by Carah Thomas-Maskell
U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar and her family paid a visit to the North Shore over the holiday break, stopping in Grand Marais on Thursday afternoon, December 27th.
Senator Klobuchar, accompanied by her husband John and 12-year-old daughter Abigail, drove up the shore on a sunny, mild winter's day, stopping to cross-country ski at Gooseberry Falls State Park.
"The weather is amazing,"said Klobuchar over coffee at the Blue Water Café in downtown Grand Marais, "so we had the best cross-country skiing I've ever had in my life. I told Abigail it never gets better than this."
Klobuchar, who served for eight years as the Hennepin County Attorney, is completing her first year as a United States Senator representing Minnesota.
When asked to look back on her first year, she replied, "It was a year marked by some unforeseen tragedies in our state, between the fire up here, the bridge collapse and the floods in southern Minnesota."
As a freshman senator, Klobuchar had set about getting herself appointed to committees where she thought she could do the most good for Minnesota, including Commerce, Agriculture and Forestry, and Environment and Public Works. "It's almost a bizarre coincidence, but it really helped to be on those committees to help with those tragedies. So that was a big part of the year, especially at the end, making sure that we got the funding for a number of those projects."
Senator Klobuchar also highlighted her work on the passage of a bill addressing pool safety, following the serious internal injuries suffered by a young girl in the Twin Cities when a pool drain sucked out part of her intestines.
"Because I'm on the Commerce Committee, I was able to work on a number of consumer issues, and when that tragedy happened in the Twin Cities with the girl that was injured in the pool, we were actually able to get that done in six months," said Klobuchar. "The bill had been sitting around Congress for years and we were able to make it much stronger. It used to just apply to new swimming pools and now it applies to all public pools, including apartments and hotels. The fact that we were able to get that signed into law six months after that girl was hurt, I was pretty proud of that."
Looking ahead to 2008, Klobuchar commented, "I consider this year, for this new Congress, as a down payment on change. There's a lot more work that needs to be done, clearly with healthcare costs, which will be a big part of the presidential election. I think the major change there will happen after the presidential election, but there are some things we can do. I want to keep pushing the importation of drugs and the negotiation of prices for Medicare Part D, and also just focusing more on the quality of care, like we have in Minnesota."
Also on Klobuchar's agenda for the coming year is to continue working on renewable energy and climate change issues, as well as pushing for a change of course in Iraq.
Klobuchar says she is guided by her "Minnesota moral compass," always pointing to the Minnesota values of hard work, fair play and personal responsibility, and believes that maintaining strong constituent services and spending time visiting local communities throughout the state is an essential part of her job.
"Last year I visited all 87 counties in Minnesota and I plan to do the same in 2008," said Klobuchar.