Republican frustration spills over into committee debates

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Republican lawmakers in the Minnesota Legislature have been frustrated since early in the session because they serve in narrow minorities in both the House and Senate and have little say over what is passing into law.

Democratic lawmakers are passing major legislation on hot-button issues like abortion, clean energy, felon voting rights and expanded driver’s license eligibility for undocumented immigrants that Republicans have opposed for years. Now with DFL majorities and a DFL governor, they are powerless to stop it.

This week, Rep. Duane Quam (R-Byron) let his frustration boil over in a House Elections Committee hearing.

“Representative Quam … stop,” the committee chair, Rep. Mike Freiberg (DFL-Golden Valley), implored. “No, I will not allow you to ignore valid questions!” Quam shouted.

“You need to actually cover the bill,” Quam yelled as Freiberg continued to bang his gavel. “You didn’t talk about observer and challengers. You didn’t talk about the fact you don’t have a balance between the two parties.” On and on it went for several minutes.

“At Issue” Republican analyst Brian McDaniel says he understands the frustration but it’s up to Republican to not put themselves in that position by losing elections.

“You can try to be collaborative, but at the end of the day it’s the majority’s job to get their progressive agenda through,” McDaniel said.

Quam wasn’t the only one voicing frustration. Rep. Walter Hudson (R-Albertville) objected when the chair of the House Public Safety Committee tried to shut down his questions about the cause of why so many police officers than ever before suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

“A state representative from this chamber … former … stood outside one of their homes as part of a group of protesters and threatened to burn his city down,” Hudson said in reference to a protest outside a former Minneapolis police officer’s home.

The chair of the committee tried to gavel him down. “I’m sure that has nothing to do with, has nothing to do with the fact we now have to hear a bill …” The chairwoman then intervened. “Representative Hudson we’re getting off the focus of the bill here.”

Hudson replied, “We’re not! The focus of this bill is addressing a crisis that has been created …” Then another interruption from the chair. “Representative Hudson you’re very close to being called out of order.” Hudson was undeterred. “That would be terrible. What a price to pay for standing up to these people, being called out of order. That would be horrific,” he said in mock disgust.

Former DFL state Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, an “At Issue” political analyst, said Republicans need to move past the elections.

“We need to move from … electioneering to legislating,” she said.

You can see more of the discussion on this topic on “At Issue” Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

Follow the progress of bills moving through the Legislature with KSTP’s Legislative Tracker.