For more information contact: House GOP Communications 651-296-5522
What an eventful week in St. Paul including our first major floor debates of the session. Last Monday, we debated the rules that will govern how the House operates over the next biennium. The most controversial aspect of these rules is a requirement that amendments to legislation be filed 24 hours in advance of the bill being considered for possible debate. Because the majority caucus determines which bills will be heard on the floor and when the debate will take place, this rule inherently puts members of the minority caucus at a significant disadvantage. This is the first time in over 154 years that such a rule has been implemented; one which puts a lid on a dissenting voice, makes it more difficult to fix flaws identified in legislation or to act on creative inspiration a legislator might have based on something they hear during a floor debate. Needless to say, I’m very disappointed that members can longer add amendments on the House floor in an extemporaneous manner. Unfortunately, what you’ll now see is a scripted act as debate occurs on the floor as the outcome of the debate will be pre-determined. I think it’s unconscionable that my 40,000 constituents are now, in essence, silenced. When Republicans served in the majority the past two years, leadership never thought to enact such a rule. They welcomed such spontaneous debate and looked forward to arguing their points as they were confident the best ideas of the body would prevail. As a member of the minority caucus, I recognize all I have is my voice. Regardless of the new rules, I remain committed to speaking up for your beliefs here at the Capitol.
On Thursday, the House took up the state employee contract agreements. Although I value the contributions our state employees make, I voted no on these contract agreements because the amendments my Republican colleagues put forth – a provision for pay-for-performance and a requirement to have state employees including legislators pay 10% of their health insurance premiums (as 35,000 employees currently pay nothing for single coverage) – were rejected by the majority. Even more concerning was that the DFL chairman of the committee overseeing these contracts stated that his committee was going to “rubber stamp” the agreements. Given the fact that we’re dealing with over $250 million in taxpayer money, I was certainly not going to be a rubber stamp for that kind of unaccountable spending.
As a new legislator, I continue to encounter events at the Capitol that surprise me. One such incident occurred last week during a Civil Law Committee hearing. Our committee was scheduled to hear House File 84 – previously known as the “Puppy Mill” bill. I had met with lobbyists on both sides of the issue, read each of the many e-mails I had received and even spoke with a few citizens in order to develop a full perspective. I had received feedback 4:1 against this bill and had prepared with several questions for those testifying. Unfortunately, the DFL committee chairman cut short the time for those who wanted to speak against the legislation after having given ample time to those who had come to testify in favor of the bill. A viewing of the hearing revealed 52 minutes was alloted to the supporters and 10 minutes to those in opposition. A vote was subsequently forced on the bill and it passed out of committee on party line. I used my first speech on the House floor to express my outrage that the voices of our citizens were not heard and that this bill was jammed through the Civil Law Committee –against the will of the people. Clearly, this is not how the people’s House should operate.
Recently, the chair of the Met Council gave the annual State of the Region address. I have concerns about the priorities of the Met Council specifically related to transit spending for light rail and how the governor’s proposed quarter cent 7-county metro sales tax would impact our community. I would really like to hear from a lot of you with your thoughts on how we should be prioritizing transportation spending. I am especially interested in hearing from Carver County residents in as much as citizens in Carver and Scott counties rejected this tax four years ago.
I enjoyed meeting with members of the hospitality industry who own businesses and operate fabulous restaurants in our community – including Maynard’s. I share their concerns about the impact the governor’s proposed budget will have on their businesses and appreciate the time they took away from their businesses to come to St. Paul to speak with me
Last Friday morning, I spent time at the Carver County Courthouse in the First Judicial District with Judges Eide and Cain, newly appointed Judge Wentzell, and court administrator Vicki Carlson. As a member of the Judiciary and Civil Law committees, I have thoroughly enjoyed each experience I’ve had with the courts. Several weeks ago, I met with judges from the Fourth Judicial District (Hennepin County) at Ridgedale. On Friday, I shadowed Judge Eide in his chamber and was briefed by Judge Cain about a new procedure being successfully implemented in family court. After spending the morning in Carver County, I have with a much greater understanding of the complexities of and burdens being placed on our court system.
Once again, I want to thank those of you who have contacted me with your questions, comments, and concerns. If you missed my previous legislative updates, you can find them on my website. As your representative, I want to hear from you. If you have any ideas for proposed legislation specific to the committees on which I serve, I welcome your input. You can contact me via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. To contact me by phone, call (651) 296-4315. Mail can be sent to Rep. Cindy Pugh, 313 State Office Building, 100 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., St. Paul, Minnesota 55155.
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