway reconstruction project begins this summer making safety improvements and generally enhancing the inter-state route just north of here.

Train capacity, congestion and rail safety continue to be issues he is involved in.

As for his yes vote on the XL Pipeline route;  he said he has learned in life “...you have to play the hand you are dealt.”   Many thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sands are being shipped daily,  and a pipeline provides the safer, more efficient  method of transport.

There wasn’t time remaining to go into depth on a  question from the audience on complex Education funding shortfalls.  Rep. Nolan said federal mandates must be funded.  State education funding cold be revised as well. He said school funding coming from property taxpayers “creates incredibly gross inequities” between school districts.

For example:  Little Falls property owners pay seven times into schools what property owners in Monticello contribute.  If you moved the power plant tax revenues from Monticello to Little Falls, for example, the  playing field would still be tilted, only in the other direction.

Nolan was headed to Cambridge after the North Branch session to learn more about Sober Cab and recognize Judge Dehn for his work on the issue of driving under the influence, in Isanti County.  April 7 Rep. Nolan held a hearing in Duluth to gather input on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

North Branch Rotary meets at noon, Wednesdays at the AmericInn, in North Branch.  Dave Nordberg is President.  The Rotary will host an exchange student from Chile next year.  Congressman Nolan mentioned that he’s a member of the Brainerd Area Rotary.








 










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