The new Minnesota House of Representatives District 41B includes Columbia Heights, St. Anthony and Hilltop. DFL incumbent Carolyn Laine is running for re-election against Republican Laura Palmer and Constitution Party member Timothy Utz.
Here are their answers to Northeaster questions.
What is your education and career background?
Palmer: Occupation(s): Data integrity specialist (Sears Holding), custom framer (Micheal’s) and School Board member (Columbia Heights ISD #13).
Utz: Four-year trade school education in carpentry, some college, construction superintendent certification, multiple construction course training, 35 years in commercial construction, security supervisor for multiple venues including the Minneapolis Convention Center and Vikings home games.
Laine: Six years in the Minnesota House of Representatives, 10 years on the Columbia Heights School Board. BS in education from UMD, a master’s degree in psychology, and three years towards a PhD in health psychology. I’ve worked as an educator and am the financial director of an educational non-profit. Currently vice chair of the Columbia Heights Charter Commission. I also consider as part of my career background the years I spent raising my five children, who are now wonderful, competent adults.
If you are an experienced office holder, tell why people should favor your experience over a candidate who is new to public office; if you have not held office, tell why people should favor you over a more experienced candidate.
Utz: I bring multiple life experiences including husband of blended family, father, grandfather, current member Columbia Heights Charter Commission, Lion’s Club and Police reserves; property caretaker, member of carpenters union, Toastmasters International, St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce, and Bryant Avenue Baptist Church. In the past I served as a mortuary assistant and youth group leader. I have a purpose in life to serve our community as Representative. Minnesota needs people committed to Constitutional Republic form of government, committed to their oath of office. I bring an independent voice free of political party manipulation, not beholden to ridged political ideological party machines.
Laine: I have the experience of leadership in legislative and community roles. At the legislature, I’ve served on several committees, with the Health committee becoming my main area of focus. I have the experience and ability to carry legislation through, getting all the stakeholders on board through a bi-partisan, collaborative process. I also know the job of raising a good-sized family with not a dollar to spare. I know the challenge of keeping a small business going with careful financial management. And I know where priorities need to be in order to maintain the quality of life we love here in Minnesota.
Palmer: Experience in office should not be the deciding factor on how a voter casts their vote. What really matters is their guiding principles and if they have the courage to fight for what they think is right.
What is the top priority for the State Legislature in the 2013-2014 sessions?
Laine: The top priority is supporting job growth, balancing the state budget fairly, and promoting economic well-being. We must structurally balance the state budget. That means we must set it up to work long-term, addressing both spending reductions and adequate revenue. Our state budget was thrown out of balance by the financial crisis of 2008 but also by tax breaks a decade ago to the very wealthy. They must pay their fair share. Corporate tax loopholes can be closed. We can do bonding for important state infrastructure needs, contracting with businesses that then create jobs, stimulating the engine of our economy.
Palmer: Transportation and infrastructure is a huge concern for our communities. We currently have a group of people who want to build trains that are too expensive and go unused instead of ensuring that our roads and bridges are maintained and expanded where needed. I will fight to bring proper transportation and infrastructure improvements.
Utz: Restrain state government to the Constitution, truly balance the budget. I have three personal priorities a. Repeal laws that violate our Constitution and principles of our Republic government. b. As Legislator to educate the citizens of Minnesota on their obligations for civil participation, challenge people to study and understand how civil government should function allowing “We the People” to hold elected representatives accountable. c. Bring to public attention the dysfunction of how the Legislature operates in violation of House rules and Constitutional requirements. As an example; during session House Representatives routinely vote for each other when someone is not present.
Name two issues on which all legislators should put party aside and pass bills this session.
Palmer: Tax reform and paying back our schools.
Utz: Simply comply with the Constitution of Minnesota, the document given by the people to elected officials defining their limits of governing. Doing the business of Minnesota within the framework of our Constitution has not happened for decades at the Capitol.
Laine: We passed a relatively small bonding bill in the past session. With interest rates very low, bonding is a win-win. Important state infrastructure needs are met, and businesses and jobs are stimulated. Since the projects are chosen from around the state, many legislative districts are served, as well as the state overall. Closing corporate tax loopholes is widely supported by Minnesotans. Legislators ought to come together and get this done. The ideology of no new revenue at all is hurtful to the citizens, cutting opportunity and the quality of life we love in Minnesota.
If the Republican majority in the Legislature continues, what specifically will you do to prevent deadlock between the Legislature and the DFL governor?
Utz: Stand for the principles of our Republic, fight for Constitutional compliance. When the three branches of government comply with the direct will of the people as expressed in our constitution the business of the state can be done.
Laine: It is collaboration that is sorely needed in the legislature these days. The ideological rigidity on the conservative side of the aisle has grown over the years and is now quite stuck. We all can and do have strong opinions, but the legislative process requires a willingness to compromise. Without that, everything becomes a power struggle, and we all lose. I will reach out to connect with the new conservative legislators, looking for common ground, a shared vision for Minnesota, hoping we can get past ideological lock-step voting, and serve the greater good.
Palmer: Deadlock occurs when the debate stops. When the Governor chooses to stop participating in a conversation, there isn’t anything I can do. That does not mean that I cannot continue the conversation with other members of the legislature. I will commit to talking with any member of the legislature, on any topic, regardless of party.
What specific needs in your district should state government address in the next two years?
Laine: The issues in my district are the issues dominant throughout the state. People need good jobs in order to make purchases and support their families; businesses need consumers. Everyone needs a fair tax structure. People need educational opportunity for their children and for themselves; employers need an educated workforce. People need to be able to afford access to good health care; businesses need these costs stabilized. The schools in my district need the borrowing shift paid back. Our skilled nursing care facilities need to be able to compassionately care for our elderly and disabled, and we’re all dependent on a healthy environment.
Palmer: The State of Minnesota burdens our local schools. The state forces taxation, steals school funds and we even need their permission to make capital improvements. We must provide our local school districts the ability to decide what is best for their own children. I will fight to limit state interference in areas that the local community has authority over.
Utz: the answer to this question is more a philosophical idea for me of returning to self governing and local control as Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jay and other founding fathers provided. A Republic thrives when citizens are empowered to live their lives as free sovereign citizens in local communities, centralized power diminishes creative investment, isolates the citizens from their government.
Northeaster editor’s note: This article was “cut off” before its conclusion, in the printed Northeaster. The entire article appears here.