Minnesota state Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, the House Agriculture Policy Committee chairwoman, sent the following letter to newspapers that ran a recent letter from Rep. Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake. Hamilton is prime spokesman for rural Republican lawmakers who do not like the House Democrats’ committee structure that puts agriculture finance issues with natural resources and environmental programs.
Every two years voters go to the polls to elect 134 members to the Minnesota House of Representatives. The outcome of each election cycle determines which party has the majority of members, Leadership responsibilities, and determination of priorities. This most recent election changed the majority of the Minnesota House when DFL members took control with 72 members.
Optimism, cooperation, bipartisanship and working together are all words and phrases that describe my hoped-for experience in the 2013-2014 legislative session. They exemplify a commitment to carry out the message voters delivered to us to end political games and partisan bickering. Constituents expect political leaders to work together in a serious and focused manner to find common ground and make responsible decisions.
That is why I was disappointed to read my colleague Representative Rod Hamilton’s letter in this newspaper attacking specific DFL legislators over the issue of how the Agriculture Committees are structured and accusing DFLers of not representing our rural districts. The session is barely a week old, yet Rep. Hamilton would rather fan political flames than join together in working productively on important agriculture issues.
Traditionally, we have successfully advanced agriculture issues in the Legislature in a bipartisan fashion. For example, in 2011 the agriculture budget was the only finance bill we passed with broad bipartisan support before the state shutdown. Rep. Hamilton’s negative tone is not the right approach. As Chair of the Agriculture Policy Committee, I believe that we will present a stronger voice for rural Minnesota by working together as both Democrats and Republicans.
Challenging the advocacy skills or commitment of rural members just because they are DFLers and now are the majority caucus of the Minnesota House is not helpful in getting to the outcome we all desire.
The election is over and real work is before us. I urge Rep. Hamilton and his fellow Republicans to mend fences, not build walls.