Tag Archives: Minnesota Legislature

Librarians feted at national legislative conference

Indivisible is working to inspire a cultural shift in how Americans think about the role of government in America by training the next generation of civic-minded leaders, disrupting and reframing negative media discourse about government, and creating a network of champions to change the conversation about government in their communities

This quote is from the website of Indivisible, a unique national initiative that has caught my attention of late – a welcome ray of sunshine in this era of government-bashing.

Yesterday’s email message from State Representative Rick Hansen of South St. Paul (DFL, House District 52A) offers a good example of the sort of positive discourse the founders of Indivisible envisions. Hansen was texting en route home from the Seattle conference of the National Conference of State Legislatures – which, incidentally, met in Minneapolis last year.

With all due pride Representative Hansen boasts that one of the high points of his deep immersion in legislative deliberation was the honor of accepting in the name of Minnesotans two national awards presented to Minnesota legislative librarians by the Legislative Research Librarians staff section of the NCSL.

The awards recognize the professional role of  research librarians as active contributors in the creation of exceptional state documents. The publications cited in the award assure that critical information is accessible for agency staff, legislators, advocacy groups and citizens who are grappling with the complexity of emerging issues.  The work of the cited librarians is evident in these state publications:

  • Minnesota and Climate Change – Our Tomorrow Starts Today, http://climatechangemn.org, prepared by library staff at the Pollution Control Agency

Kudos to the librarians and library staffers who were honored by the elected officials meeting in Seattle.   Thank you also to Representative Hansen for accepting the award in the name of Minnesota residents and taxpayers – and for sharing the good news with constituents back home.

 

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Karen Clark – Powerful voice for peace, justice and the American way

If you happen to bump into Karen Clark at the grocery store – as well you might – you might not immediately recognize the power and influence this diminutive dynamo wields in the political arena.  Last week Clark, who has represented her South Minneapolis District since 1980, was one of ten individuals honored by President Obama with the Harvey Milk Champion of Change award.  The Award recognizes the leadership Clark has shown as author and promoter of the Minnesota Freedom to Marry bill which recently passed the Legislature with bipartisan support.

In this and other situations Representative Clark is often identified as the champion of equal rights for LGBT persons.  Towards this end she authored and championed the same-sex marriage bill through good times and bad.

Lest anyone think Karen Clark is a one issue person, consider the range and depth of her legislative initiatives to promote social justice.  The list of bills she has authored range from issues dealing with housing and homeless people to human rights, affordable child care, women’s rights, peace, labor and more.  Whenever and wherever the little people have a need Karen Clark is at the ready.

The Harvey Milk award is surely a feather in Karen Clark’s cap.  Let it be known that this wise and powerful legislator has cast her political net to encompass every individual and segment of society that needs and deserves a voice in the Legislature.

If you see her at the grocery store, let her know how she has affected your life and the lives of those you know and love.

 

Voting Procedures Still on the Public Agenda at State and National Levels

Voter registration, an issue that some had optimistically assumed was resolved two decades ago by the  National Voter Registration Act  has emerged – no, erupted – as a major issue, a mighty weapon wielded by forces that are only too well aware that the place to stifle the democratic process is the voting booth.  Tinkering with the electoral process has taken various forms shaped to the vulnerability of the venue.   In Minnesota, the pressure point was the Voter ID Amendment to the State Constitution.  Originally portrayed as a benign detail the pernicious proposal was soundly trounced by the electorate in the last election.

An unintended consequence of that ill-fated rush to exclude has awakened Minnesotans to the importance of voters’ rights and inspired elected officials scrutinize the details with unaccustomed care.

The first legislative measures to take stage center are related proposals to allow early voting and to eliminate a requirement that people have a valid excuse to vote by absentee ballot.   Thirty two states offer some form of early voting in which there is no requirement for a valid excuse.  In some cases the votes are counted immediately; in others votes are not tabulated until election day and voters have a chance to change their vote. Many Minnesotans consider early voting a non-issue since they have assumed that Minnesota has had early voting in place all along.

