It is the first day of session and Republican Sen. Mike Parry's footsteps are still echoing down the halls of the capitol building, but he is already thinking of limiting his potential political career in St. Paul.
Parry was elected as the senator for District 26 just two weeks ago during the special election that ensued after six-term Republican Sen. Dick Day resigned on Dec. 8, 2009 to take up a career as a lobbyist. Parry carried the election with 43.04 percent of the vote, compared to 36.5 percent for DFLer Jason Engbrecht and 20.32 percent for Independence Party candidate Roy Srp. One of the first bills Parry plans to write will deal with term limits — if he has his way, each legislator will be confined to just three terms.
He has dropped seven bills in the hopper, most of which are bonding projects:
|Senate||SF2667||Text||Summary||Description||Minnesota Academy for the Deaf and Minnesota Academy for the Blind trial placement authorization|
|Senate||SF2666||Text||Summary||Description||Steele county highway #19 speed limit designation|
|Senate||SF2626||Text||Summary||Description||Minnesota state academies bond issue and appropriation|
|Senate||SF2611||Text||Summary||Description||Stagecoach trail segment acquisition bond issue and appropriation|
|Senate||SF2452||Text||Summary||Description||Blooming Prairie sewer improvements bond issue and appropriation|
|Senate||SF2451||Text||Summary||Description||Minnesota state academies technology center bond issue and appropriation|
|Senate||SF2450||Text||Summary||Description||Ellendale tornado siren bond issue and appropriation|
Parry has signed on to other bills, but none introduced to date addresses term limits. (I've saved a screenshot of the page today in case--as sometimes in the case with Senator Parry--an item is withdrawn).
Now, these are fine projects--but that's not the problem for Senator Parry and Minnesota Republicans. instead, it's the fact that Parry campaigned on cutting spending and limiting bonding--and that Parry opposed one of these projects specifically.
Added irony--in his first floor speech (posted below the fold) Parry called for the Senate bonding bill to be sent back to committee. Apparently, he and other Republicans thought the DFL bill too bloated with excess, filled with what Parry liked to call "needs and wants" before he was elected, nor did they believe it an effective tool for job creation.
Now, not all of these projects are local, though situated as they are in SD 26. The state academies in Faribault serve deaf and blind students from throughout Minnesota; they may benefit Faribault's economy, but they're rightly considered statewide bills along the lines of funding for the University and MNSCU.
However, the Stagecoach trail, Blooming Prairie sewer improvements and Ellendale tornado siren are local bonding projects. Individual bonding projects like this very rarely pass as stand-alone items, but are folded into omnibus bills.
Since Parry's first speech brings up that he is the only state senator to have been on the campaign trail recently talking to voters, given the SD26 special election, it's not outside the boundaries of civil discourse to review what Parry said while he was conducting that campaign.
The special election occurred, after all, less than a month ago, and those statements are still fresh.
Let's review. When Governor Pawlenty announced his bonding proposal in January, the Star Tribune reported in Pawlenty: No 'pork barrel' projects in $685 million bonding bill:
Pawlenty has taken a dim view of local requests over the years, and he rejected all of them for this year.
"The expectations of the state building things like local fire halls -- we just can't do that," he said.
In a candidate forum in Owatonna, Parry said he preferred a bonding bill that was around $400 million instead, though he would look at the governor's proposal. One certainly didn't get the notion that he'd be writing bills for what the Governor would deem local "pork barrel" projects.
Indeed, at the very first candidate forum, Parry was asked if he would support development of the Stagecoach trail. As my Youtube of his answer reveals, he invoked one of his standard campaign mantras: that we must distinguish between needs and wants when the state doesn't have enough money to go around--and that the Stagecoach trail was a want.
Below the fold, Parry's first floor speech, asking for the Senate bonding bill to go back to committee.
Kindly provided by the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus:
Photo: Senator Mike Parry, official picture from website.