Yesterday, I wrote about Tony Sertich’s role in defeating the GOP’s proposals. I now have the official list of Monday’s ‘results’. Here’s the list in its entirety:

House Republicans Lead Fight For Open Government, Fiscal Responsibility, and Public Integrity

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2007 – – In a seven-hour Floor battle, House Republicans forced the DFL majority to take positions on a variety of amendments relating to open government, fiscal responsibility, and public integrity.

The debate was on proposed Permanent Rules for the House. Today’s debate ended when the DFL majority tabled the proposed Permanent Rules until Thursday at the earliest.

A. PUBLIC INTEGRITY

NO LOBBYING BY LEGISLATORS FOR ONE YEAR: Rep. Steve Sviggum (R-Kenyon) persuaded the House to adopt a rule which would bar legislators from registering as a paid lobbyist for the first year after they leave the House. If a former legislator registered as a lobbyist, charges could be filed with the House Ethics Committee and the Campaign Finance Board. The A-36 amendment passed by an 83-50 margin. Rep. Sviggum had been pushing for this reform for 20 years.

NO LOBBYIST OR PAC CONTRIBUTIONS DURING SPECIAL SESSIONS: Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) sought to place a ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists or political actions committees to Representatives during special sessions. Under current rules, such a ban applies only during regular sessions. The DFL killed the A-30 amendment with a procedural motion.

PUBLIC ACCESS TO PER DIEM DATA ON INTERNET: Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) asked the House to provide on-line information on how many dollars in “per diem payments are claimed by each Representative. The DFL killed the A-16 amendment with a procedural motion by a 70-62 vote.

YEAR-ROUND HOUSING FOR A THREE-MONTH JOB: Rep. Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers) asked the House to scrap a proposal that Representatives who live more than 50 miles from the Capitol be paid $1,200 each month (or $14,400 per year) for a housing allowance. Noting that the House met for less than three months in 2006, Rep. Peppin questioned the need for a year-round housing allowance that would add almost 50% to a legislator’s annual pay. The DFL killed the A-37 amendment with a procedural motion by an 80-51 vote.

SHOW RECEIPTS FOR EXPENSES: Rep. Bob Dettmer (R-Forest Lake) asked the House to require Representatives to submit receipts for their daily $77 per diem payments. “That is a lot of money for meals every day,” he said. The DFL killed the A-2 amendment with two procedural motions by margins of 81-50 and 77-54.

EVERY MEMBER SHOULD VOTE FOR THE “PER DIEM” HIKE: Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) asked the House for a direct vote for the increase in per diem payments to $77 per day. Under the DFL’s rules, the decision was made by only 22 members of the House Ways & Means Committee on January 10. The DFL killed Rep. Buesgens’ A-4 amendment with a procedural motion by a 69-60 vote.

EVERY MEMBER SHOULD VOTE FOR FUTURE HIKES: Rep. Mark Buesgens (R-Jordan) asked the House to adopt a rule that would require all 134 Representatives to vote for future “per diem” increases, while allowing an election to intervene after that vote before the higher payments could take effect. The DFL killed the A-19 amendment with a procedural motion by a +74-59 vote. By a 90-43 margin, the DFL also killed a request by Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) to instruct the House Rules Committee to at least consider the Buesgens proposal.

NO POLITICAL HEARINGS: Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) asked the House to bar out-state hearings by House committees after June in an election year, unless the Speaker and Minority Leader agreed. “If there was a need for a field hearing to respond to a disaster or some rapidly-evolving situation, there could be a hearing,” he said. “But if the goal of a campaign-period hearing was just shenanigans, then it could be blocked.” The DFL majority defeated the A-20 amendment by an 85-47 margin.

B. FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

EVERY REPRESENTATIVE SHOULD VOTE ON BUDGET: Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) offered an amendment to allow all 134 Representatives to vote on the Budget Resolution, which sets ceilings on tax collections and spending levels for each budget area. Under the DFL’s proposed rules, that decision will be made by a 15-member majority of the Ways & Means Committee. The DFL killed the A-22 amendment with a procedural motion by a 76-56 vote.

FAIR NOTICE ON BUDGET BILLS: Under current rules, the majority is required to announce by 5:00 on the preceding day when major finance bills will be considered by the full House. Under the DFL’s proposed rules, that would be cut to two-hour’s notice on the day of the bill hearing. Rep. Dean Simpson (R-New York Mills) asked the House to expand that to six hours’ notice so that citizens with an interest in the bill could be outside the House chamber to provide expertise and guidance to Representatives on the House Floor. The DFL killed the A-32 amendment with a procedural motion by a 79-50 vote.

