House Democratic leader called out for “pattern of verbal abuse” of opposition staff 

It gets crazy in the waning hours of a legislative session. But House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis has displayed “a disturbing pattern of verbal abuse of Republican Staff” on the House floor throughout the 2016 legislative session, according to a letter signed by seven GOP legislators.

“Your verbal taunts occurred both on and off the record, but all were plainly visible to most in the House chamber. This is absolutely unacceptable behavior by any member – let alone a leader – of either caucus,” states a May 26 letter the legislators sent to Thissen.

The blunt letter follows an incident that unfolded in the House chambers in the last hour of the last day of the 2016 legislative session just before midnight on May 22.

After an animated exchange captured on the legislative video feed with House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R- Crown, Thissen headed to three senior GOP staff members and a researcher working to insert last minute changes in the bonding bill.

Upset over the inadvertent omission of language for a railroad safety provision supported by DFL legislators, Thissen lashed out verbally with a string of “f-bombs and other expletives” at the staffers working on fixing the problem on the House floor, according to eyewitnesses.

“On the last night of session, you again crossed the line by confronting and screaming profanity at Republican staff. We understand the final hours of legislative sessions are unpredictable and sometimes frustrating, but there is no excuse for such hostile and intimidating behavior toward any staff,” said the letter signed by legislators who witnessed the confrontation.

Rep. Thissen on Floor
Copyright MN House of Rep. Photo by Andrew Von Bank.

The signatories include Majority Leader Joyce Peppin and Representatives Dan Fabian, Tara Mack, Tony Albright, Mary Franson, Marion O’Neill and Jim Nash.

Within minutes of the letter’s release last week, Thissen called to apologize to at least three of the GOP staff members.

“Rep. Thissen has the utmost respect for all staff in the Minnesota House. Rep. Thissen has said that on the last night of session he overreacted and his behavior was over the line. He has apologized to staffers involved,” Mike Howard, House DFL Caucus Communications Director said in an email.

Yet the GOP letter maintains the Democratic Minority Leader has demonstrated a pattern of impugning staff in official House proceedings and called on him to stop.

“…You routinely made derogatory remarks about our staff by name on the House floor and in Rules Committee. These comments were made knowing that staff cannot respond in kind, and that staff has no microphone with which to defend themselves.”