Archive for the ‘Legislative Action’ Category

“Halftime” at the Minnesota Legislature

Sunday, April 4th, 2010

Members of the Minnesota House and Senate went home last Monday for their Easter/Passover break. They return Tuesday. In terms of legislative days they are more than half done with the 2010 Legislative session. In terms of number of votes and the heaviest lifting of balancing the budget, they are not halfway there. At any rate, this point in the session could be considered “halftime”.

In the first half of the 2010 Legislative session, three noteworthy things happened. Each one of them gave House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (who is a DFL candidate for Governor) a chance to show her leadership skills, and she failed at each opportunity.

The first is the capital investment (or borrowing bill, or debt bill, or whatever you want to call it) “bonding bill”. Democrat leadership in the House and Senate, true to form, passed a larger borrowing package than Governor Tim Pawlenty preferred. The $1,000,000,000 monstrosity sailed through the House and Senate, and the conference committee worked out the differences. Before the House voted on the conference committee report, House Republican Leader Kurt Zellers moved to reject the conference committee report and send it back to conference committee. This motion failed and the Democrat-led House and Senate each voted to pass the conference committee report and send the bill on to the Governor.

Except Democrat leadership had second thoughts and took the unusual action of not sending the bill on to the Governor. They decided to put the conference committee back to work as a “working group”. Their job was to put a couple projects in the Governor wanted so he would be less likely to veto the whole bill. This strategy worked to some extent, but the Governor used his line-item veto authority to cut about $300 million worth of projects out of the bill.

The second major action by the Legislature in the first half of the 2010 session was the general assistance medical care (GAMC) fix. Last year, the Governor had unalloted money the Legislature had appropriated for this program that provides medical care for the poorest of the poor. Unfortunately, GAMC was an inefficient program that was growing at an unsustainable rate. This year Democrats passed legislation to restore this money without any reform to the program, and the Governor vetoed the bill. Speaker Kelliher made the decision to bring the bill up for an override vote in the House in spite of the fact a bipartisan group led by Rep. Erin Murphy (DFL – St. Paul) and Rep. Matt Dean (R – Dellwood) was close to working out an innovative solution.

House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL – Chisholm) stated on the House floor that there were only two choices. Either override the Governor or let the Governor’s veto stand. Democrats failed at getting the 2/3 vote necessary to override, so the Governor’s veto stood. Within a couple days, the group working on a compromise announced they had a deal.

Eventually a bill came forward to change GAMC into a more efficient program that provides better health care to the poor at less cost to the taxpayers. So much for Sertich’s “there are only two choices” philosophy. Speaker Kelliher knew the bipartisan group was close to a deal before she allowed the override attempt to come up. She could have waited until another solution to come forward. But the override attempt was shameless pandering to her DFL base to win votes in her quest for her party’s endorsement.

However, the real winners were House Republicans. By sticking together, they prevented the veto override, and put forward much of the final package. They showed that Republicans are not the party of no, and that they care that the poorest of the poor get the medical care they need.

The third major action by the Legislature was the “balancing” of one-third of the budget deficit. A bill was passed that provided funding, or in most cases, cut funding to state agencies and programs. Democrat leadership took the low hanging fruit in the first half of the session. However, this bill did not address K-12 education or Health and Human Services, which combined, comprise most of the budget.

Democrats will brag to their constituents back home that they solved one-third of the deficit. However, they are setting up for one of three things (or a combination of these things) to happen. They will either have to cut K-12 education, cut nursing homes or raise taxes. Now some Democrats are willing to cut K-12 educatoin. Some Democrats are willing to cut nursing homes. However, very few Democrats are averse to raising taxes. Except in an election year like this one, they may be gun-shy. But do they really want to hold the line on taxes, just to risk alienating their core constituencies in the teachers’ union or the welfare rights crowd? Again, this leaves Speaker Kelliher in a precarious position.

Some speculate Democrats will quickly pass budget cuts to these areas without a tax increase and adjourn sine die, leaving the rest to Governor Pawlenty. If he signs them into law it’s all on his shoulders since it’s a waste of time sending him a tax increase bill, the philosophy goes. But the Governor still has the power to call the Legislature back into special session, saying the Legislature didn’t finish its work.