SIXTY PERCENT MAJORITY NEEDED TO PASS TAX INCREASES: Rep. John Berns (R-Wayzata) asked the House to require a sixty-percent majority to approve any increase in taxes. The DFL majority defeated this proposal by an 86-47 majority.

ALLOW SAVINGS TO BE APPLIED TO BUDGET RESERVES: Rep. Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) proposed to allow Floor amendments to omnibus finance bills that would shift spending reductions to state budget reserve funds, instead of just shifting spending from one program to another. The A-31 amendment was defeated by the DFL on a voice vote.

THE HOUSE SHOULD ONLY MEET IN ODD-NUMBERED YEARS: Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague) asked the House to return to its old practice of meeting only in odd-numbered years. The two-year sessions were added to allow large bonding bills in election years. Noting that the House is expected to take up a 2007 bonding bill of over $100 million before writing a $1 billion bonding bill next year, Rep. Brod suggested that all the work could be completed this year. The DFL killed the A-8 amendment by a 90-43 vote.

C. OPEN GOVERNMENT

OBEY THE CONSTITUTION ON “SINGLE SUBJECT” BILLS: Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood) asked the House to incorporate a provision in the House Rules that would underline a provision in the Minnesota Constitution which prohibits legislation from having more that one subject. This has been a touchy subject with the courts for years, as many topics are bundled together in large bills so that they cannot be scrutinized and voted on separately. The DFL defeated the A-19 amendment on a 48-83 vote.

VOTE FOR BUDGET BILLS BEFORE SPECIAL SESSIONS: Rep. Kurt Zellers (R-Maple Grove) offered an amendment to require the House to vote on the last day before a regular session closed on any omnibus spending bill that had not been approved by both houses. If there is a logjam in joint House-Senate conference committees, the House should send the Senate one last chance to avoid a special session, Rep. Zellers said. The DFL killed the A-17 amendment with a procedural motion by a 79-54 vote.

AVOIDING COMPUTER CRASHES AND STEALTH BILLS: Rep. Jim Abeler (R-Anoka) asked the House to reconsider a proposed rule that allows bills to move between House panels without reports being made to the full House on changes made by each panel, and without requiring these changes to be reported on House computers. Rep. Abeler expressed concerns that House computer systems could “crash” during the hectic final days and hours of a legislative session, leaving Legislators unaware of the movement of bills or the changes in each bill. The DFL killed the A-25 amendment with a procedural motion by a 90-41 vote.

LETTING OPPOSING VOICES BE HEARD: Rep. Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) asked the House to include at least one Republican on each House-Senate conference committee that is assigned to work out differences between the two bodies on major bills. “There ought to be at least one voice that brings a different perspective to the negotiations,” he said. The DFL majority defeated the A-18 amendment by an 85-47 margin.

SPECIAL ORDERS: Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) asked the House to approve a plan to allow special floor proceedings on Monday evenings where Representatives could discuss and debate issues of concern without interfering with work on legislation during the day. The U.S. House of Representatives has conducted similar “special orders” proceedings for decades. The DFL rejected Rep. Kohl’s A-23 amendment on a voice vote.

ACCESS FOR THE VISUALLY-IMPAIRED: Without a roll-call vote, the House adopted an amendment from Rep. Torrey Westrom (R-Elbow Lake) that will make House documents accessible to the visually impaired with each improvement in technology used by the Legislature.

DFL ALSO OPPOSES REP. MARK OLSON’S REFORM EFFORTS

The DFL also rejected seven proposals for reforms by Rep. Mark Olson of Ham Lake.

LEAVE TIME FOR FINAL BUDGET ACTION: By a 78-50 margin, the DFL majority rejected Rep. Olson’s A-15 amendment to leave at least one week at the end of a regular session to deal with conference reports or pass substitutes bills before a special session would be triggered.

SET TAX CEILING BEFORE PASSING SPENDING BILLS: The DFL rejected Rep. Olson’s proposals to require the House to approve a tax bill before passing spending bills if the House’s proposed spending targets were higher than revenue projections in the State’s economic forecast. The amendment lost by an 88-45 margin.

ADVANCE NOTICE ON SPENDING BILLS: The DFL majority rejected Rep. Olson’s proposal to give Representatives at least 48 hours to read bills and 24 hours’ notice before taking up legislation on the Floor. The A-21 amendment lost by an 82-50 margin.

