By Madison Rude // Murphy News Service
Dave Brown has had a busy legislative session.
The Republican Senator from Becker currently sits on the Environment and Energy Committee where he is “on defense” with the DNR’s recent regulations for Lake Mille Lacs.
“I’m just trying to keep too many what I call ‘extreme measures’ from being implemented in committee,” Brown said in a recent interview.
The DNR’s recent announcement that it would allow anglers to use live bait after previously stating it wouldn’t is only a slight improvement for Brown.
Brown is working on a bill that would implement a two-catch policy as opposed to the DNRs more rigid catch-and-release only policy for the season.
Brown was also successful at adding an amendment to the Fish and Wildlife Omnibus bill.
“[The amendment] will require the DNR to do a study on the fish hook mortality rate,” Brown said. “It’ll force them to reexamine their methodology. A lot of people are questioning if those numbers are accurate,” Brown added.
Brown’s ultimate goal is to strike a balance between the DNR policies and protecting the economy around Lake Mille Lacs, which is largely dependent on resort tourism.
“[Senator Brown] has really helped us in the Legislature with pushing bills forward,” said Tina Chapman of the Mille Lacs Area Tourism Council. “He’s been supporting and . . . carried in some bills on the economic side of things.”
Brown’s efforts with the Environment and Energy Committee are only part of his agenda this session, however, a session that will be his last. He’s planning to retire from political office this year.
Brown also sits on the Education Committee and is authoring a bill that would require schools to expel students who assault teachers or faculty. The bill follows a recent string of school assaults on faculty in Minneapolis and St. Paul since December.
“We’ll see how this session ends. I’d really love to see something done to protect our public school teachers,” Brown said. “It’s hard to get things passed when you’re in the minority,” Brown said.
Though he is in the minority, he said one of his biggest accomplishments during his six years in office — he was first elected in 2010 — has has been reaching across the aisle and working with DFLers.
“Building relationships with people on both sides of the aisle is something I’m proud of,” Brown said.
Those relationships will come into play as legislators debate how to spend the state’s $900 million surplus.
“I’d like to make sure we keep a hold on spending. I’d love to get that [surplus] returned to our taxpayers and . . . reinvesting into rebuilding our roads and bridges,” Brown said.
Gov. Mark Dayton and DFLers want to spend much of the surplus addressing racial disparities, transportation, expanded broadband services and tax cuts. Republicans, who control the House, are pushing less spending and bigger tax cuts.
Brown and his fellow legislators on both sides of the aisle likely will have to reach a compromise before any of the surplus can be put into play. And that bodes for a challenging few weeks of negotiations as the end of the session nears.
Brown’s busy schedule and his leadership on high-profile issues have kept him in the news consistently this session. And that frenetic pace is precisely why Brown has decided to retire from the Senate at the end of this year.
“I have another job, and that job is consuming more and more of my time and I can’t continue to do both jobs well so I felt I had to make a choice,” Brown said.
Brown works as a health insurance agent with the Breitenfeldt Group while he and his wife, Deborah, raise their two high school-aged daughters.
“I love spending time with my family . . . they’re my number one priority,” Brown emphasized.
He and his family attend Becker Evangelical Church are looking forward to exploring the country this summer once the legislative session ends in late May.
“We’re hoping to take a trip to see a part of the country we haven’t seen before,” he said.
Until then, it’s clear that Brown will be staying busy in St. Paul.
Madison Rude is studying journalism at the University of Minnesota School of Journalism and Mass Communication.