When is a vote not a vote for?
The Minnesota DFL is asking the state's Office of Administrative Hearings to decide. The decision from the office could reverberate through the legislative session and into the election season.
At issue is the procedure to move bills from one committee to the next. Usually, to accomplish this routine task, bills must go before the full House and be sent upon their way.
This year, with increasing frequency, the House Republicans have demanded full debate and votes on the bills before forwarding them on. They've done it on the health care exchange, a dog breeders bill, child care providers' unionization, the governor's tax bill, a bill to raise alcohol taxes and a host of others.The time consuming process has meant that Republicans have captured DFL members voting on bills they otherwise might not support.
With those votes on record, Republican Rep. Greg Davids, of Preston, began writing letters to the editor regarding vulnerable Democrats' votes.
"On Feb. 20, Rep. Radinovich voted in favor of raising taxes by $3.7 billion, a move that will impact EVERY taxpaying Minnesotan, from the richest of the rich to the poorest of the poor," Davids wrote to the Brainerd Dispatch regarding Rep. Joe Radinovich.
Radinovich, a freshman from Crosby who won in 2012 by 323 votes, voted to progress the governor's tax bill on Feb. 20. Davids also wrote similar letters to the editor address three other freshmen Democrats, according to the DFL.
"As an 11-term member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and former Chair of the Committee on Taxes, Rep. Davids has deep and specific knowledge about the legislative process, especially as regards to tax bills. He was fully aware (that progress votes are not votes for a measure) at the time...he drafted the letters falsely accusing the targeted representatives of voting "in favor of raising taxes by $3.7 billion," the DFL wrote to the Office of Administrative Hearings.
The DFL claims that Republicans asked for roll call votes on the bills' movement "for the sole purpose of providing materials for letters to the editor and other political communications."
Davids, the most senior Republican House member, says his letters simply reflect with the voting rules laid out in the state's legislative manual. (That interpretation has been debated at length on House floor this year.)
"If you don’t want to move a report from committee to committee then don’t vote for the report," Davids said.
Both Davids and the DFL's chairman Ken Martin, who filed the complaint with the Office of Administrative Hearings, acknowledge that the office's decision will have reverberations.
"This is clearly a tactic intended to falsely tie legislators to a particular policy matter for the purposes of hurting or defeating them in an election, This tactic, if allowed to continue, will have profound ramifications for the integrity of the legislative process," Martin's complaint said.
Davids, who noted the DFL's complaint cites a violation of statue against false claims against candidates not lawmakers, said "This is the test case for the Democrats to see if we can continue to do this and tell the truth."
Read the full complaint here: