Updates & Commentary on the Legislative Process

  • Sen. Latz Leads DFL Criticism of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s History of Anti-Semitic Comments

    Following recent tweets in which she claimed that support for Israel is "all about the Benjamins" and that AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) has bought Israeli support in Congress, and referenced "hooked-nosed" Jews in a retweet, Rep. Ilhan Omar was forced to apologize for her anti-Semitic remarks.
  • Walz Misses a Layup, Continues to Obstruct Line 3 Replacement

    Approving Line 3 was a perfect opportunity for Governor Walz to show he was serious about his "One Minnesota" message. Unfortunately, he missed the layup.
  • Representative Garofalo Eviscerates Bill To Raise Renewable Energy Mandate

    Yesterday, newly-elected Representative Jamie Long (DFL) introduced  House File 700, which if signed into law would increase Minnesota's renewable energy mandate to 55 percent of energy generated from wind, solar, small hydro, or hydrogen produced from renewable energy by 2030. The bill would increase this total to 80 percent by 2035. While Representative Long introduced the bill, it was Representative Pat Garofalo (R) who stole the show with a withering cross examination which was a work of beauty to behold. The video below shows the exchanges between Rep. Long and Rep. Garofalo, and Representative Gene Wagenius (DFL), who chairs the committee. Some of the key take away's are posted below. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TX2Dl-DgT4&t=1s   At the 8:11 mark, Rep. Garofalo asks Rep. Long if there is a fiscal note, which puts a price tag on proposed legislation, attached to the bill. Astonishingly, Rep. Long had not requested one, and when Rep. Garofalo asked Representative Wagenius if a fiscal note was going to be requested, she dodged the quested before eventually saying "we'll see." How is this acceptable? According to the findings of our forthcoming study Doubling Down on Failure: How a 50 Percent Renewable Energy Mandate Will Cost 80 Billion (working title), some of which I shared in my own testimony yesterday, a 50 percent renewable energy mandate would cost $80 billion and increase the cost of electricity by 41.5 percent. This bill, which proposes to go even further, would dramatically increase the cost of electricity for every Minnesota household, school, hospital, and government building. In fact, every building using electricity will be impacted by this legislation. Therefore, it is incredibly concerning that Rep. Long and Rep. Wagenius don't seem to care about the massive cost this would impose on Minnesota families and businesses. Rep. Garofalo then asked how this system would provide reliable electricity during weather events like the polar vortex that struck Minnesota last week, noting utility companies shut off their wind turbines when it is -10 degrees F. Rep. Long's answer was a common one among renewable energy advocates, that the wind would be blowing somewhere and that reliability could be achieved by building our resources out over a wide area, but as I mentioned last week, the wind wasn't blowing anywhere. This one's the kicker: Next was the discussion of Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which are a piece of paper attached to a megawatt hour of renewable energy produced anywhere in the United States. Rep. Garofalo asked if this bill would allow the use of RECs. Rep. Long didn't know, so after a legislative researcher found they were, in fact, allowed, Rep. Garofalo asked how this bill would reduce pollution, reduce costs, or in-source jobs to the state of Minnesota. Long's answer was entirely unsatisfactory. While conceding that purchasing REC's from other parts of the country would not create jobs in Minnesota, he continued to push against the other claims, but to no avail. On cost: Purchasing a REC from California is not a magic wand that will automatically transform a megawatt hour produced using coal into one produced by solar power. The cost of the megawatt hour of coal remains the same, but the cost of the REC is added to the cost of the coal-fired megawatt hour. This means RECs necessarily increase the cost of power. Rep. Garofalo explained this brilliantly, arguing that purchasing this piece of paper would necessarily increase the cost of electricity. On pollution: Rep. Long argued the REC would cause a reduction in emissions of criteria pollutants and also carbon dioxide, and that supporting the use of these technologies would result in cleaner air in Minnesota. But Garofalo pushed back, if we are still using the same sources of energy for electricity generation, then Minnesota will have the same emissions, and he's right. In essence, this bill will impose massive costs on Minnesota families and businesses but the bill's author did not even ask for a fiscal note. Furthermore, the environmental "benefits" are illusory and this bill could very well promote renewable energy jobs outside Minnesota. Astonishing. I'd highly recommend watching the entire exchange if you have the time.      

Yes, This Really Did Happen

  • Your Legislature at Work.

    More than 1,000 bills have already been introduced in this still young legislative session. Not all of them address weighty affairs of state. HF 800 introduced by Rep. Mike Sundin, DFL-Esko would reimburse property owners for damage done by beavers and beaver dams using state tax dollars. So beavers didn’t cause your problem, but wild turkeys did? We’ve got a bill for that, too. Rep. Steve Green, R-Fosston has introduced H.F. 857 to reimburse farmers for wild turkeys that consume their crops or flitch their livestock feed. Rep. Kelly Morrison, DFL-Deephaven has introduced H.F. 776, the “Lawns to Legumes Grant Program.” The bill would appropriate $3.5 million for grants to encourage homeowners to tear up their grass and replant their lawns “with native vegetation and pollinator-friendly forbs and legumes.” Up to 75 percent of the cost would be borne by taxpayers unless the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determines your land has a high potential for Rusty Patched Bumblebees, which makes the project eligible for 90 percent reimbursement.
     
  • Fixing Past Follies.

    If you’re 16 years old and living in Minnesota, you may have a lot less free time come summer. The state’s current child labor laws prohibit the operation of lawnmowers, lawn trimmers and weed cutters by anyone under age 18. But not for much longer if Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria, has her way. She’s introduced a bill, H.F. 790, that would lift the prohibition on lawn equipment for 16 and 17-year olds. If you’re 15 years old, however, you can still look forward to the summer of 2019.
     
  • CAPITOL WATCH IS ILLEGAL!

    Following the premiere of Capitol Watch, a DFL media specialist in the House wrote us, saying: "Please show me documentation of when and how I got subscribed to this email list. Signing an individual up for an email list without their consent is against the law." That isn’t true, but it is also odd since we got his email address from the official website of the Minnesota House of Representatives! You would think a media specialist would want to read Capitol Watch, but not to worry—we unsubscribed him.
     

Your St. Paul Buzz

  • Lack of Civility in Legislative Hearings.

    Some Capitol observers are expressing concern about a lack of civility in legislative hearings. Example: Last week a freshman DFL legislator personally insulted a witness who had given balanced expert testimony before the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee, on a major proposed change to the law of sexual harassment. The committee’s DFL chairman elected to do nothing. But observers also say growing incivility is a two-way street.
     
  • Convoluted Committee Structure.

    You might recall our first Capitol Watch report on the convoluted committee structure created by DFL House leadership that routes upwards of half of all House bills through 21 “subdivisions” under the Ways and Means Committee. If you think that was confusing, join the crowd. The House Rules Committee has scheduled an hour and a half long meeting on Friday to have staff explain to the rest of the world how the system supposedly works. Perhaps this would have been 90 minutes better spent before the legislature convened rather than at the end of week 6 of the session.
     
  • Mark your calendars.

    Monday, February 18 could be the first time in memory the legislative day opens and closes with drumming on the House floor. All regular House business will be suspended for Tribal Sovereignty Day at the State Capitol. No committee meetings or floor sessions will be held, but House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) has scheduled a full day to hold the bi-lateral government to government discussions with 11 Native American tribes—another first.
     

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Minnesota Capitol Watch is a project of Center of the American Experiment