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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Linda Runbeck (R)

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A closer look at "bipartisanship"

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Around the state Capitol, from both sides of the aisle, I hear more conversation about the need for “bipartisanship” in legislative agendas.  The specific point: “bipartisanship” support is the most reliable measure of fairness, balance and necessity for the good of our state.

Conversely, the opposite seems true.  When legislation receives support from only one side of the aisle, it’s a good indicator that a bill could be judged to be unfair, unbalanced, or going too far for the good of our state.  Recent notable examples might be the Marriage Amendment from the 2011 session and the Clean Water Legacy Amendment from 2008.  Both bills had the support of just one party, with limited cross-over votes. They were controversial in passage and remain controversial today.

Already, this year’s legislative session is marked by numerous controversial bills that are destined for House floor votes which will be very lopsided.  In their present form, they go so far to the left, they will garner few, if any, Republican votes. Here is a thumbnail sketch three of them:

The “Bullying” bill - Keep in mind that our laws currently require all school districts to have a policy preventing bullying.  Classroom teachers are on the front lines preventing bullying every day. Apparently, that’s not enough for some who hope to regulate how youths gesture, use body language, words or even tone of voice, anything that might be interpreted as bullying. And that’s the point – this is all about subjective interpretation. This bill received unflattering attention nationally from syndicated columnist George Will who said it will “further empower the kind of relentless improvers and mindless protectors who ... discern terrorism in Hello Kitty bubble guns.” The worst aspect of this bill is that it creates a new cause of action for persons who want to bring lawsuits against school districts – and look for opportunities to do so.

The “Child Care Unionization” bill – A bill to unionize day care providers in our state not only is lacking support by Republicans in the legislature, but the vast majority of providers themselves oppose this initiative. Many are concerned unionized day care would result in fewer choices for low-income parents, divert tax dollars into union coffers and lead to increased child care costs. The underlying concept is flawed because individuals running their own small businesses are simply not government employees; there is no honest justification for this. This is a top-down effort to collect more in union dues and inflate union membership numbers.

The “Minimum Wage Increase to $10.55” bill – Legislation to mandate wages increases such as this would deliver numerous consequences, including a net loss of employment for the very people this bill apparently was designed to benefit. In particular, this will mean less opportunity for youth employment.  Nearly the full cost of implementing these increased wages would fall upon small business least able to afford it, threatening their existence. In many cases, this would leave business owners little choice but to reduce employee hours, cut staff and/or pass along higher prices to consumers. Minimum-wage jobs are intended to be a gateway to the workforce, not a career path. Increasing the minimum wage would prove costly on a number of levels, including reduced incentive for personal advancement and deterring the economic rebound.

To summarize, judging by the results from recent statewide elections, Minnesota is a state that is almost evenly split politically speaking, at 50/50.  Bills like the aforementioned, which receive one-sided support in the legislature, reveal partisan intentions that serve only half the state. Our mission should be to draft legislation which does the most good for the most people. Settling for 50-percent public satisfaction sells our citizens far too short.

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