Hearing on state employee pact puts Parry in firestorm

A legislative subcommittee is considering rejecting a labor agreement the Dayton administration has reached with state employee unions. But Thursday's hearing on the issue wound up putting subcommittee chairman Mike Parry - who's campaigning for Congress - on the defensive.

Republican legislators are not happy about a labor agreement that would give two percent raises to more than 27,000 state employees. The Subcommittee on Employee Relations held a Thursday hearing on whether to block or approve the deal. Ultimately the panel postponed a vote but not before a volley of partisan fireworks involving its chairman, Sen. Mike Parry, who is also a Congressional candidate involved in a competitive primary race.

The hearing drew a gallery full of union members backing the agreement. In addition, DFLers on the panel accused Parry of calling the hearing for political gain and criticized his handling of the meeting. MPR's take is that Parry called the hearing to level criticism at the labor agreement but by the end of the session found himself on the defensive.

Parry already faced some backlash over this week's remarks characterizing Gov. Mark Dayton as a pill-popping, scary liberal. The governor called it "gutter politics." It's an open question as to whether or how the episode will affect the result of Tuesday's primary, in which First District Republicans will choose between Parry and former lawmaker Allen Quist to see who will challenge Democratic Congressman Tim Walz.

Parry declined to take questions about his Congressional campaign in the Capitol Thursday. Instead, the Star Tribune reports, he agreed to meet reporters outside and then was a no-show.

The subcommittee is now scheduled to vote on the labor agreement August 23rd, which is the day before a special legislative session on flood relief is tentatively scheduled.

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