The Minnesota House DFL caucus Tuesday blasted their Republican colleagues’ legislative priorities, particularly the focus on “unnecessary” constitutional amendments like Right to Work and photo identification for voters.

The minority was equally unhappy that the House GOP caucus has offered a pared-down borrowing bill that includes $5 million to repair the moldy dolphin tank and other assets at the Minnesota zoo, but nothing the jobs programs the governor requested.

“With all the issues to pick and choose, the Republicans are back with another constitutional amendment,” said House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, flanked by House Democrats.

“I would invite anyone to go down on any street corner in Minnesota and ask the first 100 people walking by what are the most important issues on their mind,” Thissen said. “I bet you would hear a lot about jobs and the economy. I bet you might hear a lot about how we’re funding our schools. I bet you’d hear a lot about rising property taxes and tuition and healthcare costs, but what you won’t hear is any discussion, I believe, about constitutional amendments, and particularly you’re not going to hear someone coming up to you and saying, ‘We absolutely have to get this voter ID amendment passed.’”

The DFL event was staged hours before the House was set to begin debate on the photo ID constitutional amendment. Thissen said there wouldn’t be a single Democratic vote in favor of the proposal.

“Anybody remember when amending the constitution used to be a big deal?” said Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-St. Louis Park.

He warned that the GOP is risking a “political arms race,” where interest groups on both sides try to sidestep the Legislative process write their pet projects directly into the state constitution.

“They’ll be launching a missile I think they’ll wish they could take back,” Simon said.

When Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty vetoed the Democratic-led Legislature’s election reform bills in 2009, Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said his party didn’t try to amend the state constitution to get their reforms through.
“Instead of running and whining to the voters and saying, ‘The governor vetoed our bill! We need to have the voters fix it for us,’” Winkler said. “We actually sat down with Republicans, worked with the administration and we got the job done. We passed the same bill the next year. But it took hard work.”

Thissen also blasted the House GOP’s new $280 million bonding bill proposal. That’s considerably less than the $775 million Gov. Mark Dayton has requested for job creation initiatives and infrastructure projects.
The GOP bonding bill is “incredibly small,” Thissen said.

“It under-funds just about anything,” he said. “It throws little bits of money to a bunch of projects that’s not actually going to solve anything. It prioritizes Rep. Tara Mack’s dolphin tank at the Minnesota zoo over instead of the number two MnSCU priority, which is job creation…So they’re choosing the dolphin tank over job creation. It’s really a poor, poorly crafted bill and they haven’t consulted with the Democrats at all in putting it together. Until that happens, they’re going to have a hard time getting Democratic votes.”

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