Wednesday's big plot twist in the ongoing Minnesota soap opera that goes by hashtag #mnleg is the sudden retirement of Minnesota House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance committee chair, Denny McNamara, R-Hastings.
He promises to spend more time with his family, the South Washington County Bulletin reported in McNamara to retire; Cottage Grove's Tony Jurgens files for GOP in 54B. (Don Slaten is the endorsed DFL candidate). The quality family time remark prompts two observations: one about the sudden retirement, the other about the circumvention of the Republican endorsement process.
What prompted this?
Other than the hackneyed "spend-more-time-with-the-family" line, there's no explanation about why McNamara might suddenly retire, as he had seemed to relish the skirmishes over policy in committees as well as enjoy rude good health.
Sources suggest two scenarios, neither of which is exclusive of the other. First, internal squabbling among Speaker Daudt's children in the Republican Majority Caucus (the Peppin-Dean faction, the Kelly-Mack-Hackbarth wing, and the other folks) simply made him want to go back to Hastings and think about nursery stock planted on his real estate LLC.
Second, several of the items in the LCCMR spending bill that McNamara cherished most were line-item vetoed by Governor Dayton. Forum Communications political reporter Don Davis wrote in Dayton Issues Vetoes, Signs Other Bills:
Dayton used his line-item veto power — allowed only on spending measures — to strip some money from the LCCMR bill. He said he wished that he could have restored funding to programs the commission recommended, but he does not have that authority.
Dayton erased $1.5 million to map counties for aggregate (rock) resources, $1.5 million to study changes from forest land to cropland along the Crow Wing River, $1.1 million for the University of Minnesota to study ecological issues including reducing sulfate, $2.2 million to develop pollinator (including bee) habitat along interstate highways, $2.2 million to enhance parks and trails and $400,000 for the Douglas County Regional Park.
If you can't deliver pelf to your potato-growing masters, or the aggregate industry, why go on? Especially after a conference committee took out your plan in the Legacy Bill to steal land a second time from Native Americans?
Maybe it was the failure of blaze pink.
For more on reasons why the many of the items that Governor Dayton line-item vetoed from the LCCMR bill deserved to be vetoed, we recommend the letter to the governor from Environment Committee minority lead Rick Hansen, DFL-S. St. Paul. He writes:
I am writing regarding the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota’s Resources (LCCMR) appropriations bill (SF 2963). I strongly encourage you to line-item veto the following three appropriations below. The following appropriations are earmarks for specific special interests and weren’t thoroughly vetted through the LCCMR review process.
- Aggregate Mapping ($1.5 million-DNR)
- Douglas County Park ($400,000-Douglas County)
- Ambassador Wild Animals Environmental Education Program ($500,000-Wildlife
- Science Center)
I also wanted to bring to your attention four other additional projects that replaced the unanimous LCCMR recommendations. The projects below should also be line-item vetoed. These are projects that should not be funded through the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund, but could be pursued in the future from other sources of funding like the state’s General Fund.
- Pineland Sands Aquifer Study ($1.5 million-DNR)
- Natural Resources Research Institute ($1.1 million-U of M-NRRI)
- Pollinator Highway Demonstration Projects ($2.2 million-MnDOT)
- State Park and Trail Enhancement ($1.228 million-DNR)
I ask you to line-item veto the seven appropriations added by the House GOP. Whenever the GOP has been in control of the House they have manipulated the LCCMR. This has not received as much attention as the LSOHC, but has been more significant.
The House GOP’s continued manipulation of these Constitutional funds should not go unchallenged. Line-item vetoes may help prevent future mischief to the LCCMR and its proven processes.
What a bummer that must have been to Representative McNamara: the governor heeding the voice of Hansen requesting reasonable policy and following the state constitution. But there's more.
What this prompted
It didn't take long for the people of twitter to notice that by withdrawing the day after the 2015 Cottage Grove Volunteer of the Year filed for office on the very last day of the filing, McNamara had secured the Republican nod for nice guy Tony Jurgens.
Minnesota Public Radio's Mike Mulcahy reports inLongtime Rep. Denny McNamara hangs it up:
McNamara had initially filed to run for reelection, and announced his change of heart a day after filings for office closed. On the last day of filings Republican Tony Jurgens of Cottage Grove submitted paperwork to run for the House 54B seat.
It’s unclear whether McNamara knew of Jurgens’ plans, but the South Washington County Bulletin reported that McNamara described Jurgens as a “great guy.”
Actually, the copy in the paper reads as though McNamara was well-aware of what was going on:
Jurgens said in an interview he had dinner last Thursday with McNamara and they talked about the possibility of him running, but no decision was made.
“Honestly, when I left the house (Tuesday) morning, I did not know I was going to file,” Jurgens said. He said he was asked to meet with McNamara at 4 p.m. Tuesday at the State Office Building. At 4:50 p.m. McNamara decided he’d retire, Jurgens said.
“Then,” Jurgens said, “somebody else in the room said to me, ‘Get downstairs now’” to file before the deadline. Jurgens said he and McNamara were joined by House Republican Campaign Committee representatives in the meeting.
The news about the Governor's line-item vetoes was out of the bag by then, a failure of McNamara's agenda that was perhaps mere coincidence.
Impertinent tweeps immediately raised questions:
Bluestem thinks it's one way to keep the Matt Erickson crowd in Cottage Grove from getting a Liberty loon loser endorsed. Two Dakota County Republicans--Farmington's Pat Garofalo as well as McNamara--have been targets for Erickson's wrath, as we noted in our March 2015 post, Snark Patrol launched in time to save Garofalo from F-bomb attack he shared with us all.
The filing gambit might not encourage transparency or participation, but it sure will keep the potty-mouth kids off the GOP grass. They might as well write in Lizard People at this point.
Photo: Denny McNamara performing on the House floor.
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