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Testy times at the Capitol as angry Republicans walk out of committee meeting

Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston
MinnPost file photo by Bill Kelley
“I feel like I’m in a smoke-filled room with a bunch of lobbyists,” Rep. Greg Davids said.

These are testy times at the Capitol.

A dozen Republicans walked out of  a noontime House Ways and Means Committee session Friday, saying they were angry over “process.”

Interestingly, the GOP didn’t express their anger over the major portions of the tax bill, which includes such things as higher income taxes on the wealthiest, a “blink-off’’ surcharge and other items House DFLers are pushing in an effort to raise revenue.

Rather, their anger involved an amendment to the omnibus tax bill that would require workers and management to sign “labor peace agreements” for publicly funded projects in the counties that include the state’s four largest cities.

The labor-supported amendment was proposed by Rep. Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Lake.

Republicans claimed the bill represented putting “policy” into the tax bill.

Republican after Republican voiced objection to the amendment, none more colorfully than Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston.

‘Smoke-filled room’

“I feel like I’m in a smoke-filled room with a bunch of lobbyists,” Davids said.

He and other Republicans admitted that the DFLers eventually would pass the labor peace legislation but argued that it should be heard by the commerce committee.

When the bill did pass, with no Republican support and a couple of DFLers not voting, the committee Republicans packed up their coffee mugs, briefcases and laptops and headed out of the room.

“Chair [Lyndon] Carlson is running a kangaroo court,” Davids said after the walkout. “This is a major policy issue that was inserted without public testimony, without discussion. I will not take part in a kangaroo court.’’

Not surprisingly, Carlson disagreed with Davids’ assessment of how he’s running the committee.

Rep. Lyndon Carlson
Rep. Lyndon Carlson

“Just rhetoric,” said Carlson of Davids’ charges. “He spoke four times on the amendment. He continued to want to dominate the discussion.”

Without Republicans in the meeting room, DFLers quickly passed the omnibus transportation finance bill.

All of this, of course, is more about theater than policy. The House tax bill still has to go to the floor, where it will be disparaged by Republicans before it passes.

More importantly, the bill ultimately will have to go to a conference committee. There are major differences between Senate and House tax bills.

Entertaining — and informative — theater

Nonetheless, the theater was entertaining — and perhaps even informative.

Republicans, now in the minority, have complained from the beginning of the session about the DFL “abusing” its majority status. It’s worthwhile to remember, that when they were in the minority, DFLers complained of being poorly treated by Republicans.

The amendment did have the feel of a policy provision.

Anzelc, a longstanding friend of labor, said the amendment was justified because it “protects the public” when public funds are used in a project.

A “labor peace agreement” does not require projects being built by the public to use union labor. But Anzelc made it clear that such an agreement does allow workers to organize without interference from developers and management.

More importantly, he said, a “labor peace agreement” means there will be no disruptions in a project which receives public funding.

Rep. Tom Anzelc
Rep. Tom Anzelc

Anzelc said his amendment “protects the public interest.”

Though some of the Republicans on the committee clearly were angry that the amendment is overly friendly to unions, most avoided that argument and focused on process.

Some Republicans even insisted they might be interested in voting for the amendment, if it had gone through normal legislative processes.

Sometimes, the GOP arguments were humorous displays of tap-dancing.

There was, for example, the dance done by Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings.

“I’m a friend of labor,” he said.

He paused.

“And I’m a friend of business.”

Then he said that it was the DFL process that was the problem -- and the reason he would not support the amendment.

Such “peace agreements” have been used in several large public projects, such as construction of the Metrodome, Target Field and Xcel Energy Center.

Proponents of the agreement noted that many large corporations have labor peace agreements with their work forces. New York has a labor peace requirement, as do such municipalities as Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Minneapolis.

Davids, who does love the theater of politics, was both angry and funny after the walkout.

Because of the walkout, he said, he was unable to deliver “a great little speech” he had been prepared to deliver at the conclusion of the committee meeting.

His speech was going to tie together the nasty April weather and his disgust of DFL policies and process, by quoting from a 1977 rock song by the British-American group Foreigner:

You’re as cold as ice,
You’re willing to sacrifice our love
You’ll never take advice
Someday, you’ll pay the price.

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Comments (11)

Methinks thou dost protest too much

Considering how little work Republicans did when they were in the majority, I find it humorous that they are now apparently complaining that the DFL is working too hard - coming up with too many ideas.

I suppose it would be easier to go back to the utter lack of progress accomplished by the Republicans. But we tried that and doing nothing doesn't seem to work.


DFL always wants to tax and spend.
REP always want to spend LESS and tax LESS.
Pretty simple isn't it ?


