If it was all about jobs, why are social issues the first addressed?

  • Article by: JON TEVLIN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 1, 2011 - 11:08 PM

News item: A group of state senators introduced legislation Monday that would make English Minnesota's official state language. The bill would make it illegal for the state to require that documents and state activities be in a non-English language. (No se puede?)

I thought it was all about jobs?

News item: Over objections from law enforcement groups, Republicans moved to repeal the state's system of gun background checks and permits because it overlaps with federal checks. (The We-Don't-Trust-the-Federal-Government, Except-When-It-Comes-to-Weighing-Lethal-Weapons-for-the-Potentially-Criminal-or-Mentally-Ill Bill?)

I thought it was all about jobs?

News item: St. Paul's former police chief, Sen. John Harrington (DFL), is drafting a bill that would let felons vote as soon as they are released from custody. (If they are going to be packing [see above], they may as well vote).

I thought it was all about jobs?

New item: Legislators introduced a bill to block public funding for abortions for low-income women. (You can never have too many poor people.)

I thought it was all about jobs?

News item: Some Democratic legislators are already saying gay marriage is not off the table.

I thought it was all about jobs.

Near the end of the last campaign season, candidates from both sides, especially at the top of the ticket, were practically mum about hot-button social issues. They put a laser focus on jobs and the economy and told voters, we feel your pain.

GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer studiously avoided abortion, immigration, gay marriage and gun issues, afraid perhaps that his views on those issues played well to his base, but wouldn't necessarily resonate with the fence-sitters and moderates.

Questioned repeatedly about his views on abortion on "Almanac," Emmer ran like a Vulcan who had just crashed his Vulcanmobile.

"This election is about the economy and jobs," he said.

So where are they? some critics are asking.

"I am surprised that there hasn't been discipline in the leadership at the top to present a major jobs bill, given the economic conditions," said Tom Horner, who was the Independence Party candidate for governor. "They've allowed these social issues to dominate the first few weeks of the session."

Rubbish, says Michael Brodkorb, the Senate Republican caucus spokesman. He said that anyone can introduce a minor bill. The party, he said, is busy trying to lift the moratorium on nuclear power, and pass a bill on an alternate teacher's license, both of which will create jobs, he said.

While Republican legislators were holding committee meetings about jobs and the economy in Hibbing last weekend, the media focused instead on "bills introduced by a few legislators." The party is completely focused on jobs in committees, where the real work is getting done, Brodkorb said.

Fair enough. But might I suggest then that the party ask rogue legislators to hold off bills sure to grab attention from their diligent efforts.

Joe Peschek, political science professor at Hamline University College of Liberal Arts, says some legislators are simply doling out "red meat to the hard-core followers."

He points out that many of these bills have been introduced before, and even if some pass in the newly conservative Legislature, "I imagine [Gov. Mark] Dayton will veto them."

Kris Jacobs of Jobs Now Coalition is "apoplectic" about the lack of progress on job-creating legislation.

"It's astonishing to me what's not happening at the Capitol," said Jacobs, who favors a bipartisan effort to create jobs and give employers incentives to hire. She points out that there has been a net loss of jobs in Minnesota over the past decade.

"These people were elected to do something about jobs, but they are not acting like it," she said.

Sen. Geoff Michel, deputy majority leader, begs to differ. He chairs the committee to create jobs, and said they had three meetings Tuesday devoted to solutions.

"I don't think it's a partisan issue at all," said Michel. "We are all going to be judged, and should be judged, on job creation."

jtevlin@startribune.com • 612-673-1702

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