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Minnesota leaders off to a rocky start at legislative ‘preview’

Minnesota leaders off to a rocky start at legislative ‘preview’
MinnPost photo by James Nord
House Minority Leader-designate Kurt Daudt, House Speaker-designate Paul Thissen, Gov. Mark Dayton, Senate Majority Leader-designate Tom Bakk and Senate Minority Leader-designate David Hann at Monday's meeting.

Typically, when legislative leaders and the governor meet with the media prior to the start of a session, there’s a can-do feeling of good will in the air.

Not so this time around.

David Hann, the Senate minority leader-designate, arrived at the media session with Gov. Mark Dayton and other legislative leaders with a weird smile on his face that looked a whole lot like a smirk.

Hann’s look and comments were so biting that Dayton and House Speaker-designate Paul Thissen both felt it necessary to smack down Hann, saying among other things that the Republican senator from Eden Prairie “should deal with facts.”

Of course, the big fact is that the GOP was walloped in November, giving DFLers control of both the Legislature and governor’s office for the first time in more than two decades.

In terms of most areas of legislation, Hann’s recalcitrance is without much meaning. As House Minority Leader-designate Kurt Daudt of Crown put it, DFLers “don’t need input” from the GOP caucuses to pass their agenda.

Dayton lists priorities

So, before going back to Hann’s attitudes toward the governor and majority leaders, let’s look at the DFL priorities.

Dayton’s list of priorities:

No. 1: A tax reform bill.

No. 2: Job creation (presumably through another bonding bill that would start with civic projects in St. Cloud, Rochester and Mankato).

No.3: A start to restoring cuts that have been made to higher education.

No. 4: Funding for early childhood education.

Dayton was quick to add that all of this can’t happen at once.

Because of existing budget problems, he said, “we’ll have to restrain ourselves somewhat.” But he also suggested he’s tired of hearing about DFL “over-reach.”

“Any tiptoe we take, we will be accused of over-reaching,” Dayton said.

 Since hours after the election, Republicans have been filling social media and news conferences with worries about DFL over-reach, he said.

Those charges, he said, are “fundraising tools [by the GOP] and just not true.”

Thissen and Senate Majority Leader-designate Tom Bakk seemed to mostly agree with the governor about priorities, although Bakk made it clear that lowering property taxes will be a high priority in his caucus. Bakk especially would like to see the state take a more active role in funding K-12 education.

Most districts, he said, have had to rely more and more on property taxes to fund public education, and that has created inequities across the state. Bakk pointed to GOP policies as the reason for large property tax increases.

Other controversies await

There are other areas outside the budget that will create controversy in the coming session.

Both Thissen and Bakk said they know there will be bills presented that would make gay marriage legal in the state. Both also said that they believe the voters’ rejection of the Republican-led marriage amendment, which would have allowed marriage only between one man and one woman, was “the beginning of a conversation” on the subject in Minnesota, meaning a floor vote on gay marriage seems unlikely.

 Both DFL leaders obviously hope that pending Supreme Court cases on the subject will clarify the issue in Minnesota.

On the subject of gay rights, it’s clear that with the DFL in charge, such things as health insurance will be available — in the near future — for state employees.

But that will not happen until the current contract, which does not respect domestic partners, is passed by the upcoming Legislature. That contract, however, will be short-lived. It ends in June. After that, domestic benefits, traditionally opposed by the GOP, will  be a part of the contract.

Sand mining for purposes of fracking also will likely become a controversial issue this session.

Currently, most of that mining is done in Wisconsin, but there already is impact heavy impact on Minnesota roads as the sand is transported to North Dakota oil fields.

At the moment, there is a hodge-podge of local rules regarding the sand mining in Minnesota, including moratoriums on mining in some areas.

Dayton compared the fracking issue to the debate over massive feedlots that dominated rural Minnesota a few years ago.

“I don’t want it [sand mining] to be like feed lots where the industry got ahead of government,” Dayton said.

Another issue that could create headlines? Legalizing medical marijuana.

Bakk, who has supported legalization for medical marijuana in the past, said he’d be supportive again.

“There are things we could do to mitigate the concerns of law enforcement,” he said. Dayton, meanwhile, has said he would defer to public safety officials on the issue.

Hann’s ‘facts’ challenged

Now, back to Hann, the new leader of the Senate minority caucus that is divided between deeply conservative members and a handful of relative moderates. Hann clearly represents the more conservative ones. (He won his leadership position in a close vote over Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen of Alexandria.)

Hann, who was a candidate for the GOP gubernatorial endorsement two years ago, acted much like a man trying to set the table for another gubernatorial run. With either a smirk or his words, he seemed to disagree with almost every suggestion made by DFLers.

It should be noted that his attitude was in sharp contrast to Daudt, who is entering just his second term in the House. Daudt spoke of how the GOP House and Dayton had been able to work together in a number of areas last session. He said he hoped to see more of that cooperation this time around.

