LAFAYETTE - During a school visit Monday, Rep. Clark Johnson, D-North Mankato, told Lafayette Charter School (LCS) sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders to be persistent, be aware of what's going on in the world, vote and try to make it a better place.
"Every morning, the first thing, even before I eat breakfast, is I read several daily newspapers so I have a good idea what it going on in the world," Johnson said.
Johnson, whose 19A district includes Lafayette, said transportation projects are important for rural Minnesota and the Twin Cities to remain competitive. "(U.S.) Highway 14 needs to be a four-lane highway. I think we can raise taxes to pay for four-lane highways. My (political) colleagues disagreed, but by being persistent, I wrote a legislative bill last year to issue $300 million in bonds appropriated to help pay for a Highway 14 interchange. You've got to know when to hold up, fold up and walk away."
Staff photo by Fritz Busch
State Rep. Clark Johnson, D-North Mankato, talks with students Monday during a visit to Lafayette Charter School. Johnson represents District 19A in the Minnesota Legislature, and Lafayette is part of that district.
Johnson is in his first term as a legislator, He was elected in February 2013 during a special election.
He said one of the first things he learned at the Legislature was that it has lots of informal rules. "You have to be able to anticipate what's coming," he said. "Sometimes, I wish we could just slow down, but there's a lot of work to be done. Our (legislative) sessions can last until 3 a.m., even all night sometimes."
Domestic violence is among his biggest social concern in the Mankato area. "I signed onto bills allowing GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to be used to track violent criminals so victims and police know when they are nearby," Johnson said. "Mental illness needs to be a treatable disease. I know. My wife April is a school social worker in Waseca.
In addition to addressing the students, Johnson talked with LCS teachers, staff and cooks.
He said he was proud of legislation he supported that froze tuition this year and next a public universities and tech schools and helped return education funding back to public schools this year that the State of Minnesota earlier borrowed to help balance the state budget.
An Agricultural Policy Committee member, Johnson authored a bill last May creating civil liability immunity for agriculture tourism activities. He's also serves on the Transportation Finance, Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Health and Human Services Policy Committees.
"With rising healthcare costs, it's more important than ever to get plenty of exercise and eat healthy food to keep from getting sick," Johnson said.
Sandra Stugelmeyer, business manager at LCS, asked Johnson to visit the school after she couldn't attend a town hall meeting set up by the lawmaker.
Away from St. Paul, Johnson serves as student relations coordinator for Minnesota State University, Mankato, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. He advises all MSU students majoring in social studies and teaches a methods course.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at email@example.com).