The majority party in the state House of Representatives gets to decide committee assignments, even for minority members. Junior members don’t get all the committee assignments they prefer, but by longstanding practice, the minority gets to choose its lead member on a committee. Apparently, incoming speaker Kurt Daudt thinks kicking DFLers is more important. Or maybe he’s the obeisant servant of corporate special interests. I don’t pretend to being a mind reader.
Whatever the motive, Daudt has started his speakership with a childish act. Committee assignments were announced today, and Daudt removed Rep. Jean Wagenius from the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee, despite her designation as minority lead on the committee by House Minority Leader Paul Thissen.
Wagenius is one of the most senior members of the DFL caucus, and has been on the environment committee her entire time in the House, including chairing it during the last term. She gets the same pressure from polluters to do whatever they want that presumably Daudt got, except she stood up to them. No wonder Republicans despise her. Defying big ag, big oil, big chemical, and putting the state first must make Republican legislators feel a little cringing. Republicans used Wagenius as an issue in their campaign based on rural resentment this past election, stressing the horribleness of the chair of a committee having something to do with agriculture living in Minneapolis; not that attacks on where she lives started with campaign season. She actually has a farm in the western part of Minnesota, and knows agriculture from first hand experience, but they conveniently always forgot to mention that.
Daudt explained this bizarre move as merely an attempt to achieve geographical balance on the committee. 12 of the 21 members are from outstate, but most Minnesotans live in the metro. Maybe he doesn’t realize we have another census since the middle of the last century. Whether anyone shares her opinions, Wagenius is one of the legislature’s top environmental policy wonks, so it would be good for the state to have working on those issues, even relegated to advising Republicans on purely factual matters of what the law is, how it works, and what the reasoning was for ding it that way. Bah, institutional memory, who needs that?
Looks like Daudt was less interested in balancing geography than in balancing his accounts with some corporate lobbyists. Of course, given Daudt’s recent history of letting disagreements nearly turn deadly, it’s plausible he needed no prodding to pick a fight. At least Daudt is letting us know early on how confrontational his speakership will be. Government shutdown, anyone? It’s sort of the Republicans’ thing, so, probably. I correctly predicted the 2011 state government shutdown on election night 2010, and sad to say, I went back to that predictive well on election night this year. Hope I’m wrong, but it’s not like Republicans have changed. Do these guys know they probably have just a two year lease? And Wagenius might get to exclude the science deniers and corporate lackeys? Wait. Then she wouldn’t have any Republicans to choose from. Never mind.
Just for full disclosure, I’m the chair of the DFL for SD63, which includes Wagenius’ house district.
Update: more at mnpACT.
From Lynnell Mickelsen: Rep. Jean Wagenius is one of the smartest, wisest and most decent people in the legislature. She’s an asset by almost any definition, to any party. What a dumb and mean-spirited move by the incoming GOPers.
From Debra L. Taylor: I expect the MN GOP to try very, very hard to play to rural interests in the next two years, attempting to blame Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and at least the inner-most ring of suburbs for all the problems that rural MN faces. If you look at the seats that the GOP picked up in the House last month, their victories were rural. I think the GOP realizes that they can’t control the Legislature by winning only in the exurbs, and the see rural areas as the most fertile ground. Look for more committees like the one on “Mining and Outdoor Recreation” being used by the GOP to divide the state along urban/rural lines.
From Dan: She is also very good on education and exposing the fraud in charter schools. Maybe she can focus on the fighting the right-wing groups like MinnCan who are trying to destroy public education. One would think that the fact that these groups are funded by the racists at Hubbard broadcasting (of pointergate fame) would make clear what the real agenda is, but there still are some so-called Democrats who are still pushing their racist corporate agenda.