Dayton, however, shouldn’t expect much cooperation from the Senate, at least if Hann’s behavior represents his caucus.

Senate Minority Leader-designate David Hann
MinnPost photo by James NordDavid Hann arrived at the media session with Gov. Mark Dayton and other legislative leaders with a weird smile on his face that looked a whole lot like a smirk.

Mostly, the DFLers ignored Hann. But his interpretation of the economic forecast made by state officials last week inflamed Dayton – and even the usually laidback Thissen.

Hann told reporters that state economist Tom Stinson had said if taxes on the wealthy were raised by the feds in the fiscal cliff debate, 115,000 jobs would be lost in Minnesota.

Dayton started angrily scratching down notes on a pad of paper. When Hann, who tends toward verbosity, concluded his comments on the evils of taxes, Dayton responded.

The governor said Stinson’s references to job losses reflected what would happen if the White House and the Congress couldn’t reach agreement and the country went over the fiscal cliff.

“Let’s hope we can deal with facts,” said Dayton as he glared at Hann.

Thissen, too, jumped on Hann’s interpretation of Stinson’s dire comments about what would happen without a settlement in Washington.

For starters, Thissen said, the big damage to the economy would come if there are across-the-board tax increases. Across-the-board increases, he said, would have a disproportionate impact on the middle class and damage a fragile economy.

“Republicans continue to take the approach that a tax is a tax is a tax. … We need nuance to this discussion.”

Thissen also said that Republicans apparently have not learned any lessons from their November defeats, which he said were caused by the GOP “not dealing with facts.”

Hann fired back. He said he was tired of hearing that Minnesota property taxes have increased because of decisions made by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty and in the last two years by GOP majorities in the House and Senate.

“The Legislature never raised property taxes,” Hann said. “It’s just not true.”

The three DFLers at the table shook their heads angrily, Daudt looked slightly shocked and Hann smiled that weird smile.

Don Davis, a reporter for Forum Communications and moderator of the event, summed everything up:

“No group hug here today.”

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Comments (16)

I Am Delighted at Senator Hann's Attitude

Because it clearly indicates how so many of the Republicans leaders here in Minnesota suffer from the delusion that they're correct about everything and remain incapable of allowing to enter their awareness any information to the contrary.

Although they have been relegated to the political wilderness, they continue to believe that, if the public only understood them, they would promptly be returned to their rightful positions of power.

What they refuse to realize is that it was only because they managed to make the public MISunderstand them that they gained power in the first place, but that misunderstanding was finally cleared up, once and for all, by their behavior as they led the legislature for he past two years with this year's election being the direct result of our finally figuring out what they really cared about and what they'd REALLY do (which was mostly contrary to their claims and promises).

The truth is, we now understand them far too well (likely better than they understand themselves) and are not even remotely interested in handing them power again.

The more Senator Hann continues to act petulant and misunderstood, the more he reminds us why we have learned so well not to like or trust the current crop of "conservative" Republicans.

I am concerned, however, that my Democratic friends, lacking anyone to challenge their ideas with logical, feasible alternatives, may eventually come up with enough hair-brained schemes of their own to hand the electoral advantage back to whomever is leading the Republicans at the point (although, that might be OK if it's a DIFFERENT, more functional group of Republican leaders).

Of course the Republicans such as Mr. Hann will claim this has just happened each and every time the Democrats pass anything, throughout the next two years.

Meanwhile, if Senator Hann believes he can gain electoral advantage for his side (and ignore the reality of their current position) by doing so, I'd suggest that he should continue to do EXACTLY as he did today, because the reality is, such behavior wins the Republicans a further electoral DISadvantage every time he opens his mouth or acts as if he were a spoiled child who has been caught misbehaving, is now being very strongly pressured to mend his ways, and is stubbornly refusing to do so while plotting how to get even with or get around the parents or school personnel who are requiring him to behave himself.

Listening to that guy

Makes me wonder if his name is really David Hahn. He sounds like Thomas Swift or Dennis Tester. Whatever happened to those guys?

But property taxes are down across the state

What was the term, a solution looking for a problem? Not to worry, the GOP won't have any input outside of the bonding bill(s) so why the bunched undies?

Did either side actually present sources or are both sides lying because the other side said so?

They're DOWN?

You must be the only person in Minnesota not checking his local property taxes over the last decade. If yours dropped, the assessed value of your property must have dropped a bunch too. Even where the absolute amount of tax is down, the rates had to go up to prevent local governments from going broke as revenue dropped and the state GOP pushed state responsibilities onto local governments. Some tax cut!

Property Taxes

> If yours dropped, the assessed value of your property must have dropped a bunch too.

