April: A Mid-Session Check-In
WHERE: April 19th at the Black Dog Café, St. Paul. A mid-session check-in, with legislators discussing what’s happened, what’s next and what there is to do about it.
WHO: Mid-Session Review with House Minority Leader, Rep. Melissa Hortman and Senate Minority Leader Sen. Susan Kent.
WHAT: Really interesting evening and much ground was covered. What a privilege to have both Minority Leaders! With less than 4 weeks left of the 2018 MN Leg Session, these were our main takeaways:
Only bills with Republican support are getting passed. There is very little bi-partisan work going on. A House strategy seems to be to delay things as much as possible, which means that the end of the session will be very pressured. In general there is already minimal advance notice of bills and hearings.
On Gun Control Bills:
- The Republicans are changing “gun violence prevention” to “school safety”, however Hortman and Kent believe Minnesotans should also be safe in movies, concerts, on the street, homes.
- Republicans want to avoid voting on the issue and thus avoid getting a vote on the record. (They are polling to see “how many seats would we lose if we do nothing”). Since the Parkland shooting, Sen. Kent report a real uptick in people contacting them calling for gun control – 2:1 in favor of bills that address gun violence.
- KEEP IT UP!! We may not be able to get gun control bills over the goal line this session but now we have something to talk about in November!
- Increased penalties for trespassing/damage (HF3693/SF3463) is clearly driven by pipeline protest. Labor unions are strongly oppose to this bill.
- In the DFL environmental issues divide along regional lines. Mining or agriculture cause slight change in calculus, but the metro cares more about environmental issues, suburban/rural less, GOP less. DFL in minority, swhich makes it harder. (Suburbs make up more than 1/2 of the DFl Caucus in the Senate (add in Mpls/StPaul =75%++)
- GOP does not want cities to have local control - “Local control when it suits my agenda” is rampant right now. Cities have been driving progressive change. Labor standards, minimum wage, Styrofoam ban, smoking ban, clean energy, school start times Academic Balance bill (http://m.startribune.com/edina-schools-sits-in-forefront-of-academic-balance-bill/476326253/)
Federal Style Bills:
- Federal policies that are being pushed in Mn - e.g. work requirements for Medicaid, asset tests for food stamps – why? Trump narrative “Everything that is wrong is someone else’s fault”. Reality is that Reagan’s trickle-down economics resulted in a massive transfer of wealth to the richest 3%... GOP continues to avoid accountability here
- Looks like we are on track to pass the least number of bills in any 2-yr cycle, with omnibus bills being put together containing 11 single bills. Truth is we don’t have to pass anything this year – there is no possible shutdown, we already have a budget and legislators are concerned about the upcoming elections. They suspect Speaker Daudt wants to trade public employee pensions for some political win like work requirements/asset tests. Bundling bills into Omnibus allows the GOP to accuse the DFL and Governor of voting against something they are actually for.
Things we should keep an eye on in these last few weeks:
- There is a move in the Senate to add a constitutional amendment to move tax on auto parts to roads and bridges. It will pull $ out of general fund. We have dedicated revenue for transportation,gas tax etc to fund these. Existing dedicated funding means we don’t have to argue about who/what is most important - paving a road, a kindergartner, a nursing home employee, etc.
- Single Subject Rule: Typically omnibus are by committee – e.g. Health and Human Services bill reflects HHS priorities. Courts have NOT taken recent opportunity to reinforce single-subject rule.
After 2018 elections
How do we make everyone feel included — even conservatives — to bring us back to “MN miracle days of compromise”?
- Let committees do the work they are supposed to do. Have a hearing on ideas, provide notice so public can attend, hear discussion and hold a vote (vs back room discussion). Right now if GOP doesn’t want to vote on something it’s ruled “non-germane” — only used oncw by the DFL according to Hortman, but GOP does this every day.
Hortman: “If I become speaker I will use the committee process to allow all members and Minnesotans to participate in the process— I have ruled in favor of GOP before on germaneness and will do it again.”
- If we flip the House in 2018, the strategy fo the Senate would be that you tell us what your priorities are. What we hear is that it is: 1- education 2- affordable accessible health care 3- a job people can count on that pays enough to support family.
- There is a chance we could also end up with a majority in the MN Senate
Sen. Kent’s mantra:
Elect good people in 2018!
Many thanks to Postcards for America-Minnesota for help with this. Join their Facebook group to be kept up-to-date with federal and state-level Calls to Action and much more.