Capitol Watch: 5 random things from the capitol last week

1. The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing Friday on the internal rules that govern the Senate. No votes were taken as legislators offered possible changes and amendments. Sen. Steve Drazkowski (R-Mazeppa) offered several amendments to return the Senate to in-person voting. The Minnesota Senate is the only legislative body in the country that still allows proxy voting for Senators who are not physically in the chamber or even at the Capitol.

We’ve written about how proxy voting should never have been allowed because of its obvious constitutional problems, starting with Article 4, Section 12, which states: The legislature shall meet at the seat of government in regular session in each biennium. The seat of government is not your house with an Internet connection to St. Paul.

Of course the Democrats and their friends in the media immediately portrayed the rules change as an attack on Sen. Kari Dziedzic, who is battling cancer and not able to come to the Capitol for votes.

I know they say you’re not supposed to read the comments, but in this case the comments on X related to this topic are a great example of typical Minnesota thinking.

“She has cancer!”

“Republicans are mean!”

“Remote work is the new normal, let’s embrace it.”

Many Minnesotans never get past their short-term compassion and empathy to consider the long-term effects of policy decisions such as remote voting. The short-term argument to let Senators vote remotely, or help immigrants, or pay for housing and childcare, always feel good. But the long-term impacts of these polices only exacerbate the root problems. It’s so easy (and lazy) to be liberal.

2. Rep. Pat Garofalo (R-Farmington) announced in January he is retiring from the legislature after 20 years in the House. But on the Almanac public affairs show Friday night, Garofalo said he would rescind his retirement and stay in the legislature if they fail to pass a bill allowing sports betting. It was an unscripted and funny moment on TV but knowing Garofalo, he might follow through.

Legalized sports betting has been hung up in a complicated fight between those who support it, those who oppose it, those who support it but only if Native American tribes have a monopoly, and those who support it but only if Native American tribes don’t have a monopoly.

3. Sen. Erin May Quade (DFL-Apple Valley) said in committee she wishes parents would stop telling their children when they should have sex, because she thinks it’s weird when adults tell children when they can have sex. Here’s the full quote. The video is not available on the Senate webpage at this time.

“I, as a parent, really hope that the practice of telling our children when they can have sex, which is what abstinence-based sex education is, can stop happening. Because I think it’s weird when adults tell children when they should be having sex.”

Her remarks came during discussion of SF 3746, a bill to create statewide health education standards. Right now, health standards are developed locally. If passed, this will be the next front in the battle over who should have primacy in the education of our children. Sen. May Quade is laying down her marker on the side of the state. If you thought social studies standards were controversial, wait until a committee appointed by Gov. Tim Walz brings forward a draft of health education standards.

4. Gov. Tim Walz continued his battle against Republican positions that no Minnesota Republicans have taken. For example, he posted on X about book banning, even though no one in the state is banning books.

We are still waiting for someone in the Minnesota press corps to ask the governor to name one book that has been banned. And by banned we mean the dictionary version of the word banned, because words have meaning. Or at least they used to.

In another post on X, Walz is fighting against Republican legislators who he says want to cut the free school lunch program and cut taxes for the wealthy. Except no Minnesota Republicans have proposed doing those things.

5. House Majority Leader Jamie Long (DFL-Minneapolis) spoke at a Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce event on Friday and told the crowd to expect supplemental budget spending of $1 billion and a bonding bill of around $980 million. This is the first time someone in the DFL leadership has put a number on how much new spending they plan.

Remember, the state is on track to spend $1.4 billion more in the 2026-27 budget than it will take in ($66.2 billion in spending against $64.8 billion in revenue). At the moment, there is enough of a surplus in the bank to cover that deficit, but if the legislature spends too much in 2024, the next budget will be out of balance.

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