The proposal now before the state Legislature would allow Minnesota voters to vote up to 15 days before an election.  On-site registration would still be available following the same requirements as are currently in place for Election Day registration.  While opponents fear easy early voting gives too much power to parties and voter fraud, proponents of absentee voting argue that it is more convenient for voters and that it would shorten the lines on Election Day.  Governor Dayton has not weighed in except to be very clear about the fact that any decision will have to have bipartisan support.

With heightened awareness of the import of the electoral process per se, Minnesotans may be interested to learn more about what is happening in other states and at the national level.  The Brennan Center for Justice which has long studied voting practices recently produced a major proposal to “modernize voter registration and bring America’s election system into the 21st Century.”  The plan, known as the Voter Registration Modernization (VRM), is the centerpiece of the Voter Empowerment Act introduced last month by a raft of legislators and prominently mentioned in the President’s State of the Union Address.

Those who hatched their nefarious plans to skew the American electoral process by tinkering with the “details” may find that shining light on those details has illuminated the gaps in a system that is now enjoying unprecedented attention.

Minnesotans out-voted every state in the nation in the last election.  We captured the national headlines with defeat of the Voter ID Amendment, once on its way to easy passage.  We have reason to be proud of our record.  We have a concomitant responsibility to follow what is happening in the State Legislature and in Congress.  We know from experience what it takes to keep a collective eye on the electoral process — constant vigilance is the price of liberty.

Truth Lurks Behind Semantics as Court Deliberates Who Names Constitutional Amendments

It’s plain hokum. If you can’t convince ’em, confuse ’em. It’s an old political trick. But this time it won’t work ~ Harry S. Truman

We can hope that HST was prescient and that the thinly-veiled effort to influence the turnout of the next election – and those that follow – will wither under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court and the informed caution of Minnesota voters.  The Uptake coverage of yesterday’s proceedings captured a process that seemed to confuse, even irk, the jurists;  the sparring among opponents certainly confused this viewer.

The issue on the Court’s docket this week is not on the wording of the two proposed amendments but specifically on whether the Legislature or the Executive Branch (i.e. the Secretary of State) has the authority and responsibility to prescribe the wording on the ballot that will face Minnesota voters in November.  A sub-issue stems from Governor Dayton’s veto of the original legislation initiated by the IR majority;  this raises the question whether amendment titles are considered ordinary legislation, subject to gubernatorial veto, or if they come under the Legislature’s exclusive power to propose Constitution amendments for voter approval.

The Court’s questions were focused and piercing.  At times the members of the Court got a tad testy at the evasive maneuvers of the attorneys.

For example, Attorney Jordan Lorence, representing the IR lawmakers and other amendment advocates, argued at one point that the fact that Ritchie had not edited the title of the 2008 Legacy amendment indicates that leaving the legislative language intact is normal practice.  Solicitor General Alan Gilbert, representing Ritchie and Attorney General Lori Swanson, reminded the Court and observers that the 1919 law clearly designated the Secretary of State as the authority responsible for the ballot language. Gilbert projected that disruption of that process would put into question nearly a century of constitutional amendments to the Minnesota Constitution..

The courtroom drama masks the real issue that lurks in the wings in this and several other states. Republicans who hold the majority in the Minnesota Legislature see legislation by Constitutional Amendment as a viable option – at least for the duration of their tenure.

One change that was clearly on the minds of some of the members of the Court would be to resolve the current dilemma by dropping or postponing the proposed amendments altogether.  Given the enormity of the policy implications that echo the judgment faced by Solomon himself this does seem like an option.

The Court has indicated that a ruling will be forthcoming within a month, still leaving the four weeks preparation time the Secretary of State’s office and local organizers will need to implement changes as necessary.

 

To review the July 31 happenings in the Minnesota Supreme Court click on The Uptake’s video coverage.  Meanwhile, the individual amendments (nicknamed for now the “Marriage Amendment” and the “Voter ID Amendment” are best tracked as distinct issues, separated at birth in the Legislature, joined as they face the Judicial Branch as a clash between the Executive and Legislative branches of state government.