ONE DAY’S NOTICE ON LEGISLATION: The DFL majority rejected Rep. Olson’s proposal to give Representatives at least 24 hours to read bills before taking up legislation on the Floor, by restoring the DFL’s practice from the 1990s to place a bill on a “general orders” docket before giving a bill its third and final House reading. The A-11 amendment lost by an 88-45 margin.

KEEPING FINANCE BILLS SEPARATE: To allow Representatives to focus on single spending bills without forcing them to decide on vast and separate sections of the state’s budget, and to avoid violating the Minnesota Constitution’s “single subject” rule, Rep. Olson asked the House to bar the merging of major spending bills. The DFL majority rejected the A-26 amendment by an 85-47 margin.

PER DIEM PAYMENTS: By a 76-57 margin, the DFL majority rejected Rep. Olson’s A-37 amendment to require a direct vote by all 134 Representatives to vote on the increased per diem payments.

PER DIEM PAYMENTS: By a 60-57 division, the DFL majority narrowly rejected Rep. Olson’s A-31 amendment to require a direct vote by all 134 Representatives to ratify the Rules Committee’s decision on the increased per diem payments.

I find it difficult to believe that Sertich & his allies would be able to defend these votes to Minnesota voters in 2008. It’s a pretty disgusting display of hyperpartisanship & a total refutation of Speaker Kelliher’s claim that the House DFL was “fiscally moderate.”

It’s difficult to imagine a way in which Sertich will justify his defeating the reforms that would mandate all members voting on per diem increases. The blunt truth is that he wants the Rules Committee to have the only say in this to protect the other DFLers. The thinking is that House DFLers could still technically claim that they didn’t vote for the per diem increase. I’d doubt that that’ll fly with voters when they’re told that they voted for giving the Rules Committee final say on setting per diem increases. That’s what’s called “a distinction without a difference.”

It’s impossible to justify Kelliher’s claims of being fiscally moderate when they don’t strike down the year-round housing allowance for a 3 month a year job. That allowance is worth $14,400. That’s in addition to their salary of $31,000+. That’s before including their $10,800 max in per diem. That’s almost $60,000 compensation for a 3 month a year job.

That probably doesn’t sound like much until you consider that any House member how lives 50+ miles from the Capitol is eligible for the housing allowance, which I’ll bet includes about half of the House.

Let’s detail this just another step further. Suppose the housing allowance was for 3 months. Instead of Mr. Sertich mandating a $14,400 housing allowance for outstate members, we’d be dealing with a $3,600 housing allowance. Let’s also call into question the need for a $77 per day per diem. Let’s ask if they couldn’t easily get by with $50 per day. How many voters wish that they’d get a meal allowance of $50 a day?

What this all means is that Mr. Sertich pushed DFLers into not reforming itself, thereby costing taxpayers upwards of $750,000 in housing allowances. Mr. Sertich, with his willing DFL accomplices, also guaranteed that the entire House wouldn’t have to vote on whether they support these expenditures. I wonder how many DFL freshmen voted for letting the Rules Committee take the political hit on the per diem increase. I wonder how many DFL freshmen voted Rep. Peppin’s housing allowance reform to be set by the Rules Committee.

Whatever happened to each legislator being accountable to their constituents? Why did the DFL defeat Rep. Peppin’s reform by an 80-51 margin? If the DFL was truly reform-minded, this should’ve been an easy vote. Does this mean that Sertich is a ‘business-as-usual’ type of legislator? It wouldn’t take much skill to make that case against him. I could do that based on Monday’s session alone.

It’s time that GOP activists/bloggers started voicing their approval for their legislators voting for substantial reforms and for making it more difficult for the legislature to raise taxes. It’s time we started fighting with our reform-minded legislators. Isn’t it time for conservatives to initiate a new era of governmental reforms?

In my opinion, it’s long past time to initiate a new round of reforms. It’s long past time to halt the DFL’s brazen ‘business as usual’ agenda.

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11 Responses to “The Indictment Against Tony Sertich”

  • Chris says:

    I’m as die hard of a Republican as anyone. But I don’t agree that the job of a Legislator is a “3 month job.” The legislature is in session almost six months out of the year in the odd numbered years and about five months out of the year in the even numbered years. That doesn’t include the many meetings and other trips to the Capitol that happens in the interim.

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