Minneapolis, Minn. (February 2015) – Former state representative Mary Liz Holberg was presented with the Minnesota Newspaper Association’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service to Journalism Award at its 148th annual convention January 30. Also honored for their work on the Timberjay legislation were Sen. Kari Dziedzic and Rep. John Lesch.
“During her 16-year tenure in the state House of Representatives, Mary Liz was a steadfast, unfailing and eloquent champion of the public’s right to know,” said MNA Attorney Mark Anfinson.
Rep. Holberg retired from legislative service last year and is now a Dakota County commissioner. She thoroughly educated herself about virtually every major public access issue that came before the Legislature during her tenure. Eventually, she become the unchallenged legislative expert on the topic, and was looked to by both Republicans and Democrats for guidance on what were often notoriously complex proposals. Rep. Holberg exercised extraordinary influence on data practices issues, as a result of the widespread recognition for her expertise and nonpartisan consideration of the issues.
For their work on the Timberjay legislation, Sen. Kari Dziedzic and Rep. John Lesch were honored with the Friend of Minnesota Newspapers Award. Marshall Helmberger, publisher of Timberjay Newspapers, the bill’s namesake, presented the award.
“A simple little bill.” That’s what MNA’s legislative team told Rep. Lesch and Sen. Dziedzic when they approached them to sponsor legislation last session.
The “Timberjay bill” was aimed at fixing a ruling of the Supreme Court, blocking a determined effort by Timberjay Newspapers to access records from a private contractor about a big school project in northern Minnesota. The legislation, eventually signed into law after many challenges and complications, makes data held by private contractors publicly accessible.
Thanks to the continued commitment of Rep. Lesch and Sen. Dziedzic, and with the investment of an extraordinary amount of time by both of them, the bill was approved just as the session drew to a close. Without their exceptional leadership, that would never have happened, and this important legislation would not have been enacted.