 

Celebrate American Archives Month!

The very term “archives” conjures images of dust and decay accompanied by acrid aromas and tended by bespectacled history geeks.  All wrong.  And anyone who has ever explored family or house history, faced a legal dilemma, or wondered about local lore has had a brush with paper, digital or other archives.

 

October is American Archives Month, a season to be celebrated by the most tempero-centric – a time to think for a minute that those preserved photos, clippings, stories, public records and more didn’t just happen but have been collected, organized, preserved and made accessible through the deliberate and committed work of individuals and the commitment of institutions. 

 

At the time of the Minnesota Sesquicentennial I skimmed the state’s archival surface to compile a random list of irresistible lures to the world of archives.  Over the years I’ve tweaked it a bit – and was amazed to find it posted (sans attribution) on the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information website.  I have not checked to see if the original was edited by that group.

 

For some time I have wanted to share this listing and concluded that American Archives Month 2011 might be a propitious opportunity to resurface the whimsical list, slightly pruned and otherwise modified – not significantly updated because the month is just too short for a serious revision.

 

Many of the materials and descriptions here are accessible online; the print listings suggest a link to digital options. Because the digital resources offer an absolute minimum of the preserved record, we need and always will need multiple access options. Though digitization is growing at an exponential rate, its main contribution is to lure the armchair searcher into a passion to know more and to make the minimal effort to learn more.

 

This random list is absolutely arbitrary and whim-biased  with links to minute bits of Minnesota history.  Each of these guides, descriptions, stories was prepared by a Minnesotan, an organization or a state agency that cared enough about the state’s stories to collect, preserve, organize or otherwise help create the legacy.  Not everything is digitized or on the web – websites are just the most accessible right now.  These sites exemplify the ways in which Minnesotans have used the public records to plumb the depths of their particular interest or passion or legal encounter. 

 

Tending to the record of Minnesota is a collective responsibility and a public trust.  It takes personal conviction, time, talent and public support.  Without these and hundreds of thousands of other records, carefully organized and preserved, the Sesquicentennial would signify the passage of time rather than the values, the experience, the public record, and the recognition that access to information is at the very core of the democracy we share.  The challenge of today is to embrace that principle so that 21st technology enhances access to the building blocks and expands the embrace of this diverse, informed and sharing culture.

 

The disorganization is absolutely arbitrary – draw no conclusions. The omissions are legion.  Though a comprehensive and authoritative list would be a wonderful tool, the universe of possibilities is well nigh infinite and digitization is having a daily and profound impact on the possibilities. 

 

Pick a topic, probe a bit, and pause to think a bit about why and how we  preserve the data and the stories of our state.  Some places to start, bearing in mind that each of these tools reflects the commitment and labor, past and continuing, of an archivist and, in many cases, an institution:

 

Minnesota Archives, Minnesota Historical Society – MHS, along with several state agencies, is taking a lead at the national level in preserving the state’s own information digital resources.  It’s a monumental undertaking that does Minnesotans proud!  The depth of resources and the collaborative efforts of state agencies deserve an American Archives Month commendation. 

 

Minnesota Reflections, an overwhelming and growing collection of documents, photographs, maps, letters and more that tell the state’s story – a great starting point for any age.

 

James K. Hosmer Special Collections, Hennepin County Library – actually a collection of collections on topics ranging from Minneapolis history to club files to World War II and Abolition.  Much is digitized but, as always, that is but the tip of the iceberg – a tip worth checking out however.

 

Minnesota Place Names; a geographical encyclopedia, by Warren Upham.  A classic, originally published in 1920 and now available on line through the Minnesota Historical Society.   Overflowing with wonderful stories. 

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West Bank Boogie.  If you were around in the 60’s and 70’s you’ll be reminded – if not, see what you missed!  Cyn Collins is the collector and storyteller.

