Steve Sviggum and Dean Johnson on MN State Legislature update

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Legislators have a full range of issues to deal with again this spring. Topics include the bonding bill, the state budget deficit, and a raft of proposed constitutional amendments such as the gay marriage amendment. Not to mention the fallout from the transit strike, health care, education, criminal sentencing, and the stadium. Gary Eichten. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, and Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson discuss issues before the Minnesota State Legislature.

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(00:00:09) And good morning. Welcome to midday on Minnesota Public Radio. I'm Gary eichten glad you could join us in theory. This should be a pretty mild and mellow Minnesota legislative session these even year election year sessions are supposed to focus almost exclusively on a bonding Bill how much money to borrow for major Capital Improvements? However, it turns out that legislators have a full range of issues to deal with this spring the bonding Bill to be sure but also the state budget deficit there's a raft of proposed Constitutional Amendments of the capital including the gay marriage Amendment Fallout from the transit strike Healthcare education criminal sentencing the stadium and during this our midday, we'll be talking with legislative leaders Johnson and swing them to get an update on what legislators are thinking about doing about all these important issues Dean Johnson is the dfl Senate Majority Leader. He joins us this morning from the floor of the state senate. Steve's ragam is the Republican speaker of the Minnesota house. He'll be joining us in a few minutes from the capital. And as always we invite you to join our conversation. If you have a question or a comment for the legislative leaders, give us a call here Twin City area number is 6512276006512276 thousand of your calling from outside the Twin Cities. You can reach us toll-free. That number is 1-800-218-4243 in in online. All you have to do is go to our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot org and click on send a question legislative leaders Johnson and Swig mm. Our guests the sour and to begin Senator Dean Johnson has joined us from the floor of the Senate morning (00:01:51) Senator. Good morning Gary. We just went into session here this morning to take up some business before us not major bills today, but equally as important, of course in the Senate today is the fourth annual potluck which all members of the Senate and staff. I brought their favorite hot dish or dessert or Salad to pass in Grand Minnesota (00:02:13) tradition. What is the Johnson favorite dish? (00:02:17) Well, it's fairly mundane hamburger and noodles with some onions and various things that I help if you will my wife to supervise and making it yesterday. I washed the dishes. I helped her purchase the items and but there's some great food down there and we can already smell it up here in the Senate chambers (00:02:41) Senator. I want to ask you a couple of questions related to issues that are focused primarily on the state senate right now until speaker swing em comes along and one of those would be the gay marriage Amendment the proposed Constitutional Amendment which would effectively ban gay marriage the conventional wisdom is that this men Amendment will pass the house in a couple of weeks. What's going to happen in the Senate? (00:03:07) Well, number one. I we cannot predict what will happen in the Senate will wait for the house to take up. The issue a point to be made is we have over 20 Constitutional Amendments that have been introduced in the Senate and the one in on gay marriage. I think was introduced on Thursday. We have encouraged all our committee chairs and the respective jurisdictions to hold hearings engage the public which we will do second of all we do have in Minnesota 1997 as signed by Governor Carlson the Defense of Marriage Act, which says that a marriage is between a man and woman had some discussions with judges about their interpretation. But again, we need to let the process move forward in thoughtful strategic ways and not done only for political purposes. So I can't tell you what the outcome will be. But we're going to listen to the citizens of this state and in a matter of Human Rights and The matter of people's judgment and conscience and how it all plays (00:04:12) out. We ask you this on that same subject. You think that minnesotans are ready for the courts to Rule gay marriage the garam gay marriage law Banner of the law Banning gay marriage are they ready for the courts to say that that law is unconstitutional and thus open the door to gay marriage. (00:04:32) Well, the polling is quite interesting. They would slightly say that a marriage is civil marriage should be between a man and a woman on the other side of the equation. They're not ready to change the Constitution that the state has set a framework for a hundred and fifty years. So it's real close in in this regard. (00:04:58) Racino that's a bill that's passed the house. The governor is not too hot on having slot machines at Canterbury Park or at least is not counting on it in terms of his budget does but your Senate Republican colleagues are in favor of a Racino Bill. What about the Senate (00:05:16) dfl? Well number one it for Cena were passed today and that money were available for the second year of the biennium which starts on the first day of July rather than a hundred million dollars is they have projected. It's only worth about 25 to 27 million. That's number one a far fetched from the hundred sixty million dollar deficit that is before us second of all in the press conference that was held last week when that question was asked the folks from Canterbury down said we will potentially land or give to the state of Minnesota the remaining amount of money to fill the Gap. That is very Problematic for Senate Democrats and certainly ought to be for the people of Minnesota that any private organization would by way of a 75 million dollars as one of the editorial writers in the West Central Tribune said this borders on bribery and this is very very serious way of dealing with the Public's business. So the governor is very cool to the idea of balancing the budget with Casino or Racino proceeds. It will not be part of our not be part of our budget. We're going to be straight forward and bounce it outside of gambling interests. (00:06:42) What about the confirmation of the Commissioners your house dfl colleagues have urged you folks in the Senate not to confirm education commissioner. Yucky. What's going to happen on that? (00:06:56) Well, number