Legislators discuss upcoming session at Worthington breakfastGovernment Affairs Committee sponsered the event
WORTHINGTON — In 2008, Rod Hamilton took a beating from Republican Party leadership by voting to support a Democratic-endorsed transportation bill. The tides have certainly turned, Hamilton reminded attendees at Tuesday morning’s Legislative Breakfast at the Hickory Lodge.
By: Ryan McGaughey, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — In 2008, Rod Hamilton took a beating from Republican Party leadership by voting to support a Democratic-endorsed transportation bill.
The tides have certainly turned, Hamilton reminded attendees at Tuesday morning’s Legislative Breakfast at the Hickory Lodge.
“In the past I’ve taken a whipping,” said Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, who is beginning his fourth term as District 22B representative. “This year, I’m holding the whip.”
Hamilton will begin the session, which commences Jan. 4, as the Minnesota House’s Majority Whip. Not only is the post new for Hamilton, it’s the first time his party will outnumber the DFL in St. Paul, as the Republicans gained control of both of the House and Senate as a result of November’s election.
District 22A Rep. Joe Schomacher, a freshman legislator who starts his first term next week, was part of the GOP election wave.
“The way I look at it, there were 201 legislative elections, and a majority went to those talking about lower taxes,” Schomacher said during the breakfast, which was hosted by the Worthington Area Chamber of Commerce’s Government Affairs Committee.
Taxes, of course, were a key component of the question-and-answer session before more than 30 individuals Tuesday morning.
Not surprisingly, Hamilton, Schomacher and new District 22 Sen. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said they are prepared to fight against tax increases likely to be proposed by DFL Governor-elect Mark Dayton and be strong proponents of job growth and economic development.
“I think you not only look at the state elections, but the national elections, too,” said Magnus, who will serve this session as Assistant Majority Leader in the Senate after eight years in the House. “I think the message is pretty clear ... you’ve got to stop this crazy spending. We just spent $3 trillion at the national level, and what did we get for it? People don’t mind spending some money, but they want to see some results.”
Magnus noted that federal mandates and matching fund programs create financial difficulties for the state and, as a result, also affect lower-level governments.
“We’ve got to streamline and control the regulatory process, and we’ve got to create jobs in this state,” said Magnus, who also called any tax increase plan “pretty much dead on arrival” in the Senate.
Legislators discussed the potential ramifications a new state agricultural commissioner, Dave Frederickson, will have on Minnesota’s farm economy,
“One of the things we’re going to talk about with the commissioner … you’d better be prepared for the day you come before the Senate,” Magnus said. “Are you going to support businesses in this state? Are you going to put up the ‘open for business’ sign in the state, or are you going to chase them out? We can’t continue down the road we’re on.”
Another topic broached during the breakfast was the likelihood of state cuts in the health and human services sector.
“The decisions we’re going to have to make are extremely difficult,” Hamilton said. “It’s an area that’s going to have the biggest reductions, no question about it.”
Hamilton stressed the need to protect funding to the disabled and the elderly, and Magnus echoed the sentiment. Later, in a question regarding preparation for the increasing numbers of aging baby boomers, Schomacher suggested some different ways of thinking.
“There are things with long-term care that I think there are opportunities to look at,” Schomacher said, adding that current regulatory processes promote the concept that “residents are more about the paper hassle than being a person” and that payment of staff in regional nursing homes compares poorly to that of Sioux Falls, S.D.
“I do think there are opportunities with assisted living and in-home care that will provide us with more … than simply going into a nursing home,” Schomacher, of Luverne, continued.
Also discussed were needed pension reform and the possibilities for bipartisanship agreement during the upcoming session.
“This election cycle, and the past two or three elections, have said it’s about partisanship and that we need to have less of it and get more results out of our legislators,” Schomacher said. “You can take a partisan stance on an issue and be gung-ho for that, but … when you meet the people affected by an issue, (you see) it’s not about partisan issues all the time but protecting those that need to be protected. Everything else is just hogwash.”
Magnus said what’s even more important to him than bipartisanship is ensuring Greater Minnesota gets its fair share from the metro part of the state.
“That’s going to be the biggest test,” he stated.
Hamilton, who mentioned he had earned the nickname “Lightning Rod” as a result of his transportation bill vote, promised to continue to put his constituents first and work across the aisle.
“(Former state senator) Jim Vickerman taught me that you can still hold your ground and be approachable,” Hamilton said. “You can be aggressive, you can be assertive, and you can still do it in a very respectful way.
“I’m going to continue to do what I do. I get my marching orders from you. Even if it means we do have to go against our party … I have to remember that perspective.”