Not true. The property tax is a fixed levy distributed according to relative value. It is entirely possible for a home to appreciate in value _less_than_ other houses in the community and thus get a property tax cut.

Whoops!

2012 property tax bill: $2212.05 Taxable market value: $150,676
2011 property tax bill: $2257.89
2010 property tax bill: $2187.53
2009 property tax bill: $2176.06
2008 property tax bill: $2164.42
2003 property tax bill: $1405.40 Taxable market value: $131,300

I'm guessing that you might be wrong about my being the only person in MN not checking his local property taxes. Note the drop from 2011 to 2012. Note the skyrocketing increase of 2.2% over the last 5 years. The 10 year increase is 57% by my math, but the value of the home went up over 14%, and have you seen the price of gas, milk, heating, etc. over the last 10 years? Our tax levy from the county is going down again this year so I anticipate that our property taxes will go down AGAIN this year. And don't forget that our city hasn't received LGA for a decade so the state has a hard time doing anything to increase our property taxes.

No shows

Same thing happened to those guys as happened to Brodkorb's website - No shows, 26 days and counting for Brodkorb. Wonder if his advertisers think they are getting their money's worth.

What are your expectations?

Is Senator Hann supposed to agree with Dayton and the DFL now because we lost the election? I don't remember the DFL agreeing with the GOP after their overwhelming defeat in the 2010 legislative elections. And if you repeat a lie about property taxes going up during the election and win, does the lie then become the truth?

Hann is the leader of the opposition party - he's going to oppose. The public needs to hear both sides. Besides, Dayton drew first blood today. He got political and defensive on the very first question. He and the DFL need to get out of campaign mode and start governing. No excuses, no one else to blame.

Republican's are slow learners

The November election was the voters saying very loud and unequivocally they are tired of the Republican BS. The Republicans had a chance to lead and chose to use their time working their social issues, issues that would only serve the rich, and sexual escapades. While still in the majority they even had a chance to reboot with new leadership and they blew that too. They have proven They have wrong headed ideas. They need to go away, figure out who they are and come up with some meaningful talking points, not the same failed talking point that caused their election losses. It won't help their political position to sit back and carp about everything the Democrats do because they have proven to everyone they do don't know what they are doing. Now it is time for the Republicans to sit down and shut up until they are willing to work for everyone in the state not just a select few.

Smirking to the bank?

Maybe Hann was smirking because his new gig on the board of directors for the Minnesota Association of Health Underwriters means he's figuring out how to monetize his policy work?

Now, there is just a suggestion of impropriety at this point so I may be overstating the situation. But MPR and MinnPost have both reported on his and Rep. Steve Gottwalt's work to move thousands of MinnesotaCare clients over to private insurance. And tah-dah, both now have insurance licenses, and Hann has taken a leadership role in an insurance lobbying group.

Plenty of reason to smirk, I think.

With sand mining in the news

it seems too bad that we have lost our "sand is food" proponents.

Right Idea, Wrong Message

Hann's beligerance shows that the problem with Republicans is not what their ideas are, but that they can't get the right message out. We have a governor who already has his own money and wants everyone else to pay more so they can't be rich like him. Never mind that our state gets record number of revenues year after year, has higher spending increases than inflation and population growth, looks to have some extra money this year which they want to blow on projects and not pay back IOUs, and then fill in a deficit with higher taxes. Add to the fact that if it weren't for Pawlenty, our state's baseline budgeting would be much, much higher and our upcoming deficit would be several times higher. If the dang Repubs would spend their time getting that message out, that would put pressure on the DFL because the economy is now all theirs and it doesn't look good. Add to the fact that the DFL is going to play #1 in their book, raising taxes for them, is going to have a lot of upset people in our state in the future. But the Repubs are fumbling way too much.

Republican's are floundering in the political wastelands

Message from the voters: The Republican's don't have the correct message nor the correct messenger. Their message is still the same message George W. Bush used to drive the country into a financial canyon. All Pawlenty did was kick the can down the road in an effort to make himself look presidential. Voters told him he didn't have the correct message and he was not the correct messenger. It is going to be a long Republican dry spell unless they figure out how to put the word "COMPROMISE" back in their lexicon. Actually I prefer they don't because that will mean the next election will be more bad news for the Republican's.

2% = mandate

Actually Hann portends further collapse of the MN Republicans. Despite eeking out a 2% victory in a conservative district he's minority leader. As a Tea Party true believer he's completely disconnected from reality at this point. As Hann goes so goes the party.

Hann

Should be assigned one task for the next two years - find the money to pay the legal fees and any settlement for the republican sex scandal without any taxpayer involvement.

The difference in demeanor between Daudt and Hann

Helps explain why during the GOP majority the House was mostly functional and the Senate so thoroughly dysfunctional. If Hann is the best the GOP has to run for governor, Dayton can start planning that second term. Sounds like Emmer the sequel.