 

Holland, Maurice, Architects of Aviation, 1951.  William Bushnell Stout 1880-1956.  One man’s determination to record the stories of our aviation history.

 

A knack for knowing things: Stories from St. Paul neighborhoods and beyond, by Don Boxmeyer.  BiblioVault.

 

The Cuyuna iron range – Geology and Minerology, by Peter McSwiggen and Jane Cleland.

 

Ron Edwards, The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes: A Renaissance Black Man in a White Man’s World. Continued by a bi-weekly column from The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder  and a TV show on Channel 17.

 

Center for International Education (The CIE) – a self-proclaimed “media arts micro-organization” the goal of which is to “make poetic media with people of all ages from all over the world.”  Videos including interviews with Robert Bly, Tom McGrath, Jim Northrup, Frederick Manfred and documentaries on Eugene McCarthy, Paul Wellstone, Robert Bly, and much more. The world of Media Mike Hazard.

 

Alexander G. Huggins Diary and Huggins Family Photographs, Collections Up Close.  This is just one of numerous podcasts and blogs describing in depth the individual collections of the Minnesota Historical Society.  Re-live the day-to-day travels of this mission family in Minnesota 1830-1860.  Just a sample of the podcast/blogs from MHS.

 

Minnesota Tobacco Document Depository – built as part of the settlement with Philip Morris, Inc. et al.  26 million pages of documents.

 

Frances Densmore  Prolific writer and chronicler of the cultures of the Dakota and Ojibwe and other Native American Tribes.  Densmore also recorded over 2,000 wax cylinders of Native music.

 

The Jean-Nickolaus Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Collection.  The largest non-seminary Bible collection in the Upper Midwest.  Donald J. Pearce, Curator.

Rhoda Gilman, historian extraordinaire,  The Story of Minnesota’s Past, just one of several books by Gilman.   “The Dakota War and the State Sesquicentennial” is a more current blog representing her ongoing contributions to preserve and elucidate Minnesota’s story.  Google Rhoda Gilman for more glimpses of her writings over the past several decades.

 

Evans, Rachel.  Tribal College Librarians Build Map Database, Library of Congress Info Bulletin, Oct. 2002

The Archie Givens, Sr. Collection of African American Literature, University of Minnesota Libraries.

Perfect Porridge.  A good compilation of the TC’s Electropunk scene and lots of information about what’s happening on the broadly-defined media scene.

 

Saint Paul Police Historical Society, Saint Paul Police Oral History Project.  One man’s (Timothy Robert Bradley’s)  passion shared with the public.

 

William Watts Folwell,  Though  Folwell was best known as the first President of the University of Minnesota from 1868-1884 he moved on from that post to serve as professor of political science and continued as University Library until 1907.  The Folwell family papers, 1898-1944, can be found in the U of M Archives.

 

This Sister Rocks!  Thirty years ago Joan Kain, CSJ wrote a small book Rocky Roots: Three Geology Walking Tours of Downtown St. Paul.  The book, which  resurfaced during the 2006 International Rock Symposium, is now being edited for reissue by the Ramsey County Historical Society.

 

Lowertown, a project of the St. Paul Neighborhood Network, interviews artists who live, work and exhibit in Lowertown St. Paul.  The website also provides links to the websites of the individual arts.  A rich celebration and close-up view of this area’s art community.

 

Park Genealogical Books are this community’s specialists in genealogy and local history for Minnesota and the surrounding area.  Their list of publication includes how-to’s on genealogy, research hints and unique assists for anyone working on Minnesota genealogy, records and archives.  The life’s work of Mary Bakeman.

 

Fort Snelling Upper Post is a labor of love on the part of Todd Hintz.  Todd offers an historical timeline, a description of the current situation, wonderful photos by Mark Gustafson and an intro to related resources.  Great for anyone who cares of preservation of Fort Snelling.

 

Minnesota Historical Society, Oral History Collection.  Pioneers of the Medical Device Industry in Minnesota.  A sample of the rich oral history collection of the MHS.

