Lawmakers play dirty with first-graders’ bill


That’s one for big soil!

Assuming Gov. Dayton doesn’t veto a bill, Minnesota will have a new “official” soil: Lester.

That’s great for fans of soil, but it’s got the first-grade teacher whose kids (above) have lobbied for an “official mammal” in the state pretty ticked off.

Almost from the start this year, Legislative leaders have dismissed retiring teacher Dana Coleman, whose kids researched bears and put together a campaign to make the bear the official state mammal.

For the most part, Coleman and the kids got a pat on the head and assurances that while they did a great job, the Legislature is far too busy with important issues to be fooling around with official designations.

Then this week, the legislature tucked an amendment into the omnibus agriculture bill designating Lester as the official state soil:

Today, Coleman sent a letter to the busy leaders:

Un-be-lievable! Un-be-lievable! So Lester Soil State Soil isn’t a ‘Fluff’ Bill? #2144/#1905 State Mammal Bill is? Kids working toward something they believe in, not worthy? A Senator retiring… let’s pass one for her. I’m retiring… pass one for me. Un-be-lievable! Such a double standard and only goes to prove that money talks! This is not a lesson kids should learn. Things don’t always work out the way you want… that’s a valuable lesson learned. Under handed dealing… no! Don’t play the ‘fluff ‘card if you aren’t going to use it fairly and consistently. You as a leader and the MN House should be ashamed of and disappointed in yourselves. I certainly am of you! You haven’t broken our spirit… it will only make us fight harder to prove how important this bill is to these kids! See you next session!

  • John O.

    Kudos to Ms. Coleman for having the audacity to stand up publicly on behalf of her class and let these legislators have it.

    The Legislature deserves it.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Too bad politicians can’t be prosecuted for institutional incest.

  • Bonnie

    Dana Coleman was ready to be done with this issue, but her fans and friends on facebook and beyond encouraged her to take a break and think about continuing the effort next session. I am really glad to see the fire in her belly, and it is refreshing to see someone publicly go after these “holier than thou” types at the legislature! Go Bears!

  • Dave Eldred

    To be fair, this is a great lesson for the kids in precisely how things are done in St. Paul.

  • Mark Gisleson

    Speaking as a former Iowan, I have always been appalled at how hyper-politicized Minnesota politics are, and how pervasive the pay/go system is entrenched here.

    I have absolutely no doubt that whoever stuck Lester into that bill got money from someone who wanted Lester to become the state soil. Not a bribe: no need for those when our entire political system runs on campaign donations (which are indistinguishable from bribes).

  • Jim Shapiro

    Mark – “Not a bribe: no need for those when our entire political system runs on campaign donations (which are indistinguishable from bribes).”

    Nicely said.

  • Jon

    I’m blaming the media on this one.

    I like the capitol press and they do a good job of covering lots of issues, but I am a bit dumbfounded to see that reporting focused primarily on Lester as to what is in the ag bill. It is what, two lines in a bill that runs dozens of pages? But it got all the media.

    There are some interesting things in that bill, but instead it gets portrayed as a celebration of soil. I think that was a real failure of reporting.

    I don’t think there is any reason to designate a state soil, but its not like they held a hearing on it.

  • Bob Collins

    Don’t get me started on omnibus bills. I’ve said it before. Nothing has changed. They’re impossible to track, they’re impossible to hold legislators to account for all the components, and they’re put together in backrooms.

    BTW, the Senate version got a hearing and passed out of State Government Innovation and Veterans .

    This being a non-budget year, there wasn’t that much in the Ag Bill

    It would define “non-hardy” as a plant that cannot be expected to survive or produce flowers in certain growing zones and would require non-hardy nursery stock to be labeled as such.

    Similarly, nursery stock collected from the wild must be labeled as such when sold; unless it has been grown in nursery rows for at least two years. Additionally, vegetable and flower seed packets could list the number of seeds in the packet, instead of the net weight.

    — Requiring labeling of non-hardy plants.

    — Expansion of Ag department enforcement powers on grain storage.

    — Eliminating fees on farmers who grow their own food.

    — Establishing a pilot microloan fund for “persons of a protected class” (that’s kind of interesting.

    — Establishing a dairy research and consumer education authorit.

    — Expand Lutheran Social Service appropriation for disaster relief.

    — Dept of Ag authority to levy civil penalties.

    Meanwhile, you want to guess what “Section I” of the bill entailed? Section I!

    Yep, the official state soil.

