Capitol hasn’t lost its luster for freshman senator, Twyla Ring

Entering the gleaming Capitol hasn’t lost its luster for freshman senator Twyla Ring, North Branch.

“It’s awesome — you have to admit,” said Ring, newly elected senator from District 18.

It’s a beautiful building, said Ring. And walking the corridors, she thinks about the dedication and service of so many others who’ve walked the same halls, she said.

“But once I get here, it’s ‘Twyla, get to work,'” said Ring, sitting behind her desk in her new Capitol office.

As Ring pointed out, someone could have walked into her senate office last week and wondered whether someone was moving in or moving out.

It’s the former, but a picture of the late Sen. Janet Johnson hanging on the wall fondly establishes the office’s former occupant.

On this day, Ring’s movements, are being captured by three camcorder toting elementary students from Rush City. Looking up from her desk, Ring explains to the students and larger audience the significance of the paperwork spread out before her.

It’s legislation requiring an annual environmental report from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

“And as you are filming, I’m signing on as chief author,” explains Ring.

The legislative process is complicated, said Ring. There’s a steep learning curve, and the learning concerns the political side, she said.

Ring said she’s trying to visit with as many constituents as she can.

“‘If you don’t know me, here I am,'” said Ring, mimicking her greeting to constituents.

During these introductions, Ring will hand out business cards and point out the Senate phone number, she said.

She’ll tell the constituents to keep their ears to the ground and if they hear something that’s important, let her know, Ring explained.

In reflecting on the new session, Ring said a number of environmental bills are on her legislative agenda.

One a piece of legislation, concerning repealing the state sales tax on local government, might have been anticipated as Ring said emphatically during the special election campaign last fall that particular tax was a hot button item with her.

“And I might not have a prayer of getting this through, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try,” said Ring.

Ring said she was sending a copy of one proposed bill to a medical association because she thought they might find parts of the legislation objectionable.

“I think it’s critical that you listen to both sides,” said Ring.

And besides, it’s good to know the nature of the opposition, she said.

Being a legislator and being an newspaper editor are not wholly unrelated, said Ring, for many years the editor of Post Review in North Branch.

As an editor, she’d attend public debates, listen, form her thoughts and put them down in editorials, she said.

Now these thoughts take the form of bills.

Asked about the public’s sometimes less than flattering opinions of elected officials and the element of trust, Ring, laughing, said she has a son who’s a used car salesman.

Speaking seriously, Ring said she’s trying to remain visible and accessible in the district.

In answering questions from the elementary students, Ring told how dealing with the media can be a challenge.

They ask a question, and you’re given one chance to answer it.