Republicans who will control the Minnesota House next year angered Democrats by leaving a strong environmentalist off the environmental committee.
House Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, released a list of committee members Thursday night, and the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee list did not include Rep. Jean Wagenius, D-Minneapolis. She has served on the committee each of her 14 terms in the House, earning a reputation of detailed-oriented environmentalist.
“I am deeply disappointed that Speaker-designate Daudt has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to accept the individual the minority caucus has designated as its lead on a Minnesota House committee,” current Speaker Paul Thissen, D-Minneapolis, said. “So much for the ‘balanced approach’ the Republicans touted repeatedly during the campaign.”
Two years ago, when Democrats took control of the House, Thissen put Wagenius in charge of an environment and agriculture committee, angering rural Republican who said Wagenius is against traditional farming and that putting the subjects together reduces the importance of agriculture.
Republicans gained control of the House in last month’s election, and established several rural-oriented committees. Rep. Rod Hamilton of Mountain Lake will be chairman of the Agriculture Finance Committee, while Rep. Paul Anderson of Starbuck will lead the Agriculture Policy Committee.
Daudt’s office said little about the decision, but issued a statement from him: “We have put together a committee structure that is balanced and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves and getting to work on problems Minnesotans care about.”
Thissen said Wagenius’ voice is important for the committee.
“Just because House Republicans don’t take climate change or protecting Minnesota’s water and air seriously doesn’t mean that the majority of Minnesotans agree with them,” Thissen said. “Rep. Jean Wagenius is a woman of great integrity who would bring much needed experience to the important work of the environment committee.”
Democrats’ rural problems two years ago were not limited to the Wagenius chairmanship. They also took heat by making Minneapolis’ Thissen speaker and Erin Murphy of St. Paul majority leader, skipping over Rep. Paul Marquart of Dilworth. He had run to give a rural balance to leadership; next year he will be an assistant minority leader after 10 rural seats flipped from Democrat to Republican in the November vote.
Bachman doesn’t go quietly
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann surprised no one as she exited Congress for the unknown.
The Republican firebrand was critical of Democratic President Barack Obama to his face at a White House holiday party, she weaved critical remarks around thank-yous in her final floor speech and she sent an email blasting her own party’s congressional leaders.
“Speaker John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and the GOP leadership cut a deal with the Obama Democrats to approve another staggering $1.1 trillion in new spending,” she wrote in an email from her political action committee. “What happened to the Republican commitment to fight the reckless Obama agenda, balance the budget and save our country?”
She added: “Unfortunately, I can’t say I am surprised. Dismayed, disappointed and angry — but not surprised.”
Franken for Hillary
Hillary Clinton has the support of both of Minnesota’s Democratic U.S. senators.
Sen. Al Franken told MSNBC that he is in the Clinton camp. Amy Klobuchar already expressed her support, despite talk that she could be a presidential candidate herself.
Clinton has not announced she is running in 2016, but she is expected to and is considered the leading Democratic candidate, by far.
“I think that Hillary would make a great president,” Franken said in the MSNBC interview.
“I think that I’m ready for Hillary,” he said. “I mean, I think that we’ve not had someone this experienced, this tough, and she’s very, very impressive.”
Solid agreement already
Minnesota’s legislative leaders and governor are feeling out each other to find out what to expect in the coming legislative session, but they already agree on one thing.
“We are going to the last day,” House Speaker-designate Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, predicted.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, D-Cook, said he, too, thinks legislators will use every day until the constitutional deadline to adjourn. He said all deadlines for the session will be set with that date in mind.
Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton probably would not argue. He often has said that the nature of a Legislature is to use all of the available time.
The 2015 session begins at noon Jan. 6. And while it must end by May 18, Dayton could call legislators back into session if they do not complete a budget or new issues arise. However, Dayton has shown a reluctance to call special sessions.
Seifert to lobby
Former state Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, will lobby for greater Minnesota issues in the 2015 Minnesota Legislature.
He has joined the Flaherty and Hood law firm, which represents the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities and several cities that belong to that group.
Seifert has lost two campaigns for governor, including a Republican primary loss this year in which he ran as the only greater Minnesota candidate.
Franken in Uber fight
The fast-growing Uber transportation service and U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota are engaged in a privacy battle.
Franken, an outspoken privacy advocate and chairman of a subcommittee on the subject, has complained about Uber’s data collection practices. He also has wondered whether Uber misuses consumer data.
“I believe Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, and that right includes the ability to control who is getting your personal location information and who it’s being shared with,” Franken said. “I recently pressed Uber to explain the scope, transparency and enforceability of their privacy policies. While I’m pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response.”
Part of the problem, as Franken explains it, is that the global positioning system Uber uses allows the new company to track riders’ locations.