Legislative Session ‘should be interesting,’ say local Legislators
“It should be an interesting session,” said local legislators, State Senator Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) and State Representative Paul Torkelson (R-Hanska), as they provided an update on 2018 Minnesota politics during a town hall meeting in the Springfield Area Community Center on Jan. 26.
The first topic for this year’s Legislature will be funding the Legislature itself, said Rep. Torkelson. A contentious end to the 2017 session resulted in Gov. Mark Dayton cutting off funding for the legislative body. The fight began in May when Gov. Mark Dayton signed the new, two-year state budget but used line-item vetoes to wipe out $130 million to operate the House and Senate. This resulted in a series of lawsuits that were never officially resolved. Republican leaders of the Legislature quickly announced they would sue over their lost funding, and they won the first round in court. A Ramsey County judge invalidated the vetoes, saying Dayton overstepped his authority by taking such a drastic action against a separate branch of government. Dayton appealed to the Supreme Court, which initially ordered the sides into mediation, but the issue was never officially resolved. The court felt that the Legislature had enough money to get by until the 2018 session that begins February 20.
Sen. Dahms gave an update on the makeup of the State Senate. The Senate has a Republican majority that was 34-33 split, but a DFL resignation in October placed it at 34-32. Depending on the outcome of an upcoming special election, the Republicans could get a greater majority or remain the same. However, with the appointment of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to the Senate, her position was filled by the last elected president of the Senate, Michelle Fishbock, who is a Republican. A current lawsuit is underway to determine if Fishbock can serve in the Senate and as Lieutenant Governor. If the lawsuit determines she can’t serve in the Senate, the Minnesota Senate could technically have an even 33-33 split.
Key topics for the 2018 session, said the legislators, will be the opioid crisis, mental health facilities, the Minnesota licensing system (MnLARS), and the state bonding bill.
See full story in this week's edition of the Springfield Advance-Press.