Capitol Watch: Legislative skullduggery

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It happens every session but it’s worth pointing out. In an attempt to shield legislators from taking tough votes on black and white issues, the majority party sometimes allows amendments from the other side to pass. In fact, they encourage their members to vote for the amendments giving them unanimous support. Once the bill reaches conference committee, a small group of members removes the amendment and returns the bill to its original form.

Capitol Watch predicted this would happen when two DFL Senators in swing districts voted with Republicans to protect the popular Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program for religious colleges. Sen. Zach Duckworth lamented on Twitter when the conference committee reverted to the original language, ignoring the bipartisan Senate amendment.

House Republicans pointed out two other instances of skullduggery from the legacy conference committee:

The two gun control measures that passed last week were never voted on in the Senate during the mark up of the public safety omnibus spending bill. Republicans were thus prevented from asking for an up-or-down vote on both the red flag bill and the expanded background check legislation. Both items passed the House and were inserted by the conference committee, allowing DFL Senators to claim their vote for gun control was part of a larger bill they had to support. Spoiler alert: that excuse won’t work with voters concerned about their Second Amendment rights.

But the worst example of conference committee skullduggery last week was on the pedophile language the House removed from the public safety bill with a unanimous vote. This will go down as one of the worst examples of political malpractice in Minnesota history.

As Rep. Harry Niska explains here, House Democrats tried to change the language in the Human Rights Act by removing language that explicitly states, “The physical or sexual attachment to children by an adult is not a protected class under this chapter.” Niska argued on the House floor that removing this language would make it possible for pedophiles to claim status as a protected class.

Democrats first argued with Niska but quickly realized he was right. Or they realized most Minnesotans would think he was right. So they all voted for his amendment putting the original language back. By now you know the rest of the story. The conference committee reverted to the original language, sans the Niska amendment, and both houses passed the bill on party-line votes. Which leads us to the real question of the hour — who’s really running the Minnesota legislature?

Who’s really running the Minnesota legislature?

Is it Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman? Is it Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic? Gov. Tim Walz? Capitol Watch conducted an informal survey of legislators last week and the answer was unanimous. The liberals from the People of Color and Indigenous Caucus and Queer Caucus are calling the shots in St. Paul, convincing (or forcing) all other Democrats to go along with their radical liberal agenda. If you’re not familiar with the leaders of the POCI Caucus, here’s a quick primer.

Lt. Governor Peggy Flanagan — Flanagan is an original member of the POCI Caucus from her time in the House and continues to use her influence in the Walz administration, never missing an opportunity to shovel money to her favorite special interest group, the tribes.

Rep. Leigh Finke – Finke is in charge of all things “trans” at the Minnesota legislature and she’s he’s got leadership so afraid of offending anyone in the alphabet community that some are calling him the de facto Speaker of the House.

Rep. Cedric Frazier – Frazier is another union leader who somehow gets to continue working for the teachers’ union while he serves in the legislature. Talk about a conflict of interest. Frazer has been the main voice for the DFL’s weak public safety agenda weakening sentencing for violent criminals and giving felons the right to vote before their sentence is completed.

Sen. Erin Murphy – Murphy represents a St. Paul district and is in no risk of losing a general election, so why not push a radical agenda? Murphy was liberal enough to beat Tim Walz for the DFL endorsement in 2018, but too liberal to beat him in the primary. As a former nurses union leader, she is the leading voice for the nurse staffing ratio bill opposed by the Mayo Clinic. That bill is putting Walz in a tough spot — if he sides with Mayo, he will look weak to the progressives. If he sticks with the union, he’ll be the governor that loses the Mayo Clinic.

Sen. Erin Maye Quade – Quade served a term in the House before joining Murphy on the ticket in the 2018 primary. Quade then worked for Gender Justice, the group that successfully convinced a Ramsey County district judge to eliminate most abortion restrictions in state law. She ran for the Senate in 2022 and used that platform to push for Minnesota’s extreme abortion laws and the divisive new ethnic studies mandate.

We featured five progressive leaders in this post but there are many more helping to drive this radical agenda including Rep. Jamie Becker-Finn, Sen. Mary Kunesh, Rep. Aisha Gomez and let’s not forget Gwen Walz. Her influence can clearly be seen in the passage of gun control legislation last week.

There are no cooler heads prevailing on House and Senate leadership saying, “Maybe we shouldn’t pass every radical idea we’ve ever had in one legislative session. Maybe some of our members represent districts where a majority of voters don’t support abortion on demand, felon voting, illegal alien driver’s licenses, raising taxes and protecting pedophiles.”

Those pushing this agenda have used speed and momentum to move bills through committee and off the Senate and House floor. Any hesitation by a Democrat in a swing district will cause their loyalty to be questioned, or worse yet, they’ll be called a racist.

But once the votes are cast, the campaign for the House in 2024 will begin. When the direct mail pieces and digital ads start appearing in swing districts, those Democrats will have a hard time explaining their radical voting records to not-so-radical voters. In fact, the back-peddling has already begun, especially on the pedophile issue.

As they say on the campaign trail: If you’re explainin’, you ain’t gainin’.

BREAKING: Just as we’re about to hit send, more skullduggery emerges from the tax conference committee Sunday night:

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