Posts Tagged ‘Margaret Anderson Kelliher’

Sen. Lourey Afraid to say “Obama” and “Care” in the Same Sentence

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

In the commentary on the Legislative session written by Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL – Kerrick) and published in the local weekly papers, he states that the Legislature fought hard for federal funding for early enrollment in medical assistance (MA). Sen. Lourey further states that this would bring an additional $1.4 million to the state, but the Governor refused this position because he is seeking higher office.

Truth is, what the Democrat majority in the Legislature wanted, and what the Governor was opposed to, is an early opt-in to ObamaCare. The federal health care monstrosity, under the compromise reached at the end of session, will take effect in Minnesota when the Governor decides to opt in. The $1.4 billion of federal money Lourey says will come in from this will most surely be swallowed up by a huge expansion of benefits paid out to more people dependent on the public entitlement system.

This sets up a major issue in the Governor’s race this fall. The Democrat candidate, if elected, will surely choose to opt in, whether it’s Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza or Mark Dayton. Tom Emmer, like Governor Pawlenty will likely choose to not opt in.

In the meantime, Sen. Lourey will avoid the phrase “federal Health care” or “ObamaCare” like the plague.

But let’s face it. That’s basically what it is.

“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.

Why Procedural Motions Sometimes Matter

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

When making a judgment on legislators, most individuals and interest groups focus on the “big votes”. In other words, the vote on an entire bill rather than an obscure amendment, or a vote to override a veto rather than a procedural motion. Most often, votes on procedural motions are split down party lines, and usually ignored by parties and interest groups. However, when Minnesota’s version of the debt laden porkulus bill was considered this past week, there were very important procedural motions in the House and Senate that should speak very loudly and clearly about how the Democrat majority in both Houses of the Legislature are playing games with the taxpayers’ credit card.

On Monday, February 22, 2010, the debt bill came back to the House from the House-Senate conference committee for repassage. Republican Leader Kurt Zellers moved to reject the conference repoert and return the bill to conference committe. The motion failed, mostly along party lines, and the conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Senate. In the Senate, Sen. Warren Limmer (R – Maple Grove) made the motion to reject the conference report and return the bill to the conference committee. Again, the motion was defeated mostly along party lines. The conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Governor. 

Or so we thought. That’s what usually happens to a bill that passes both bodies of the Legislature. However, the Democrat leadership, re-thinking the prospect of a borrowing bill at the Sham-wow price of $999,999,000 getting vetoed in its entirety by the Governor, then hung onto the bill and put the conference committee, now known as a “working group” back to work.

Capitol insiders don’t remember this kind of maneuvering happening since early statehood days when a bill to move the capitol to St. Peter mysterously disappeared.

Democrat leadership could have just listened to the minority concerns that the bill was too large and would be vetoed by the Governor. But they instead opted to defeat the motions by Republicans to reject the conference report. Rather than admit that Republicans are right, Democrat leadership chose to be the ones in control and use a procedure rarely, if ever, used to keep their debt bill from getting vetoed.

This cannot be good for House Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher’s (DFL – Minneapolis) reputation as a leader as she seeks her party’s endorsement for Governor.

Representatives from the East Central Minnesota area voting with Democrat leadership were Tim Faust, Jeremy Kalin, and Gail Kulick Jackson.

Rep. Bill Hilty joined Republicans in voting to send the bill back to conference committee and voting against final passage of the bill. Let’s not kid ourselves. Rep. Hilty didn’t suddenly become a fiscal conservative. He voted ageinst final passage because the bill did not contain the tens of millions of dollars for the Moose Lake Sexual Offender Program expansion in his district.

Rob Eastlund (R – Isanti) was excused from this late evening session and did not vote.

In the Senate, Sen. Lisa Fobbe and Sen. Rick Olseen, both Democrats, sided with their leadership on these votes. Sen. Tony Lourey (D – Kerrick) sided with Republicans, presumably for the same reasons as Rep. Hilty.

Democrat leadership can talk bipartisanship all they want, but if they continue to stonewall the minority, even when they know they’re right, their talk of bipartisanship will fall on deaf ears.

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.

Where’s the Check and Balance on Judicial Overreach?

Wednesday, January 6th, 2010

Last week, Ramsey County Judge Kathleen Gearin issued a temporary restraining order on a portion of Governor Tim Pawlenty’s unallotments (executive decision to cut spending without legislative approval). The basis of this decision was that the Governor used his unallotment authority in a way not used before by announcing his intention to unallot prior to the start of the fiscal year.

In other words it’s the timing. The statute gives the executive branch unallotment powers when the revenues are less than anticipated. Judge Gearin’s argument is that the budget shortfall was not unanticipated when he announced his intention to unallot at the end of 2009 Legislative session, therefore the Governor overreached his constitutional authority. Presumably, Judge Gearin is acting as a “check and balance” on the Executive Branch.

But let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Legislature and the Governor were never going to come to an agreement on the overall budget. The Democrat controlled Legislature continued to send spending bills to the Governor that would require tax increases to pay for them. The Governor is staunchly opposed to tax increases. Unallotment was the last mechanism to balance the budget and end the session on time, which by the way is also in the constitution.

