At times, reading multiple Don Davis Capitol Chatter-Political Notebook columns about the coming legislative session resembles perusing the eccentric telenovela synopses embedded in Mario Vargas Llosa's comic novel Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter.
Take the two recent cameo appearances by Pat Garofalo in Davis columns. Under the subtitle "Get ready for boredom," in Political Notebook: Unbound Dayton emerges, there's this, published online at the Fargo Forum on Saturday:
It may be typical pre-legislative session optimism, but many lawmakers predict that Tuesday will be the beginning of a quiet five months.
“I actually think it is going to be a pretty quiet and pretty boring session,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, said.
After two years of all Democratic control in the Capitol, many are predicting that the governor and lawmakers will get along.
Four years ago, when Republicans took over the Legislature and Democrat Mark Dayton became governor, Garofalo said his fellow GOP representatives had the attitude that “we are going to show this Mark Dayton guy.” A government shutdown ensued.
Those in office at the time learned from that, and many lawmakers now go out of their way to predict there will be no shutdown this year.
“Nothing becomes law unless the Democrats agree with it,” Garofalo said, and Republicans know that now. “We all live and learn.”
That's something of a contrast with the Capitol Chatter item published in the Morris Sun Tribune on Sunday in New approach seen for energy policy:
The Minnesota House energy focus may change in 2015.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, who will lead a committee dealing with job growth and energy, said that energy programs the state launched in the past few years have cost plenty of money. He has a different approach. . . .
Garofalo said he does not like some approaches to energy policy he has seen over the years: “It is important that government not wave around the power of mandates or incentives like a child who found a gun.”
A requirement that Minnesota-built solar panels get priority was a mistake, he said, adding that the mandate cost the state $150 million.
“There are more cost effective ways to reduce pollution and create clean energy,” he said.
Garofalo said he is optimistic that things will go smoothly on the energy front because “there are so many good things happening now that it is easier to agree on this stuff.” . . .
There's also nothing quite as effective for producing consensus as an inflammatory analogy that pegs the opposite position as both immature and dangerous--and griping about a made-in-Minnesota policy that may well alienate those DFL legislators you've identified as being in the catbird's seat in the coming session.
Solar power and Range power
As we noted on December 11 in Republican takeover of MN House sparks ALEC state co-chair's love for Range delegation:
. . . [I]n Politics in Minnesota, Mike Mosedale reports that Representative Pat Garofalo (one of two Minnesota ALEC public sector co-chairs) is blushing with affection for the Democrats in the Range delegation:
. . . with the new GOP majority in the House pledging to focus on rural issues, the Range’s seven-member, all-DFL delegation appears positioned yet again to make an outsized impact at the Capitol.
At least that’s the view of insiders like Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington.
“The Rangers are in charge of this legislative session, make no mistake about it,” Garofalo ventured. “Of all the geographic areas and political groups, the Iron Range Democrats are going to have the most authority. Any deals are going to have to be approved by them.”
We're curious just what deal Garofalo imagines himself making with the Range delegation that will eliminate the mandate for Minnesota-built solar panels.
In IRRR Board approves major investments in businesses, infrastructure, and education, the Hometown Focus reported in mid-December:
Silicon Energy of Mountain Iron received a $1.95 million loan to help meet demand for their new, lower-cost Photo-Voltaic solar panel, which will help the company better compete with foreign manufacturers. The total project investment is $4.6 million.
Silicon Energy is one of two manufacturers eligible for that mandate that government is waving around. Given that all but one of the Range DFLers on the IRRRB who just voted to assist Silicon Energy will continue to serve in the state legislature (Lueck will replace Radinovich), we're not as hopeful as Garofalo that they'll be as cheerful as he is about eliminating the advantage the company enjoys.
When did Garofalo enlist in the war on coal?
Moreover, Garofalo may have a tussle on his hands with those in his own caucus who now defend coal-fired power generated in Minnesota and with electrical co-ops and municipal power companies that are locked into long-term contracts for coal-fired power.
Davis writes in New approach seen for energy policy that Garofalo is touting natural gas extracted from shale:
“I think the new focus will combine making cleaner energy and making it more affordable,” he said.
Renewable energy sources are becoming more affordable, he said. And “this whole shale gas revolution” is providing abundant natural gas at good prices.
In The War on Coal comes to Minnesota, Representative Jim Newberger (R-Becker) writes:
The largest coal power plant in the Midwest, Sherco, is located in Becker Minnesota. It produces 2400 megawatts of electricity for over 2.5 million people. That is more power than both of Minnesota's nuclear plants combined.
Sherco produces enough energy for almost one-half of our state. . . .
Sherco cannot simply "switch" to natural gas. The cost would be over 1 billion dollars. . . .
Has Garofalo joined forces with the War on Coal? That should cause Representative Glenn Gruenhagen to sound the alarm, since the Glencoe Republican praised Newberger's opinon in his own July 15, 2014 Legislative Update:
My friend and colleague Rep. Jim Newberger wrote an excellent piece for the Star Tribune last month outlining the impacts of the EPA's war on coal on Minnesota that I wanted to share with you. You can read the whole piece by clicking here.
President Obama's EPA has been waging a war on coal energy that puts the jobs of hundreds of Minnesotans at risk, and could mean skyrocketing electric bills for families across the state.
Coal provides hundreds of jobs in Minnesota—good paying jobs that help workers provide for their families. Closing Minnesota's coal plants would be devastating to the local economies that rely on coal energy jobs, and worse, would mean higher electric bills.
If you close a coal plant, you naturally need to replace the energy that comes from those plants. Coal is one of the cheapest forms of energy, and the Xcel plant in Central Minnesota provides energy for about 2.5 million residents. . . .
We're not sure how any of this brew is going to make for a "quiet" session--and we haven't even gotten into the resistance to the new oil pipelines that Garofalo wants constructed.
Tune in tomorrow for more Republican trolling; we're finding plenty of shiny lures in the water.
Photo: Representative Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) enjoying a quiet moment on the Minnesota House floor.
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