    There was some discussion on organic production and data. Mark Steil did a very comprehensive story yesterday on organic vs. traditional production. The story was about 30 times longer than the short blurb on Lester.

  • Jon

    I admit, blaming the media was a poor choice of words (and not a concept I buy into). I am just disappointed in how many headlines Lester was mentioned in. And I find it pretty sad that the legislature bothered to give it a hearing because there certainly are better things to be working on.

    I think there was an interesting story to be had in the microloan provision. I don’t know anything about it, but I do know it was important enough for a frequent ag critic in the DFL to get up and highlight its importance during the House conference committee vote. It seems like that section might have made a better story. And as a person who buys native plants, I do want to know for sure that they weren’t harvested from the wild, so I’m happy that is there.

    I like Mark Steil’s stories. I’m glad he is out there. I am also happy when I see that you’ve been reading the bill introductions. Please keep it up.

  • Bob Collins

    //in how many headlines Lester was mentioned in.

    Wouldn’t surprise me, Jon, if most of them led back to the AP story. I kinda doubt many newsrooms spent time on the official soil.

    I’m going to look into the microloan provision and see if we can find more on it.

    I’m planning a “farm tour” this summer. Nothing big, just stopping in at different types of farms around the state and learning what people do and what they think about what they do.

  • http://N/A Michael martin

    Thank you Mr. Collins,

    For the past two years these wonderful; Children and there adviser,has taken a lot of their time to study about the State of Minnesota, and how it works, and found that Minnesota is one of a handful of states that do not have a state mammal, so being they were in bear mode( A wonderful majestic mammal) and thought that it should be the black bear to represent the state. well our great political system don’t seem to care for children, and shot them down with out even a reason except the usual form letters with hog wash , I could go on and on but we will see what happens during the time to vote, I personally do not care for bullies.

  • Amy

    I am so proud of the 1st grade teacher. I am so happy that she is teaching her students to never give up. she is so special and i wish i had a teacher like her when i was in school. but now as i have been following the bill she is now (My teacher too) keep fighting Dana

  • Dana Coleman

    Jon – ” I don’t think there is any reason to designate a state soil, but its not like they held a hearing on it.”

    The Senate did hold a hearing on it. It was the Bill up for discussion right before our Black Bear ~ State Mammal Bill SF #1905 on Monday, March 12 at 1:00PM.

    The Black Bear ~ State Mammal Bill and the Lester Soil ~ State Soil Bill may seem to have little value to most people, but for the short, and I mean at the most 10 minutes for each bill, it really wasn’t a waste of our legislator’s time.

    This is a way to honor something that is significant to Minnesota as a symbol for our state, just as the United States has symbols:

    • National bird: Bald Eagle

    • National personification: Uncle Sam

    • National flower: Rose

    • National tree: Oak

    Introducing the Bill for the Black Bear as Minnesota’s State Mammal was my first grader’s way to honor something that has great significance to them. This process is the way to enable kids to understand the workings of our government, a way for them to see the importance of getting involved in their community and to learn at a very young and impressionable age that their voice is a very powerful tool. Many important lessons have been learned through this journey of ours.

    Some say the black bear is nothing more than a scavenger, yet the American Bald Eagle is proudly and honorably known as a scavenger. The Black Bear would make a wonderful symbol for Minnesota, one we could all be proud of. Especially proud would be a group of very hard working, determined six-year-olds. These children are our future and because of their journey, know how to and have stood up to defend what they whole hearted and passionately believed in. How many adults can say that?

    In my opinion, these two Bills are not a waste of time. They are honoring things in Minnesota that we are proud of.

    Dana Coleman

    First Grade Teacher

    Andover Elementary

  • Nancy Weber

    Go get ’em Ms. Coleman! This is total B.S.! I am so sick of Minnesota politics and politics in general. We, the people, should not have to fight and fight to get our voices heard. We elect you to represent US. They have proven over and over, that the only ones they listen to is the higher bidder. Is this the lesson we want our children to learn? That the winner is the one who has the most money??? Really?????

  • Judy Herzog

    Politics never cease to amaze me. Really, a State Soil is so much more important than naming a State Mammal? What a fine example these politicians are setting for the younger generation. These kids have learned how “not” to act as a public servant.

    I am behind Dana Coleman and her team of 6-7 year olds for as long as it takes to get this bill passed.

    Shame on every legislature who had anything to do with denying a hearing on the Mammal Bill. You should ashamed of yourselves and your actions. Hopefully, Minnesotans will let their voices be heard at election time. None of these folks deserve to “serve” their fellow citizens.