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Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa

Jerry Holt, Star Tribune

Anderson: In House, clueless lead clueless on outdoors issues

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON
  • Star Tribune
  • April 6, 2012 - 8:29 AM

The fun-loving bunch who run the Minnesota House has taken up the state's challenges this session as a series of no-brainers.

Without even having to think, they declared donated venison exempt from food-safety statutes and changed the date of the fishing opener. Many in that Republican-controlled chamber also want to loosen wetland protections and deflower the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Citizens Board. Meanwhile, they're stockpiling money for carp barriers whose chances for construction anytime soon are near zero. And they're trying to penny-pinch the Department of Natural Resources out of business.

Sit on any bar stool in the state for a month and you won't hear such buffoonery.

To draw a TV analogy -- the most effective way to communicate these days -- watching the House this go-round has been akin to being caught up in endless reruns of "The Office," where boss dunderhead Michael Scott is abetted by bootlicker Dwight Schrute while the supporting cast, alarmed yet complicit, joins the hilarity as nothing, really, gets accomplished.

To their credit, some House members have worked hard this session to educate the public about the importance of personal responsibility.

For instance, Rep. Tom Hackbarth, R-Cedar, has been quick to alert poor people and other unfortunates that while uninspected venison they might encounter at food shelves this fall could contain chunks of lead bullets, it's their choice whether to feed the potentially toxic meat to their kids -- or whether instead to let the little ones go hungry.

"Personal responsibility,'' Hackbarth effuses, that's what freeing donated venison from the menacing grip of state health inspectors is all about.

Similarly, those who worry that Minnesota is fast becoming a "nanny state'' in which all problems are solved for residents and risks to their welfare eliminated can sleep well knowing that Rep. Steve Drazkowski, R-Mazeppa, has been ever ready this session to ward off any such sissy creep.

Example:

Come autumn, you might fancy a stroll with Ol' Fido amid the season's florid aspens and oaks. Or perhaps you ponder following your English setter or Labrador retriever in quest of the wondrous and wily ruffed grouse.

But instead you stay home, fearing the watered-down body-gripping trap regulations the House passed this week might ensnare your pooch in the torturous death grip of a Conibear 220.

Well, man up, you sissy, and head for the woods, your doggie in tow. It's not the Legislature's job to protect Minnesotans and their chicken-livered mutts from concealed killers -- even though Wisconsin, among other states, has managed such protections quite well.

Drazkowski also stands ever alert on behalf of citizens who worry they might have too much public land at their disposal on which to have fun.

There's hardly a public forest that couldn't easily be platted for homes, he seems to believe, or a state park whose trees shouldn't be whacked or a wildlife management area that wouldn't be better suited as a feedlot.

But give Drazkowski this: He puts in his time.

"Your constituents get their money's worth," crowed Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, in a recent committee meeting that McNamara chaired. As evidence, McNamara noted that Drazkowski's's pickup truck has been at the Capitol this session day and night.

"I wouldn't leave either," quipped one wise-guy observer, "if I had his per diem."

But perhaps Gov. Mark Dayton will laugh last and veto all of this chicanery.

The House, after all -- unlike the more contemplative (and also Republican- controlled) Senate -- failed this session even to consider the governor's proposed hunting and fishing license fee increases to bolster the DNR's Game and Fish Fund -- minor price hikes that every hunting and fishing group in the state supports.

Making bad worse, the House's vote to change the first day of the fishing season this year from May 12 to May 5 without public testimony or input from miffed resort owners who have no employee help lined up for the earlier opener confirms Dayton would do well to veto not only the Game and Fish bill but the Omnibus Environmental Policy bill the House passed Thursday, assuming they emerge from conference committees weakening wetland and other land and water protections, and without a bolstered Game and Fish Fund.

Michael Scott of "The Office" might have been summing up the House's handiwork in recent weeks when he said:

"That was a waste. I think that we might be in trouble. We don't seem to have a plan."

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

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