Hey, it feels good to throw out sound bites, doesn't it? Here are a few facts though that are too long to toss into a little quip for the press release.

The reality is Republicans tend to borrow and spend, whereas Democrats pay as they go. Here are a few figures from the national level to tide you over till the next election.

Under Republican presidents the economy grows at a 4% rate. That's excluding Hoover, who really tanked the economy with the Great Depression. Under Democratic presidents the economy grows at an 8% rate. And that grows to 11% under Clinton. Those figures include FDR, who had to fix all the damage wrote by the Depression.

That also does not take into account a couple of wars that were unfunded and the Great Recession mess Obama had to clean up.

Not so simple, is it?

In a huff

"committee Republicans packed up their coffee mugs, briefcases and laptops and headed out of the room"

WHICH BEING TRANSLATED MEANETH: If you don't do what I say I'm going to stamp my feet and cry and then I'm going to take my dolly and my dishes and go home!

I Guess The Difference Between the GOP and the DFL

Is the DFL's legislation is put together in committee rooms with members of the opposing party present (until they leave in a snit),...

whereas the GOP's legislation has lately been put together in the offices of ALEC, then proposed by GOP legislators who don't even know what's in the bill they're presenting,...

while those same legislators try to hide the nature of the proposed legislation behind completely dishonest "ministry of truth" doublespeak.

Personally I many not always agree with with the DFL proposes, but at least it's LOCAL and done in the open.

very well said

Hopefully the ALEC method of governing will continue to gain disrespect.

To summarize ...

... what goes around, comes around.

And around and around we go.

Ain't politics grand?


In terms of procedural nonsense, it is devoutly to be hoped that what goes around in fact does come around. Legislators spend huge amounts of time on grandstanding, posturing, and other related forms of political garbage. The right way to run a committee is to let the minority make it's point a couple of times and then move the heck on. Life is way to short to spend more of it in airless SOB committee rooms than is strictly necessary.

Just a walkout?

I can't understand why they the Republicans just don't hide out in another state, denying a quorum just as the Senate Democrats did in Wisconsin two years ago to protect their friends in the public employee labor movement.

just more taxes

Actually the Republicans passed a lot of stuff that Dayton wouldn't sign or attempt to negotiate. How many people do you think are going to vote for the Dems after they pass all these tax increases and put us near the top of all states with heavy tax burdens? High taxes haven't worked in Europe, New York, Illinois and don't get me started with California which is losing businesses at an incredible rate. How are all of the regressive taxes and added fees going to help the poor? The $250000000 in property tax relief will do nothing for me personally and I do own a house. It isn't much but within my means. I would rather the fees and taxes not go up for a $20 bonus on my property taxes. That's only a feel good provision that will do nothing in the way of relief. You can balance the budget without raising taxes.

MOST of us will Vote for Them

Because we've seen what a state run on the cheap,...

which, nevertheless managed to massively enrich the already wealthy,...

while the infrastructures the rest of us depend on crumbled to a disturbing state of disrepair,...

even while the wealthy CONTINUED to whine about a "bad business" climate and taxes that were too high.

It seems to me that, back a few years ago, many "conservatives" were convinced that our state benefit programs were attracting all sorts of undesirable (low class, people of color) to Minnesota, and claimed the need to stem that tide by reducing benefits.

The reality is, the EXCELLENT business climate provided by our admittedly expensive system of education, transportation and other infrastructures was so supportive of business,...

that it attracted a large collection of "welfare queen" (the state and my fellow citizens owe me whatever it takes to make my business successful no matter how useless or harmful my products or how lousy an owner/manager I am) would-be business leaders,...

who seem to have taken over the State Chamber of Commerce and have been trying to dismantle everything required to make even GOOD businesses successful ever since they arrived,...

or at least make blessedly sure that THEY (the ones who primarily profit from those infrastructures) don't have to pay for them.

They've successfully shifted the income tax and property tax burdens onto the poor and middle class, even while they've managed to keep what they're paying their workers the same for the past thirty years (which, counting inflation in amounts to a substantial income cut),...

and increased their own incomes exponentially.

We've had ENOUGH of that Republican-enabled, damage and destroy the poor and middle class and destroy everything that made this state work in order to enrich the already wealthy, approach to state governance (hidden behind a smoke screen of faux morality that they, themselves violated at will).

So yeah, the DFL is moving back toward "tax and spend" in order to start rebuilding our state.

And except for a few "true believer" types on the "conservative" side, the rest of us are CELEBRATING!

As for the "low tax" people, they're all welcome to move to any one of the low tax states, and personally, I'm having a hard time understanding why they're not moving to any one of those meccas of fortune five hundred capitalism (snark intended). We'll even be happy to hold the door open for them as long as they're leaving.