This remains to be seen. But the harsh reality is that it’s much tougher to be in the majority and have to make the difficult decisions than be in the minority and criticize the decisions that are made, like Democrats did during the last budget deficit.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

MN House Republicans Ahead of the Curve on ACORN

Monday, September 21st, 2009

The corruption in ACORN that conservatives have long known about is just now becoming general public knowledge, thanks to these undercover videos. Both Houses of Congress overwhelmingly voted on a bipartisan basis to cut off Federal funding of ACORN

However, Minnesota House Republicans were way ahead of the curve during the 2009 Legislative session. Go here (and click on “BLOG”) to learn about three amendments offered by House Republicans and rejected by the DFL majority. One amendment specifically prohibited federal stimulus money for state transportation projects from going to ACORN. One amendment would have prohibited funding of organizations under indictment or convicted of voter fraud from receiving state funding. The other amendment would have prohibited organizations under indictment or its members convicted of voter fraud from conducting voter outreach or registration activities in Minnesota.

On all three of these common sense amendments Democrats “representing” the East Central Minnesota region voted “no”. These DFL House members include Reps. Hilty, Kalin, Faust, and Jackson. The one House member who saw the wisdom in these amendments was Rep. Rob Eastlund (R – Cambridge).

Republicans have known for a long time that ACORN is rife with corruption. Democrats on the federal level who voted to cut off funding have come on board in the last few days because they know the light of truth has been shined on ACORN and exposed it for what it is.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a full time employee of the Minnesota House Republican Caucus. Opinions expressed on this blog are my own and not necessarily those of any political party, legislative caucus, legislator or government entity. This blog is not endorsed, funded or sponsored in any way by any political party, legislative caucus, legislator or government entity.

MN House Meltdown IV – The Final Minutes of Session

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

The final minutes of the 2009 Legislative session in many ways were a repeat of the end of the 2007 session. The Democrat majority had all session to balance the budget in a way that would be acceptable to the Governor. Governor Tim Pawlenty had been very clear all along that he would veto tax increases. However, that didn’t stop Democrats from trying to jam through a huge tax increase bill in the waning minutes before the constitutional deadline for adjournment.

The difference that this year brings compared to previous years? As Rep. Tom Emmer (R – Delano) stated during the debate referring to the 33-page mega tax increase bill, “I’ll give you credit for one thing – you managed to do, in much fewer pages, a lot more damage than you did with a lot more pages the last time!”

And that was the only difference. Billions of dollars of tax increases in a complicated tax bill plopped on legislators’ desks literally minutes prior to the constitutional deadline for adjournment. Democrat leadership didn’t want the public to know, and it could be argued, they didn’t want members of their own caucus to know what was in the bill. Just vote yes.

This led to the procedural meltdown that was nearly a replay of the 2007 session. Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL – Chisholm) making a motion to end debate, Republicans, trying to stop the bill by asking questions and demanding standing votes and roll call votes, and ultimately, a clearly rattled Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher cutting everyone off and getting the bill to a vote ahead of the midnight deadline in spite of the fact several Republican members were seeking recognition to be recognized and speak.

It was an ugly scene for anyone to watch.

The bill passed the House 82-47. Republican Reps. Buesgens, Emmer, Hackbarth and Holberg did not vote on the bill. DFL Reps Kath, Obermueller, Otremba, Pelowski and Poppe joined 42 Republicans in voting against this tas increase. The bill was then rushed to the Senate where a similar scene took place. In that chamber, all Republicans refused to vote. The bill passed 35-1 with Sen. Sparks (DFL – Austin) casting the lone “no” vote. 

In the end, the Bill was vetoed by Gov. Pawlenty, which was expected.

So why did the Democrat leadership play that game? Simply so they could say they sent the Governor a balanced budget. Yes, Democrats needed to jam through a colossal tax increase to cover all the spending they sent the Governor during the previous month.

The Governor will not call the legislature into special sessoin. He will use his unallotment authority to unilaterally make spending reductions. DFL legislative leaders recently sent the Governor a letter saying they would not help him with unallotment. No surprise there. They’ve been no help with the budget all session. Why would they start now?

