In New state leaders will bring all voices to the table, a column placed in the Winona Daily News, incoming Minnesota House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin (R- Rogers) promises that she will so not allow money to be spent on luxury buildings for part-time legislators.
Elsewhere in Politics in Minnesota, staff writer Mike Mullen reports in New chair views local aid with critical eye that Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) is baring his deep thoughts about "gluttony" on the part of local government.
The obvious solution appears to be letting state senators, mayors and county commissioners sleep under bridges, for which Peppin pledges she will seek funding:
Our new House Republican majority will prioritize need over wants, so we aren’t wasting your tax dollars on expensive office buildings for part-time legislators when your roads and bridges need repair. . . .
A recent Star Tribune editorial, End fight over Minnesota Senate office building, reviewed the case for the new construction:
That’s why now — with the 2014 campaign over and the fight over the next state budget not yet begun — seems a good time for Minnesotans to look anew at the scorned project in an apolitical light. We think that if they did, they would see that the new building is a sensible solution to several real problems:
• Renovation of the Capitol requires the Senate to operate elsewhere in 2016. It can’t be just anywhere — not with the security, public access and broadcast demands on legislative operations. The Senate is finding it difficult even to rent office space for staffers for the last half of 2015, when no legislative session is scheduled and both the Capitol and the new building will be unavailable.
• After the renovation, the Capitol can house fewer than a third of Senate offices and only half of its hearing rooms. The Senate is losing 23,000 square feet in the Capitol to modern mechanical components and badly needed enlarged space for the governor, attorney general and public accommodations.
• A 40-year-old problem needs fixing. In the 42 years since enactment of the state’s open-meeting law, public participation in legislative sessions has surged. Legislators were first granted private offices in 1975 in response. But majority senators have been scattered randomly around the Capitol, while minority senators have been housed across the street. The result has been confusion for visitors and less-than-desirable collegiality in a body whose work requires collaboration.
• Easy access to the Capitol for the disabled was not envisioned in its 1905 design. It will be provided via the new building’s parking garage and tunnel to the Capitol.
This is the case that should have been made and debated in full public view before the building was authorized — ideally, with general obligation bonds whose debt service would not be subject to yearly legislative approval. But that didn’t happen.
Since Peppin is still arguing against the construction project and for bridges, Bluestem makes the modest proposal that both state senators and local leaders all be asked to set up shop under the bridges the Peppin, Draz and their fellow House members will no doubt generously fund.
Let's end the empty rhetoric. No more luxury for lawmakers. Perhaps the House Republicans can lead the way and move their offices into St. Paul's downtown skyways, starting with the caucus's executive director Ben Golnik, spiritual architect of the Republicans' takoever.
Matching chairs' resumes to the committees they lead
Bluestem notices another rhetorical quirk in Peppin's column: the notion that committee chair's resumes should match their life experiences.
Thus, in New state leaders will bring all voices to the table, the suburban mom and lawyer can brag on making Rod Hamilton, who works in the human resources department of a large pork producer.
But once again, Peppin and her caucus are too timid to carry through with their own human resources policy. She writes:
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are among the top employers in rural Minnesota, yet a crisis is on the horizon as our baby boomers are aging and the workforce isn’t there to meet this growing demand.
The Aging & Long-Term Care Policy Committee was created to help address this problem, and its goal will be to make wholesale improvements to the way we fund senior care.
If the chair of the ag finance committee needs be an ag producer (or work for one), then we think the chair of the Aging & Long Term Care Policy Committee should be a legislator of a certain age, or a provider of services for the aged and infirm.
Sadly, no. The House doesn't follow through with the robust logic applied to ag finance, appointing two-term representative Joe Schomacker, who is 28, to lead the committee. When first elected, Schomacher worked as an independent public relations consultant, according the Minnesota Legislators Past and Present. His Linked-In profile has more.
It's the same with several of the other choices Peppin and pals have made. She writes:
Minnesota’s transportation future centers on the improvement of roads and bridges statewide. As chair of our Transportation Finance Committee, Rep. Tim Kelly (Red Wing) understands that we must address our crumbling infrastructure and make road and bridge improvements a priority.
The Star Tribune's Hot Dish Politics blog pointed out earlier:
Funding for transportation is expected to be a major issue in the 2015 session, which starts Jan. 5. To lead the Transportation Policy and Finance Committee, Republicans tapped Rep. Tim Kelly of Red Wing. It's an unconventional choice in that Kelly does not currently serve on any transportation committees.
According to Minnesota Legislators Past and Present, Kelly has never served on a transportation committee, and his occupation is "financial advisor."
We could go on--and some readers might object that these are ad hominem arguments, but since the House Republicans feel free to make them, there we are.
Photo: The Roberts Street Bridge, which could just as well double as office space for the Minnesota Senate,OP House leadership stays true to its rhetoric and accepts our modest proposal about the new senate office buildings. We know from personal experiences that bridges in fact exist throughout rural Minnesota and could shelter local government officers as well.
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