October 15, 2008
Susan Beasy Latto, Director, UMD Public Relations 218 726-8830 firstname.lastname@example.org
Wy Spano, Director of the Center of Advocacy and Political Leadership (218) 726-6658 email@example.com
UMD Hosts Debate on Constitutional Amendment
This Amendment Question is Buried Amid Extensive Pre-election Activity
Special Note of Explanation:
The Masters in Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) program at the University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) is proud to co-sponsor with Forum Communications a debate about the important constitutional amendment decision facing Minnesota voters this November 4th. MAPL and Forum have established a tradition sponsoring "down ballot" debates every 2 years-debates involving policies and issues which voters won't find on the top of their ballots. This year, providing information about the constitutional amendment proposing to dedicate funds to the Environment and the Arts is particularly important because each voter who fails to vote on the issue is counted as a "NO" vote.
In the November 4 election, Minnesota voters are being asked whether to raise the state sales tax 0.375 percent to fund outdoors and arts programs. Those on both sides of the issue will be part of the debate, sponsored by Forum Communications Company and the UMD Center for Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL).
The hour-long debate will begin at 12 noon, October 18 in the Kirby Student Center student lounge on the UMD campus. It will feature a well-known Duluth sportsman and a Twin Cities arts leader arguing for the amendment and two former Republican state senators presenting the anti-amendment side.
"Minnesota voters have heard little about this amendment because louder campaigns have drowned out talk about it," said debate moderator Don Davis, chief of Forum Communications' Minnesota Capitol Bureau that provides state government and political news to the company's 28 newspapers serving Minnesota. "We expect a debate focusing on specific issues Minnesotans should consider before going to the polls Nov. 4."
One panelist will be Dave Zentner of Duluth, who was involved in getting the amendment proposal to the voters. He testified at the state Capitol during many of the legislative hearings as the amendment led a 10-year journey to the ballot.
Zentner's qualifications to debate the amendment come thanks to 45 years of being active in the conservation movement, with conservation programs prime among those to benefit if the amendment passes. He is past national president of the Izaak Walton League of America.
Joining Zentner will be Lawrence Redmond of Minneapolis. He is a leader in the Vote Yes Minnesota campaign that is promoting the amendment and a long-time arts supporter.
Opposing the amendment will be former Sens. Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines and Carrie Ruud of Breezy Point.
Runbeck served in the Legislature 12 years and after losing a congressional race in the heavily Democratic St. Paul area, she became president of the Taxpayers League of Minnesota for a time. The league is leading the campaign against the amendment.
Two years ago, Runbeck ran former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams' unsuccessful campaign to unseat U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar.
Ruud served one term in the Minnesota Senate, representing an area from Bemidji to the south. Like Runbeck, as senator, Ruud often argued against increased state spending.
The proposed constitutional amendment goes to the voters after legislators passed it early this year. It would establish the higher sales tax for 25 years, funding programs related to clean water, parks, trails, wildlife habitat, arts and related programs.
Those favoring the amendment say legislators have not given those programs enough money over the years and argue that putting the additional spending in the Constitution is the only way to make sure work such as cleaning the state's waters goes forward.
Opponents say that even if the money is needed, amending the state's constitution is not the way to fund programs. Anti-amendment leaders such as Farm Bureau President Kevin Papp say Minnesotans elect legislators to make such decisions.
Many opponents question the need to raise $11 billion more for outdoors and arts programs over 25 years.
The October 18 debate is a continuation of a partnership between Forum Communications and the UMD Center for Advocacy and Political Leadership (MAPL) that began in 2004 and hosted a series of debates on the Duluth campus in 2006.