 

Scott County Historical Society, Stans Museum.  Minnesota Greatest Generation Scott County Oral History Project.

 

Haunted Places in Minnesota.  Scores of deliciously spooky sites you’ve probably visited – but never will again – without trepidation.

 

Minnesota Museum of the Mississippi. Postcards and lots of memorabilia that tell the story of the river.

 

Special Libraries Association.  MN SLA: Early Chapter History (1943-1957)

 

Land Management Information Center – zillions of maps and mountains of data, plus people to help.

 

Minnesota Legislature, Geographic Information Services – maps of legislative and congressional districts, election results, school districts and much more.

 

Minnesota State University, Moorhead, Library.  Maps and Atlases – great guide to government produced maps and atlases

 

Minnesota Public Records Directory.  A commercial listing of Minnesota’s public records sources.

 

Minnesota Senate Media Coverage – live and archive coverage of Senate floor sessions, committee hearings, press conferences and special events.

 

Minnesota Office of the Revisor of Statutes – statutes, indexes, rules, drafting manuals and more.

 

Minnesota State Law Library, Minnesota Legal Periodical Index.  A practical guide prepared by the state’s law librarians.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Press, Minnesota History.  Quarterly publication featuring original researched articles, illustrations, photographs and other treasures from the MHS.

 

The Civil War Archive – more than you ever needed to know about the Union Regiment in Minnesota.

George, Erin.  Delving deeper: Resources in U’s Borchert Map Library, Continuum 2007-08. description of the massive resources of the U of M’s Borchert Library.

Shapiro, Linda.  Art History Goes Digital..   Description of the digitizing initiatives of the University of Minnesota’s collections.

 

Drawing: Seven Curatorial Responses.  Katherine E. Nash Gallery.  Curators’ perspectives on the challenge of organizing and make accessible this one art format.

 

The Minnesota Alliance of Local History Museums.  A forum for peer assistance among over fifty county, city and other local historical societies.

 

Minnesota Historical Society Collections Up Close.  Beautifully illustrated podcasts about what’s new at the MHS.  Regularly updated.

 

The Tell G. Dahllof Collection of Swedish Americans, University of Minnesota Libraries.  The collection encompasses American history seen from a Swedish perspective, the history of Swedish emigration to America, Swedish culture in America, and general descriptions by Swedish travelers to America.

 

University of Minnesota Media History Project, promoting media history “from petroglyphs to pixels.”

Ten Years of Sculpture and Monument Conservation on the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, compiled by Paul S. Storch, Daniels Objects Conservation Laboratory, Minnesota Historical Society.  Just one of dozens of similar conservation studies you’ll find at this site.

Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records.  Live access to federal land conveyance records for the public land states.  Image access to more than three million federal land title records for Eastern public land states issued between 1820 and 1908.  Much more!

Minnesota History Topics, a list of Minnesota-related topics to get you thinking about exploring Minnesota history.

 

Minnesota Government, an excellent guide to state government information sources compiled by the Saint Paul Public Library.

 

Minnesota History Quarterly.  Publication of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.  Available as subscription or with membership.  This one sample will give you the flavor, but there are lots more where this came from!

 

Revisor’s Office Duties – publications duties.  The Office of the Revisor of States covers many bases, particularly during the legislative session.  This list of publications offers a good overview of the Revisor’s domain.

 

New!!  Library Search, now in beta test phase.  A web interface for locating print (including articles), databases, indexes, electronic, and media items. Try it out and offer your unique feedback!

 

Geographic Information Services, State of Minnesota.  Includes scores of interactive maps of population, election results, school districts, legislative districts and more.

 

Children’s Literature Research Collections (Kerlan Collection), University of Minnesota Libraries, Special Collection.  A unique and inspiring collection of books, illustrations, manuscripts, notes and other records of children’s writers and illustrators.  The Kerlan also offers a robust series of presentations by children’s authors, writers and critics. 

 

Family History Centers in Minnesota.  One small component of the massive resources of the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.

