Minnesota House committee assignments for 2015-2016 have been posted online via the Session Weekly, and labor activist/general good guy Dale Moerke laments on Facebook and twitter:
A former forklift operator at the JBS plant in Worthington, Moerke lives in Luverne and now serves as Field Staff at West Area Labor Council/Red River Valley, so roads are a big deal for him, both as a driver and a guy working for unions that welcome the roads transportation project bring.
Now, looking at the new committee assignments, we see that that situation isn't quite as dire as Moerke claims, but it's still pretty bad for western Minnesota have a vote on the transportation committee. Let's look at the changes.
Two current committees have been rolled into one. There's a screenshot of the membership of the two committees for 2013-2014:
Of the members on the current committees, Mark Anderson (R-Lake Shore), Rod Hamilton (R-Mountain Lake), Jeff Howe (R-Rockville) and Mary Sawatzky (DFL-Willmar) are arguably in the "western half" of Minnesota, although Anderson's district is in the Eigth Congressional District (which tilts east) and most of Howe's district is in the Sixth, which does the same thing.
Hamilton's district is in the First and is properly called southwestern Minnesota, whereas Sawatzky is here in the west central part of the Seventh.
Another way to look at the transportation map is by Minnesota Department of Transportation Districts, where the state is divided into eight regions.
Here's the map:
Under the current, expiring district structure, people in the western districts that touch on the western border--or western part of District 7, which sprawls mostly in the south center part of the state--enjoy having a rep on one committee or the other. Clark Johnson's very central district is in District 7, as is John Petersburg's Waseca County, though most of his House district is in MNDOT District 6, which serves Southeastern Minnesota.
Sawatzky was defeated and Hamilton's not serving on the transportation committee this go-around.
Mark Anderson's there, and Jeff Howe, who are sort of western--with Clark Johnson and John Petersburg, who live in that eastern part of MNDOT District 6.
But none of these men represent what my friend from Luverne calls "the wild, wild west" and certainly west central Minnesota is not on the map of anyone on this new, merged committee.
In fact, Southeastern Minnesota and the suburbs do seem to be the big winners in Transportation Committee bingo in the 2015-2016 biennium session.
Committee Chair Tim Kelly is from Red Wing, on the gateway to Southeastern Minnesota, while Vice-Chair Petersburg is Southeastern.
Steve Drazkowski hails from Mazeppa, in Southeastern Minnesota. McNamara is from the Hastings area, while Norton reps Rochester.
In Southeastern Minnesota.
Bernardy, Erhardt, Koznick, Masin, Nash, O'Neill, Runbeck, Sanders, Uglem, and Whelan are suburban
Sundin is from Esko, in Northeastern Minnesota.
We'll call Moerke's claim as mostly true--and it calls into question the claims about "geographical" balance that Daudt is touting.
The supposed neglect of transportation needs in Western Minnesota was a big deal in the 12A and 17A races, when Backer and Miller could pull themselves away from fretting about marriage equality.
With Sawatzky gone from 17B, and Hamilton off the committee, who will think of Western Minnesota when the budgets are drawn up?
All of rural Minnesota isn't equal on this road map.
And this omission also should give us pause about the supposed-balance being created in other committees, including Speaker Daudt's banishment of elder environmental stateswoman Jean Wagenius from the Environment & Natural Resources Policy & Finance, to be replaced by Austin-area DFL Jeane Poppe, who chaired the expiring ag policy committee.
Geography? Wisdom? What exactly is the balance that Daudt is creating?
Photo: A highway in Minnesota's wild wild west, which may not be known to the consciousness of anyone on the new transportation committee. Photo by Dale Moerke. 2011.
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