Democrats who control the Minnesota House signaled Tuesday that they would reject a "Green New Deal" measure brought forward by a GOP lawmaker to underscore criticism of a state jobs and energy spending bill that Republicans consider too costly.
Although Green New Deal legislation was introduced earlier this month by Minneapolis Democrat Frank Hornstein, the House measure did not advance out of committee. Citing that, House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, described Republican efforts to force a floor vote on the measure as hypocritical.
"It's funny, they're very interested in following legislative procedure until they're not," Hortman said before Tuesday's vote. "The jobs and energy bill contains provisions that were heard through the committee process and so we'll be opposing amendments that shortcut the open and transparent public process that we fostered through the session."
In reviving the Green New Deal, an ambitious measure to reduce dependence of fossil fuels to combat climate change, Minnesota Republicans sought to divide the DFL caucus. While many Democrats agree with the goals of the plan, some also have warned that it could be economically unrealistic in the near future.
The Minnesota GOP strategy mirrored that by their counterparts in the U.S. Senate last month.
Under pressure from Republicans who control the U.S. Senate, 43 Democrats — including Minnesota U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith — voted "present" in a floor vote blocking a Green New Deal resolution inspired by freshman U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y.
The Minnesota House measure was one of scores of amendments added by Republican lawmakers Tuesday in a sweeping spending bill for state employment and energy programs, including funding for Democratic priorities like paid family leave, wage theft prevention and earned sick and safe time provisions.
The House bill, which would cost more than $445 million over two years, sets a 2050 deadline for Minnesota electricity providers to generate all energy from renewable sources. It also includes measures to install solar energy systems at schools and requires the Metropolitan Council to use electric buses for its Metro Transit service.
Rep. Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, who proposed the vote on the state version of a Green New Deal on Tuesday, similarly sought to highlight the economic costs and technological effects of Democratic proposals to combat climate change. His proposal would have moved up the Democrats' target date for renewable energy to 2030 and mandated that the cost come out of other parts of the state budget.
"The technology just isn't simply there to support what the … Democrats want to run to and that's a big issue," Swedzinski said. "Ultimately, whether it's agriculture, whether it's industry or whether it's business or families, we're all going to pay the increased cost and it's going to be detrimental to our economy."
Swedzinski's amendment was part of a long list of proposals and floor speeches that fueled hours of debate in the House, but it was not likely to gain any traction among House Democrats as lawmakers work to meet a May 1 deadline to pass all major spending bills in both the House and Senate.