Gov. Mark Dayton said House leadership should publicly admonish Republican Rep. Jim Newberger for his remarks that a rail line connecting north Minneapolis to the state prison in St. Cloud would be "convenient."
“I think it’s horrible, I think he should be reprimanded, if not censured, by his leadership. The fact that nobody has made comment on that in House leadership, I think is appalling,” Dayton told reporters Wednesday.
Newberger, a paramedic from Becker, drew boos on the House floor during Tuesday night’s debate on the GOP transportation budget. The second-term lawmaker noted that the proposed route would take Northstar right past the Minnesota Correctional Facility in St. Cloud.
"Boy, wouldn't that be convenient to have that rail line going from the prison to north Minneapolis?" Newberger said. Scattered boos could be heard in the chamber. Video here via The Uptake.
Newberger quickly backtracked. "I'm not casting any aspersions on north Minneapolis," he said. "I know some folks got their ire up, and rightfully so. Sometimes as we're speaking - that's what came into my mind.”
Newberger issued a apology Wednesday afternoon.
"I sincerely apologize," he said in a statement. "I recognize my comments last night offended some people. I will work in the future to not repeat this mistake."
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, has not yet publicly responded to Newberger’s statements. A spokeswoman said Wednesday that Daudt spoke with Newberger immediately after Tuesday night's floor session to share his concerns and believes his apologies are appropriate.
Dayton said leadership should make a public statement, regardless of whether Newberger backtracked.
“I think leadership in the House should make a strong statement that it’s totally unacceptable. It’s disgraceful.” Dayton said. “I don’t know the technical terms of sanctions in the House but somebody in House leadership ought to stand up and say publicly that is absolutely out of line and unacceptable and has no place in the Minnesota House or anywhere else.”