Lawmakers adjourned at the end of last week but at the beginning of this one, Republican legislative leaders fired up the fight to end one-party dominance at the Capitol.
Saying that the DFL controlled legislature passed bills that overtaxed Minnesotans and harmed families, Republicans hit the road Monday to launch an effort to regain control of the House. The Star Tribune reports that GOP leaders staged a morning new conference in St. Paul, then headed out for more of the same in Moorhead, Austin and Luverne.
The Senate is not up for election this November, so Republicans are focused on winning the 134-member House, which would allow them to thwart DFL-sponsored bills and push their own. Republicans need to add seven seats to gain control.
While DFL leaders trumpeted the accomplishments of the session, including an increase in the minimum wage, $550 million in tax breaks and more money into the state’s rainy-day fund, Republicans criticized Democrats for pushing the $77 million office building and for last year's tax hikes. They also stressed the problems with MNsure, the state’s health insurance exchange, with Senate Majority Leader David Hann calling the system a “failure.”
Meanwhile, Democrats are insisting that Republicans were in charge during back-to-back budget deficits that drained budget reserves and led to billion dollar loans from the state's school districts.
MPR News reported that Republicans are not addressing social issues heading into election season, noting that the Legislature "...addressed several hot button issues over the past two years. Same-sex marriage became legal in August of last year. And the House and Senate sent Governor Dayton a bill that will legalize some forms of medical marijuana. Republicans didn't focus their criticism on those two issues but instead are sticking to the economy, government spending and jobs."
The Pioneer Press reported that a total of 14 House members have announced that they will not seek reelection. Ten Republicans and four DFL representatives completed their service with the end of the session. The longest-serving retiring representative is DFL'er Tom Huntley, who served for 22 years.