“It is an election year, and I hope it will bring people to their best behavior,” State Representative Diane Loeffler (District 59A) told the Northeast Network gathering at the Eastside Food Cooperative Jan. 12.
Last year, the Minnesota Legislature talked about budget, and because they are on a two-year cycle, this year is bonding and policy issues; Loeffler said education should be seen as a bonding priority. (The state issues bonds in which others invest for a guaranteed return, raising the money to build buildings and infrastructure.)
As moderator Tom Dunnwald said, “invest in a down market,” Loeffler said “bids are coming in lower than normal, our tax dollars will go further,” by building things now.
As District 59 Senator-elect Kari Dziedzic pointed out, “There are Republicans saying ,‘we did the bonding (in summer), we don’t need to do it now,’” referring to the special session that re-started state government after the shutdown. The compromise in that special session resulted in $500 million for bonding.
Dziedzic and Loeffler tag-teamed the discussion of political realities and opportunities. Loeffler said redistricting will likely be settled Feb. 21, “it’s not expected there will be agreement so the courts will issue a map Feb. 21.” And Feb. 7 will be the precinct caucuses, the first point at which members of each party get together to propose planks for their platforms and jockey for support of candidates.
In the Legislature, Loeffler said, “there are some who won’t want to sign off on anything that spends money. There are more extremes. In the Senate, 21 of the 37 Republicans are freshmen, and the majority of those from the Tea Party. In the house, not as many. They are loud, and organized,” reminding the leadership that they delivered the majority.
“Usually we would spend a week and a half in hearings learning the ins and outs of each” of the state departments,” Loeffler said. “Last year they gave half an hour to each. It made the whole process awkward.”
Dziedzic was looking forward to the day’s Senate orientation tour of various locations to be improved through state bond funds. She listed the 10th Avenue Bridge, Franklin Avenue Bridge, 35W Lake Street exit, Target Center, the Walker, the 26th Avenue North bikeway, the sports complex at Theodore Wirth Park, the Interchange and more.
Loeffler said other than the bonding bill, jobs will be the focus in this session. A positive discussion, she said, is the redesigning of state government services and the trend for cities to share services, for the state colleges and universities to work jointly. She recommended watching an eight-part series on TPT about government redesign.
There is a “sunset commission” to analyze whether boards and commissions should be put out of business. “We shouldn’t do it by just de-funding them,” Loeffler said, “that’s just sloppy.”
Another thing to watch, she said, is the Constitutional amendments, the photo ID bill and the anti-gay marriage bill. “Part of why these are being proposed, why we’ve had long hearings on things that are unconstitutional, it’s being done to politicize the judiciary. They want us to pass things that are clearly unconstitutional so they can see” what the judges do, so people can vote for or against them. Judges were supposed to be non-partisan.”
Loeffler can be reached at 651-296-4219, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dziedzic can be reached at 651-296-7809, email@example.com.