 

Historic Museums in Minnesota.  Prepared by the Victorian Preservation of Santa Clara Valley.  An amazing resource with tons of information and in incredible wealth of links.  They offer this self-deprecating introduction:  “This is all pretty high tech for a bunch of people living in the past, but then you probably know our valley by its other name, Silicon Valley.”

 

Minnesota History Along the Highways, compiled by Sara P. Rubinstein.  Published by the Minnesota Historical Society.  Locations and texts of 254 historic markers, 60 geologic markers, and 29 historic monuments in all corners of the state.

 

Ramsey County Historical Society, the officially-recognized historical society of Ramsey County.  The Society’s two primary programs are the Gibbs Museum of Pioneer and Dakotah Life and the quarterly magazine on Ramsey County history and St. Paul.

 

The Regional Alliance for Preservation, formerly the Upper Midwest Conservation Center at the Minneapolis Art Institute.

 

Minnesota HYPERLINK “http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html” Lakefinder, sponsored by the DNR, provides in-depth information about 4500 lakes and rivers in the state – surveys, maps, water quality data and more, including a new mobile app for the water or ice-based fisher.

 

North American Immigrant Letters, Diaries and Oral History, a database including 2,162 authors and approximately 100,000 pages of information re. immigration to America and Canada, 1800-1850.  Produced in collaboration with the University of Chicago by Alexander Street Press.

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Finding Aids to Collections Organized by Topic in the Archive of Folk Culture, compiled by Ross. S. Gerson. Minnesota Collections in the Archive of Folk Culture.  Library of Congress.   Sound recording in various formats.  You won’t believe the recordings they have preserved. The American Folklife Center

 

Minnesota Spoken Word Association, formed to create an alliance among spoken word artists and a resource center. Emphasis on youth.

Women and Girls Gather at the Capitol for President’s Day

Though we have yet to elect a woman President or Governor the day will come.  And the women and girls gathered in the Capitol Complex next Monday, February 21,  can claim their fair of credit.  The visits of two energetic delegations are sponsored by the Minnesota Women’s Consortium (MWC.)

For over a decade President’s Day marks the day on which the presidents of women’s organizations gather at the State Capitol to identify and support issues of concern to Minnesota women.  Attendees will deliver a joint statement to the Legislature;  they will then meet with Congressional delegates and the press at 12:30 p.m. in Capitol Room 318.

As Abigail Adams might have admonished her husband John, don’t forget the young ladies.  They’ll be there in numbers.  On the same day Minnesota girls age 13-18 will participate in the 9th annual Girls Rock! The Capitol event is co-sponsored by the MWC and Girls International Forum.  There’s an introduction to political leadership and activism in the Great Hall at the Capitol followed by a tour, mock voting, a mock committee meeting and a reception with women legislators.

A first this year will be the participation of 20 college women from Bahrain, Yemen, and the United Arab Emirates.  The college students will teach the girls about women’s leadership in their home countries – and undoubtedly face some tough questions posed by girls who have learned a great deal about the older students’ homelands in the past few weeks.

Bonnie Watkins, Director of the MWC, eagerly awaits the visitors, the political action and the photo ops with the teen politicos whom she observes “are incredibly bright and confident, and …will be running our state in no time at all.”  The day will come – and with the training and contacts offered by the MWC it will come soon.

For President’s Day info contact Bonnie Watkins (bonnie@mnwomen.org) or 651 398 3686

For more information re  Girls Rock! Call Erin 651 228 0338.

Messages on the move – A closer look

One of the side effects of this winter flows from the snail’s pace of traffic.  There is ample opportunity to observe, then reflect upon, the diversity of license places that bear the “Minnesota” label.   For the first time I have paid serious heed to optional plates purchased at a premium and proudly sported by Minnesota drivers with a cause or a condition.  A recent update from the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library announced a new publication from the Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department that puts the parade of license plates in contact.  Legislative Analyst Matt Burress tells us all we could ever have wanted to know about special license plates.

