On the eve of his travels to Japan and South Korea, it was hard to tell if Gov. Mark Dayton is happy to be going or would just as soon stay home.
The happy-to-be-here Dayton announced Thursday that a new pup will be moving into the Governor’s Residence soon.
The happy-to-be-traveling Dayton was blasting as “grandstanding” Republican legislators who held a hearing Thursday night regarding efforts to unionize day care workers. Dayton said that the only purpose of the Republican hearing “was to whip up a frenzy.”
Sides spar over day care hearing
Republican senators somberly begged to differ and sadly wondered why the governor wasn’t at the hearing.
In other words, the governor and GOP lawmakers were only singing a new verse to a song that started in January.
This much is certain: The governor has a clearer understanding of dogs than of Republicans. He also understands the politics of dogs. Voters love dogs and relate to people — even politicians — who love dogs.
Dayton said that if he’s in political trouble when it’s time for him to run for re-election in 2014, “I might bring in a whole litter of puppies.”
As it is, he’s adding one new pup to the family, raising the total of black German shepherds to three.
The formal announcement of the new dog will be made on Mingo’s Facebook page on Monday, Dayton said. Mingo is the pup Dayton acquired following the death of Dakota last January. Mingo, named in a contest, was supposed to pal around with Mesabi, Dakota’s surviving sibling. But Mesabi’s getting old and doesn’t have the energy to keep up with Mingo, Dayton said. Thus, “the need” for a new dog.
Minnesotans will be invited to suggest a name for the pup, which will move into the residence in the middle of next month. (Actually, it turns out, Dayton’s Facebook page will feature a guess-the-name contest, rather than a naming contest.)
It’s a good bet the new pup won’t be named “Parry” or “Hann.”
Dayton irked by legislative hearing
Republican Sens. Mike Parry and David Hann called for the hearing that so irritated the governor, saying they needed to understand better the issues around the organizing effort.
Parry, usually a lightning rod, played the role of the uber-serious policy man as the hearing opened.
“No clapping or laughing,” he told the people who had come to the event. “Please take off your hats. … You’re in the people’s house. … Show utmost respect for all parties involved.”
(This is the same Sen. Parry who sometimes makes faces while DFL senators are making speeches on the Senate floor.)
Parry went on to say that the absence of the governor at the hearing, or anyone from his administration, “is very discouraging.” Parry wondered if Dayton’s absence indicates that the governor “has something to hide.”
Hann followed Parry’s opening remarks succinctly.
“I second the chairman’s comments,” he said.
So why wasn’t the governor, or a representative of the gov, on hand?
Three reasons, according to the governor:
–Dayton said his administration wasn’t notified of the hearing until Tuesday.
“I received a letter from Hann and Parry that was undated,” said Dayton, seething. He said it was implied that he, or someone from his administration, was invited “but without specifying, where, when, why.”
The late notice and the lack of clarity in the letter made him feel as if “they didn’t want my participation.”
–He was disgusted that the hearing was being held at all.
He said that in his reading of the state Constitution, there’s nothing about such hearings.
“They have 120 days to do their work and they’re supposed to go home,” he said of legislators.
The more he talked about the senators showing up for this hearing, the angrier he got.
“They’re supposed to be part-time legislators,” he said. “They should go find themselves gainful employment.”
There was a special dig at the Republicans who always are singing the praises of the private sector and bemoaning big government.
“Those in love with the private sector should get a job there,” Dayton said.
He went on to say that he hoped the legislators who participated in the hearing “take a small step in the right direction” and not accept per diems or travel expenses.
–He said the hearing was pointless. Dayton said he has not made a decision yet on how he will respond to the union drive. His own staff is researching the powers of the governor in this matter. He’s clear on one thing only, he said. He will do nothing until there’s a vote among providers on whether they want to organize.
“All this is, is a grandstand show of misinformation,” he said.
There was nothing particularly new at the hearing. Some of the day care providers testified that a union would be good; others thought it would be bad.
There was a little commentary about gubernatorial power. Hann said he believes it would be “unlawful” for the governor to even authorize a vote among day care providers.
Then, everyone went home.
At this point, it’s not known how many of the senators collected per diems and expense money.
We do know the Republican-Dayton differences on virtually all things will be here after the governor returns from his travels. Dayton heads to Japan this afternoon and then goes on to South Korea.
He hopes to ‘open doors’ with trade trip
The Japan portion of the trip is about courtesy as much as jobs. An international economic conference is being held in Tokyo. Next year, that meeting will be held in Minnesota, and Dayton said it’s traditional for the head of state for the site of the next conference to be on hand to extend greetings.
He’ll meet with a small delegation — about 25 people — in South Korea on Sunday. Most of Minnesota’s largest businesses, as well as the state’s Chamber of Commerce and the Business Partnership, are not making this trip. Those heavyweights frequently traveled with Gov. Tim Pawlenty on his trade missions.
But Dayton said that politics shouldn’t be read into small number of heavy hitters.
“My experience is that you should limit the number of people,” said Dayton, who has made several such trips in the past.
For the most part, he said, the biggest companies don’t need to go on these sorts of trips, because they already have trade relationships in place. Dayton noted that it’s the mid-size and smaller companies that can use the help.
He made no lofty promises about big deals being made on this trip. The best that can happen is that “government-to-government relationships can help open doors” for companies looking to make business deals that might ultimately lead to jobs in Minnesota.
So low are the expectations about this trip that Dayton talked about the new pup before he spoke of the trade mission.
“The new dog will overshadow everything else,” Dayton was told.
“That’s why I said it,” he said.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.