On tour of state, GOP legislators seek ideas, affirmationby Tim Pugmire, Minnesota Public Radio
Cambridge, Minn. — House and Senate Republicans are working up ideas to shrink Minnesota government and change how it operates.
The "Reform 2.0" tour is taking GOP legislators around the state to hear from constituents and seek affirmation for the ideas they have in mind for the 2012 session.
Some local business leaders and educators gathered this week in Cambridge to tell Republican legislators how they think state government should change.
Don Fiedler, owner of a construction company, said he thinks there are too many regulations for businesses like his.
"We've got our men now, the minute they get six feet off the ground, they're wearing a harness and ropes and tying them to the roof," Fiedler said. "How do you get any work done with equipment like that?"
Dave Maurer of the Cambridge-Isanti Public School District said the state requires schools to do a great many things without allocating proper funding.
"We had to send out a health notice a few years. Well, between time and the postage and the printing it was going to be between $800 to $1,000," Maurer said. "Was it necessary? I don't know, but it was mandated from the state. It's little things like that."
The meeting aired more complaints than specific proposals, but the four Republican legislators who led the discussion didn't seem to mind. They took note of what they heard. Senator Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, told the audience that the ideas gathered at other meetings will be used to shape legislation for the 2012 session.
"We're looking for ways to make government better, not just government bigger," he said. "How to make your jobs easier, how to make your lives better, where we can get out of the way, where we don't need to be. We're not going to see all of those, you do."
Much of the 2012 reform agenda is already set. Republicans made it clear in August that they would emphasize lowering taxes and reducing government regulations.
House Majority Leader Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, said tax code changes are needed to make Minnesota more competitive for business. Dean also pitched to those gathered a proposed constitutional amendment to require a super-majority vote of the Legislature for future tax increases.
"That really has a lot of support across the state," Dean said. "And I think it's because it's kind of common sense, and it's simple."
At other meetings, Republican legislators discussed proposals including a repeal of prevailing wage requirements, passage of a right to work law and the dismantling of green energy goals.
House Democrats say they also are interested in government reform. However, DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen of Minneapolis is concerned the GOP effort is driven by partisan ideology over than the needs of Minnesota. Thissen said many of the Republican proposals mirror the work of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, a group that espouses free market principles, limited government and writes model legislation for states.
"My biggest concern is that it's not true reform. It's just a disguise for pursuit of an ideological agenda that is only about cutting government," Thissen said. "Only about thinking about dollars and cents, and not thinking about what we need as a state to move ahead and how we can work in partnership with each other to make sure that happens."
Republican leader Dean said Thissen and other Democrats are attempting to portray ALEC as a political bogeyman to help shore up their political base. But Dean said he does use tools from ALEC, as well as other national organizations.
"We need good ideas no matter where they come from," Dean said. "But what we're seeing from us here is we're more interested really in what people across the state of Minnesota are saying."
Despite emphasis on a constitutional amendment that would bypass DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, Dean said Republicans hope to work cooperatively with the governor to pass some other reform initiatives.
- Morning Edition, 10/14/2011, 7:25 a.m.