So Judge Gearin stepped in the middle of a dispute between the Legislative Branch and Executive Branch and made the decision for them. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (a DFL candidate for Governor) immiedately went to the press to hail udge Gearin’s decision and denounce the Governor’s overreach. Likewise, DFL candidate for Governor Matt Entenza called the Governor’s unallotment action “hatchet tactics” (Interesting choice of words, considering the opposition research he authorized on fellow DFLer Mike Hatch in a power struggle between the two leading up to the 2006 election.)  

The question then becomes where is the check and balance on the judicial branch? I’m no lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, but it could be just as easily argued that Judge Gearin overreached by issuing a temporary restraining order to reinstate $5.3 million of spending on a dietary program.

When the Legislature and the Governor have a dispute, the people can easily speak through the ballot box to settle the dispute. With judges, it’s not that simple. Yes, I know. In Minnesota we elect our judges. But when can anyone recall an incumbent judge who was ever voted out of office?

Furthermore, those who are in the know will tell you Judge Gearin leans to the left politically and is a DFL sympathizer. Just go back to the Coleman-Franken recount. Judge Gearin was part of the three-judge panel that heard Colman’s case. Norm Coleman did not catch one break during the whole ordeal. Thousands of ballots reviewed, and dozens of rulings issued. One would think that by accident, Coleman would catch one break. Nope.

The good news is that Judge Gearin’s ruling is not the end of the story. Most likely the final decision will lie with the Minnesota Supreme Court. Hopefully, more rational heads will prevail with the final decision.

Real Experts Invited, or Just Another Dog & Pony Show?

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

In an effort to get Democrats back in the headlines, and give the impression that they are doing something about the economy, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher recently announced a “leadership summit” and a “jobs task force.” Mary Lahammer wrote about the leadership summit. The stated intention is to hear from experts in economic development and state fiscal health. The list of people who have been invited include former Governors and Minnesota House Speakers. If there were any private sector leaders who have experience in job creation invited their names weren’t mentioned. It leads me to believe that the emphasis is on bringing policy wonks together to talk about how there isn’t enough (tax) revenue for state and local governments to operate. Especially given the fact that most former Governors and Speakers from both parties have drunk the kool-aid of tax increases to balance the budget.

Lahammer quoted House GOP PR guy kwatt as saying, “”I find it ironic that the same people who dropped the ball last session are now calling for a ‘leadership summit’.” Great point. In a personal conversation with kwatt, he suggested to me that they invite Governor Pawlenty to speak and turn the leadership summit into leadership training.

Speaker Kelliher also announced in this press release the formation of a jobs task force. She mentiones in the press release how “capital inventment” (read: building government projects on the state’s credit card) creates jobs, and how the people need to know that state government is working for them. Again, no mention of any involvement by successful private sector employers.

Nothing will likely come out of either of these dog & pony shows, but with Governor Pawlenty grabbing the positive attention in Minnesota and national Democrats losing favor with the public, Kelliher got the press she is desperately looking for.

Pawlenty Steps Aside – Let the Speculation Begin

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

(This post was updated 3/3/09, because I knew my original post left out some prominent names. Additionally, according to media reports and blogs today, Carol Molnau, Sue Jeffers and Michele Bachmann are not likely to run for Governor.)

Governor Tim Pawlenty announced at a 2 p.m. news conference today that he will not be seeking a third term as Governor of Minnesota. If speculation about his aspirations for national office hasn’t already begun it will now be in full swing. There will be p(aw)lenty of people joining the chorus of speculators on his chances of landing on a national ticket. Closer to home, however, I prefer to start the speculation and analyzing of potential candidates for Governor. Many are called, so I will try to keep my analysis brief . Few are chosen but we won’t know for sure who it will be until summer/fall 2010.

Let’s start with the Democrats. Those who have filed campaign committees up to this point include (in no particular order):

Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner: Experience as a county prosecutor worked for Amy Klobuchar, but she had her father’s name. My sources inside the DFL say Gaertner wearing out her welcome already.

Former U. S. Senator Mark Dayton: Money is no obstacle for Dayton, but his eccentric behavior while a Senator will no doubt come back to haunt him.

Former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza: Like Dayton, money is no object, but his history of opposition research on member of his own party could hurt.

State Represenattive Paul Thissen of Minneapolis: A congenial fellow, but outside of Minneapolis it’s Paul Who?

State Senator and 1994 DFL gubernatorial nominee John Marty. Republicans to Democrats: “If you can’t give us Ole Saviour this time, please give us our second choice, John Marty.”

State Senator Tom Bakk (DFL – Cook): Probably the most original of the DFL bunch, but that’s not saying much. His Iron Range sensibilities make him a little different, which could be a negative when it comes to getting his party’s endorsement.