In his introduction Burress underscores that his overview and discussion will focus on “donation plates” that “provide funding for a specific program or organization from a contribution that is provided in addition to a typical plate fee.”  His offer of more information about license places – financing, costs and revenues, policy questions in creating a new special plate and general trends in other states compelled me to read on, where I learned more than I could have imagined about what goes on behind the bureaucracy that is on the surface as mundane as it is mandatory.

First, there are the types of places.  Burress identifies the following classes:

v     Collector plates for older vehicles;

v     Donation plates that require an additional contribution for a specific group or program;

v     Organization affiliation plates reflecting membership in a particular group;

v     Personalized plates bearing a unique sequence of numbers and letters set by the person requesting the plate;

v     Veteran and military plates representing separate military conflicts and veteran statuses; and

v     Other special plates for a particular status or type of vehicle.

When I was young we used to covet and collect spottings of license plates from other states.  In this mobile world that’s passé.  It seems to me that today’s challenge should be for the passenger to collect one tag from each of these categories.  The eagle-eye license plate identifier (EELPI)  ought to win, if only the unstinting respect for his/her visual acumen and rapid reflexes.  The challenge is there – of the 1.06 million Minnesota plates issued in 2010 only 8.4% fall in the “special plate” category.  Though thee highest number of special plates promoted the critical habitat several special plates adorn fewer than 500 vehicles.

Burress is meticulous in reporting on the fiscal impact of license purchases.  “In fiscal year 2010 for all plates combined, total revenue after costs amounted to a little under $475,000.  Regular passenger plates yielded a net cost of $674,000 and special plates yielded $967,000 in revenue.  Among special plates, personalized plates were the main revenue generator at about $731,000 in revenue.”

Most drivers and those who keep on eye on the traffic flow recognize three types of plates – regular passenger plates, the default plate for cars, vans, SUVs and other passenger vehicles.  Special plates contain some type of nonstandard design and can be obtained by request for passenger cars; in some cases a special is available for motorcycles, pickups or recreational vehicles.  Other vehicle plates are most often issued for specific types of vehicles (motorcycles, trucks, farm vehicles, buses, RVs or other special status, e.g. dealers, ownership by a tax-exempt entity.  Again there is a host of classes for other vehicle plates.

The category of special plates is complicated, to say the least..  These optional plates carry a different inscription, emblem, color scheme or background from regular plates.  In most cases,  purchase of the plates support or express a special interest.  Examples noted by Burress include veterans plates, firefighters, amateur radio buffs, classic cars, persons with disabilities and a number of colleges.  Many carry a requirement for purchase, e.g. past military service.  Burress reports that currently there are nearly 50 distinct special plates plus additional emblems and designs; he categorizes these as follows:  Collector, Donation, Organization/group affiliation, personalized, beterans and military,  and other special plates that reflect an applicant’s special status, e.g disability plates, limos, commuter vans and plates for impounded vehicles.

Most license plates carry a plate fee, generally set to cover the overall costs of program administration.  The fee for special plates is typically higher than for regular plates.  It’s interesting to note that, whereas there is a net cost of approximately $674,000 for regular plates, special plates, considered in toto, generate more than enough revenue ($967,000) to garner considerable profit to the state.

Any organization or institution – college, vets, public cause or other – with the thought of introducing a special plate will do well to consult Burress’ extensive information about existing plates and pending proposals.  The process is not simple but the report spells it out in careful detail so that the organization has clear guidelines and options.

This research document, prepared by the Research Department at the House of Representatives, posted on the website of the Legislative Reference Library, is a model of how the system should work — sound research well presented and widely shared by the State of Minnesota.  It offers an excellent example of access to government information, a right that Minnesotans need to recognize, appreciate and support as the Legislature convenes to grapple with the many facets of access.

One consequence of the report – possibly unanticipated —  is a sort of rule book for young passengers for whom the long ride in confined quarters calls for a lively diversion, possibly a chance to learn something about the array of licensing options and the conditions and causes they reflect.  Parker Brothers take note!