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. Tihs blog is not paid for or sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are those of the website administrator and not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.

MN House Meltdown III – the Unconstitutional Tax Increase Bill

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

Here’s a Minnesota House meltdown that didn’t receive much coverage, if any at all from the mainstream media.

Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature are so eager to pass tax increases they are willing to cut corners and ignore the constitution to push them through. Consider the path of House File 885, one of several major tax increases that Legislative Democrats passed and fell to the floor with a thump once they landed in Governor Tim Pawlenty’s office.

HF 885 started out as the “Tax Omnibus Technical Bill”. It contained benign, technical tax policy that was largely non-controversial. On May 7th, the House passed it off the floor on a bipartisan vote of  120-11. The Senate Received the bill and promptly loaded it up with one of the highest income tax rates in the nation, the highest alcohol tax in the nation and egregious tobacco tax increases. The Senate also added a surcharge on credit card issuers (aka banks) that charge interest on credit cards. This version of the bill passed the Senate 43-23, also on May 7th. A conference committee was hastily named to work out the differences between the House version and the Senate version of the bill, and of course the bill came back to the House on May 8th looking more like the Senate version, loaded up with the plethora of tax increases.

HF 885 was debated at length on the House floor on May 8th, and on a vote of 86-45 was re-passed, or so Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher ruled. Immediately upon the Speakers pronouncement that the bill had been re-passed, Rep. Mark Buesgens (R – Jordan) raised a point of order, stating that the Speaker’s ruling was incorrect and that the bill had actually failed. The basis for Rep. Buesgens’ point of order is a little known provision in the Minnesota Constitution. Article IV section 26 says “Passage of a general banking law requires the vote of two-thirds of the members of each house of the legislature.” This means the vote on HF 885 fell four short of the required 90 votes needed for passage.

Speaker Kelliher and the DFL leadership did not see this one coming. First the Speaker said she does not have the authority to rule on the constitutionality of a bill. Rep. Buesgens explained that he is not challenging the constitutionality of the bill, he was raising the point that she had ruled in error when she declared the bill to be re-passed. At that point, a flustered Speaker and and equally flustered DFL House Majority Leader Tony Sertich began stalling for time so they could consult with partisan and nonpartisan staff.

After a period of awkward silence, Sertich moved to set the time of adjournment for the next day, something usually done at the end of the day’s business just prior to the actual motion to adjourn. Several minutes elapsed between the Speaker counting the “ayes” and the “nays” on this standing vote. After several minutes of more awkward silence while DFL leadership continued to consult with staff Sertich moved to “continue the calendar” meaning he wanted to move on to the next item of business.

In the end, the Speaker refused to rule on Rep. Buesgens’ point of order and declared the bill to be re-passed. The Senate re-passed the bill on May 8th, 44-20. Fortunately for the integrity of the Constitution, and for the sake of the taxpayers of Minnesota, Governor Pawlenty vetoed HF 885 in its entirety on May 9th.

The entire meltdown can be seen on the Minnesota House of Representatives video archives. Go to this page on the Minnesota House website and scroll down to Friday May 8 2009 House Floor Session part 3 and click on “Watch this program”. After the video starts slide the bar to 04:51:05 to enjoy the show. The entire length of the meltdown lasts about 21 minutes.

This is the bill that House Democrats brought up for a veto override on May 17th, but on a vote of 85-49, came five votes short of the 90 votes required to override the Governor (two Democrats, Reps. Pelowski and Poppe, joined all 47 Republicans voting against the override).

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives for the Republican Caucus. Tihs blog is not paid for nor sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, candidate, candidate’s committee or political party. Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the administrator of this website and not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, candidate, candidate’s committee or political party.

Faust Rails on Governor’s Health Plan, then Votes to Move it Forward

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Rep. Tim Faust (DFL - No Man's Land)

Rep. Tim Faust (DFL - No Man's Land)

In his commentary in the Pine City Pioneer, State Representative Tim Faust (DFL – No Man’s Land) railed on Governor Pawlenty’s health plan and budget. Rep. Faust wrote about how nursing homes and hospitals would be cut if the Governor’s plan were to be enacted.  

Amazingly enough, on the very day the paper came out with his commentary in it, Rep. Faust actually voted to move the Governor’s plan one step closer to passage.