Democrats who have not filed a campaign committee but being mentioned as potential candidates:

Finally, Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher is considered a potential candidate, although she has not filed a campaign committee yet. Speaker Kelliher had been considered a potential front runner up until the end of the 2009 Legislative session. Most observers and experts viewed the 2009 session as a loser, strategically and politically, for Democrat Legislative leaders, including Kelliher. She may have a tough uphill climb if she gets in the race.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R. T. Rybak have been mentioned as potential candidates, although they are both running for reelection to their current positions this year. Coleman, in particular has been traveling around the state, presumably to elevate his name recognition. Being known in the population center of the state is a plus for either of these potential candidates. However, once the frivilous spending  in their cities (that will cause people in Greater Minnesota scratch their heads)  is revealed, people will wonder why they whined about having to lay off firefighters and policemen when their Local Government Aid was cut.

Now, the Republicans, in no particular order. (Even if it appears that I have an early favorite, I am decidedly neutral at this point. These comments are simply my brief description and analysis.):

Sue Jeffers, 2006 GOP primary opponent to Gov. Pawlenty: Former owner of Stub & Herbs a downtown Minneapolis bar, Ms. Jeffers was an adamant opponent to the statewide smoking ban. Her libertarian views will appeal to some factions in the GOP, but it remains to be seen how much wider her appeal will be. Ms. Jeffers still has a campaign committee from her 2006 challenge to Gov. Pawlenty.

Brian Sullivan, Republican National Committee National Committeeman: You may remember that Sullivan was Pawlwnty’s main challenger for the GOP endorsement in 2002. The memorable state convention that year went until the wee hours in the morning as it took 13 ballots for Pawlenty to garner the 60 percent vote required for party endorsement. Sullivan was gracious in defeat, and many observers commented at the time that his demeanor will help him as a future candidate. Sullivan has been known as a staunch conservative, but more recently, some have tried to pigeonhole him as a party establishment insider. Sullivan, a successful businessman, could self-fund his campaign, but financial independence is a double-edged sword for GOP candidates.

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, Marshall. Seifert is resigning his position as Minority Leader, and considering a run for Governor. Siefert has successfully held together the House Republicans in sustaining the Governor’s vetoes (well, except for that annoying little gas tax,  license tab fee and metro sales tax increase passed in 2008). Seifert is known for his quips and using illustrative word pictures to get his point across. May be the most fun candidate to watch and listen to.

Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, Rochester: One of a diminishing number of Republican legislators from the Rochester area. Senjem is an affable fellow, but isn’t known for his leadership skills.

State Representative Tom Emmer: The conservative lion of the Minnesota House. Emmer is known for fiery speeches on the House Floor. He has the type-A dominant personality to be the CEO of the state. His challenge will be to put together a coalition of supporters beyond the GOP base to get there.

State Representative and former Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer: Has statewide name recognition and experience running statewide campaigns. Does she want to return to statewide service, or has she found her niche as a legislator?

Former State Auditor Pat Anderson, like Kiffmeyer, has statewide name recognition and campaign experience. Anderson is a product of the “Eagan Mafia” that produced prominent GOP politicians like Pawlenty via the Eagan City Council.

State Labor Commissioner and Former Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum: Sviggum was a great promoter of fellow GOP House candidates when he was his caucus leader. However he has never junped into the arena of statewide campaigns himself. Will 2010 be different?

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: Bachmann certainly fires up the conservative base. However, her propensity to spout controversial things at inopportune times has caused the GOP to divert precious campaign dollars from targeted races to bail her out in a district that should be safe for Republicans.

State Representative Laura Brod: The feisty representative from New Prague has established herself as an expert on far-ranging issues from taxes to Health and Human Services. She handles herself well in House Floor debates. Lack of statewide name recognition could be a problem. However, she is a fresh face and could have the best chance of anyone to earn the support of all factions of her party.

Let’s not forget U. S. Senator Norm Coleman: Yes, Norm’s main job right now is to keep Al Franken to from getting seated in the U. S. Senate. Coleman has always considered himself an executive more so than a legislator. While Minnesotans may have Norm fatigue at the moment, the number of candidates potentially getting into the race could cause campaign fatigue in the coming 12-15 months. As the plethora of candidates line up, and as people find flaws with each one of them, Coleman’s stature as a U. S .Senator may leave hin the last one standing. After all, isn’t that how Sen. McCain got to be his party’s nominee for POTUS in 2008? Norm’s revival coud be a mere 12-15 months away. You read it here first.

Another name mentioned in the media is former Congressman Jim Ramstad. Ramstad’s stature and broad appeal would make him a favorite to defeat any Democrat on the ballot. Given his moderate views and voting record, his challenge would be to find his way to the general election ballot via the GOP nomination.

Others have been mentioned such as State Senators David Hann and Geoff Michel,and even former State Senator and former chief of staff to Pawlenty David Gaither.

One State Senator that at least one fellow legislator is encouraging to run is Sen. Julie Rosen. A potentially attractive candidate, but like most GOP state senators it will be difficult to cite accomplishments and  demonstrable leadership skills as reasons to elect her Governor.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I forgot some names. Others will appear unexpectedly. Many are called. Few are chosen. The speculation and analysis will continue. Stay tuned.

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.