Minnesota’s Legislature gavels back into session tomorrow, with DFL majorities ready to take the reins from the Republicans. Carver County’s population growth over the last decade will mean additional representation for the County, as northeast Chanhassen will be represented by legislative newcomers State. Sen David Osmek and State Rep. Cindy Pugh, while the rest of the county will return State Sen. Julianne Ortman, State Rep. Joe Hoppe, and State Rep. Ernie Leidiger to their positions. Before we turn the page on the 2011-2012 session, let’s look back at the highlights and lowlights for Ortman, Hoppe, and Leidiger as well as a look forward to what they might do in this session.
State. Sen Julianne Ortman
State Sen. Julianne Ortman
By the numbers: Chief authored 61 bills, and 16 were passed by the Legislature (10 were signed into law and 6 vetoed by Gov. Mark Dayton).
Highlights: Ortman was one of the most powerful figures in the Senate last session, chairing the Tax Committee and being elevated to Deputy Majority Leader following the Amy Koch scandal. Legislatively, Ortman’s role on the Tax Committee gave her leverage in the budget negotiations in 2011. Ortman also was able to pass some useful judicial reform, raising the dollar limit for cases that can be pursued in conciliation court.
Lowlights: The rest of Ortman’s judicial reform agenda was ill-considered, and vetoed by Gov. Dayton. Ortman also regrettably tried to follow along with her Republican colleagues and introduced a constitutional amendment to fix a legislative problem — by putting limits on state spending in the constitution. Finally, Ortman rather publicly flip-flopped on tax credits for renters, raising taxes on many.
The Future: Ortman will be the ranking minority member of the Senate Tax Committee, which will give her a platform to critique and potentially influence the Governor’s expected tax reform package.
State Rep. Joe Hoppe
State Rep. Joe Hoppe
By the numbers: Chief authored 31 bills, and 11 were passed by both houses of the Legislature (9 were signed into law, and 2 were vetoed).
Highlights: Hoppe chaired the Commerce Committee and he continued his record of working on business regulation reform, passing bills that tweaked rules related to health care premium-setting, licensing in the real estate market and allowing blackjack at Canterbury Park and Running Aces while allowing tribal casinos to do off-track betting on horse racing. Hoppe was also a key supporter of the Minnesota Vikings stadium effort.
Lowlights: Hoppe had sought a significant reform to Minnesota’s Public Employee Insurance Program (PEIP), changing the process for education unions to enter PEIP. Currently, if a majority of eligible union members approve, the union can enter PEIP. Under the legislation, additional approval by the employer (in this case, the school district) would have been required as well. This was a serious point of contention between school boards and Education Minnesota. Gov. Dayton vetoed the measure. Hoppe also — after repeatedly claiming that he didn’t like legislating by constitutional amendment — carried Ortman’s spending-related amendment in the House and voted for the gay marriage and voter ID amendments.
Looking forward: Hoppe will be the Republican lead on the Commerce Committee. Given his good working relationship with DFL Chair Rep. Joe Atkins, we can expect Hoppe to continue to produce similar efforts at regulatory reform.
State Rep. Ernie Leidiger
State Rep. Ernie Leidiger
By the numbers: Chief authored 10 bills, and 2 were passed by both houses of the Legislature (1 signed into law, 1 vetoed).
Highlights: Leidiger had few legislative accomplishments to note during the session. The one bill he authored that was signed into law requires law enforcement to fingerprint those arrested for violation of a domestic abuse no contact order.
Lowlights: Leidiger’s bill to mandate use of the federal E-Verify system for all state employees was vetoed by Gov. Dayton for being duplicative of existing state processes. Leidiger also, as you may have heard, made some waves for inviting controversial preacher Bradlee Dean to give the invocation in the House in 2011 and for violating two campaign finance laws by paying for a speeding ticket using campaign funds.
Looking Forward: Leidiger was one of the least productive of the House’s GOP freshmen last session. Out of 31, he ranked 29th in bills chief authored, tied for 22nd in bills signed into law, and was only asked to participate in one of 92 conference committees to hash out final versions of bills. As a member of the legislative minority now, Leidiger looks destined for a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing unless he radically changes his approach to the job.