Here’s how it went down. Committee passage of a two-page bill related to county human services was reported to the House Floor. In a purely cynical political move, Rep. Tom Huntley (DFL – Duluth) offered the Governor’s Health and Human Services plan (several hundred pages long) as a “minority report”, in other words as an alternative to the committee action on the two-page bill. A Democrat supports the Governor’s plan, you ask? Pay attention here – remember, I said “political” and “cynical”. Rep. Huntley’s plan was to get an overwhelming bipartisan vote against the Governor’s bill. However, sometimes, when something sounds like a good idea at the time, it may backfire. And that’s exactly what happened.

Rep. Seifert raised a point of order that the minority report offered by Huntley was not germane to the underlying bill.  Obviously, a bill hundreds of pages long offered as an alternative to a two-page bill  “greatly expands the scope of the bill” as is often argued on germaneness points of order. Apparently, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher agreed, since she deferred ruling on the point of order and let the full House rule on the Seifert point of order.

In a victory for the Republicans Rep. Seifert’s point of order prevailed overwhelmingly on a bipartisan 75-56 vote. (This in itself is noteworthy because the minority rarely prevails on procedural motions.) Nearly two dozen Democrats joined Republicans in repudiating cynical politics and upholding the House rules. But not the local Democrats from East Central Minnesota. Joining Rep. Faust in participating in cynical partisan politics were Rep. Bill Hilty, (Finlayson), Rep. Gail Kulik Jackson (Milaca) and Rep. Jeremy Kalin (North Branch).  

In short, a vote against the Seifert point of order was actually a vote to move the Governor’s Health and Human Services bill one step closer to passage. Rep. Faust apparently didn’t remember what he had just written about the Governor’s plan before he voted. Or maybe he just thinks his constituents aren’t paying attention.

 In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. This blog is not paid for or sponsored in any way by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are those of the administrator of this website and not necessarily that of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.

MN House Meltdown I

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Early in the Legislative session this year, the DFL majority in the Minnesota House of Representatives put “time parameters” in the House Rules in an effort to shorten debate on bills. Up until a week ago Tuesday, Democrats had not enforced this rule. On their first try during debate on a transportation policy bill, it did not end well for the Democrats.

With two Republican amendments at the desk waiting to be offered to the bill, DFL Majority Leader Sertich moved to end debate and go to final passage of the bill. Republican Leader Seifert angrily protested, asking the majority leadership, if they are going to to gag the two Republican members who had amendments waiting, who’s next? Which members of the majority might be unable to stand up and speak for their districts the next time the rule is enforced?

In defending his actions, Rep. Sertich talked about how the Legislature should be focused on balancing the budget, and not on “tinted windows”. Uh, Rep. Sertich, the underlying bill was a transportation policy bill. No money. Not related to the deficit in the first place. And besides, it takes two to debate. The Democrats are just as responsible for taking the debate past the alloted time parameter for the bill as the Republicans.

In response, Republican members launched into a series of procedural motions amd parliamentary questions, which delayed the vote on the transportation bill. The atmosphere was chaotic, to say the least. This exasperated Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher to the point where she stopped discussion altogether, and an awkward silence filled the House chamber while her staff negotiated an endgame with Rep. Seifert and his staff.

In the end, the Republicans withdrew their points of order, and the members with amendments waiting were allowed to offer them. It took only a few minutes for the amendments to be offred and voted upon. Lesson learned (hopefully) by the Democrat majority: It’s much easier, and more efficient to allow debate than try to stifle free speech.

Shawn Towle over at Check & Balances (free subscription required) called the Republican effort a “futile exercise”. Fighting for the rights of the minority to debate and offer amendments is not a “futile exercise”. Especially when the minority got what it wanted.

A two-minute video snippet is available over at True North, but this is only a snapshot of the entire episode. The full version can be seen at the official House video archives. Go to this link, and scroll down to the video archive for Tuesday, April 28, 2009. The exchange starts at 3:16:12 into the video.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives in the Republican Caucus. This blog is not paid for or sponsored by any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee. Opinions expressed herein are not necessarily those of any legislative caucus, political party, candidate or candidate’s committee.