one. The governor has ever write to a point here his people into his cabinet, but it's also the right and authority and responsibility of the state senate to confirm these individuals in my 25 years in the Senate. I've never had as many contexts by phone calls emails and other Communications in regard to commissioner yucky and some regard to commissioner mall now and some in regard to Public Safety commissioner static and it is our job to as I pledge to the governor to be thoughtful respectful in these matters and those confirmation hearings are ongoing as we as we speak. Again, I can't predict what the outcome might be in these in this regard. But I know there are registered concerns both plus and minuses in regard to commissioner Yaki at this at this point of (00:07:54) time. What standard will the Senate bring in terms of deciding whether to confirm or not? Is it based solely on their competence or is it whether or not you folks like what they're (00:08:06) doing my visit last week with governor pawlenty and Chief of Staff McElroy. We talked about the confirmation hearing. What is it is it resume its job performance is that the ability to lead an agency is at the things they say or don't say I think it's all of the above and open mately. It's what's in the best interest in the state of Minnesota and the people during this Administration. So if people feel that our public schools are moving in a more positive thoughtful direction under commissioner yucky, then she ought to be confirmed if folks Lll that the agenda is moving in the wrong direction then perhaps she should not be confirmed and that's on that basis that were we're having these public discussions and I would tell you that there have been no decisions made in regard to who will be confirmed or not confirmed. I can tell you that we have confirmed everyone now who has come through the process and I would expect that something of 25 to 30 people and we will continue to do that during this legislative session. (00:09:17) We're talking this hour with Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson. He joins us from the floor of the Minnesota State Senate and House speaker. Steve Swingin mole will be joining us shortly from the capital as well legislative leaders joining us this our midday to give us an idea of where some of these big issues stand at the Minnesota Legislature. If you'd like to join our conversation, give us a call Twin City area number is 6 5 1 2 2 7 6065 12276 thousand outside the Twin Cities 1-800 to for 22828 again, as always you can send in your question online. Just go to our website Minnesota Public Radio dot org and click on send a question sir. Johnson is we wait to house Speaker sway them to join us. I wanted to ask you about a couple of other things one of those proposed Constitutional Amendments. So that again seems to have a lot of support in the house is one that would put a essentially put a cap on future State spending and put all tax increases up to a vote is that the kind of thing that Senate dfl errs have any interest in (00:10:23) the bill was introduced during the session and many people have registered their opposition to what's known as Tabor and that limits if you will the spending amount, but again it would Porsche much of the states. Man dates back to local units of government and the counties and the cities in the school districts have come out and said, you know, this is not something we want in in our in our Constitution and even the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce the business voice of Minnesota has said they do not believe that this would be a good thing to put on to put on the amendment for constitutional question, you know as a in a larger context Gary the Constitutional Amendments and as I described it to the governor almost a Mania anytime some group or individual doesn't get their way in the legislative process. Now, they're going to put it up for a vote. Well, the people have a right to vote which they do every other November if they do give us a responsibility wasn't election certificate to research the Frank and make decisions based upon a long-term impacts of this state and if we want to be like a California which has initiative and referendum and quite honestly, that's what's caused. California to have it's 35 billion dollar deficit because simple ballot questions have passed without the fiscal implications being thought through and and that we are to be more kind of thoughtful about any of any of these these matters that and be real real judicious and thoughtful and careful (00:12:04) how speaker Steve swag mm joins us now from the capital mr. Speaker. Thanks for thanks for joining (00:12:10) us Heidi. Really Heidi. Good morning. Thank you for having me here. (00:12:13) Okay, by the way, as I understand that Senator Johnson, mr. Speaker. I he said that you were going to sign off at all of the Senate dfl legislation. So I guess there's no point doing the show (00:12:24) now that that would be just fine. That means that means spending money raising taxes and and Eliminator Reserve. So we're going to increase our bond rating destroy or AAA Bond rating. I don't think I'll go that way Gary. Well the speaker is I got right we have We're not wanting to take any of the verse 60 and 630 million of the reserve. We're not going to raise any taxes or are we going to cut nursing homes and hospitals and pharmacies that the governor wants to do so, we're not going down that road as well (00:12:58) gentlemen, let me ask both of you this question in terms of that in terms of getting the budget balanced for this year. What do you see as the biggest sticking point between what the house is likely to propose this week and what the Senate will propose a little later on. Mr. Speaker. (00:13:14) Well, I think the biggest sticking point maybe from what I just heard Dean say the fact that in order to fill that Gap in order to fill that 160 million dollar deficit and every Gap, by the way, it's kind of a speed bump compared to the four and a half billion dollars that we had to fill last year that the house is going to be looking. I believe a true at revenues from a Competitive Gaming situation. Whether that be Racino or some other Competitive Gaming over 70 percent of citizens of the state of Minnesota support that effort Gary the polls have consistently shown that obviously there's some difficulty and the dfl Senate because obviously they have a significant amount of campaign contributions from from Indian casinos, but I hope we will be able to work through that to that point. Mr. Speaker. We're concerned about the Republicans and the amount of money. They've been getting receiving from the taxpayers league which have been driving the conservative agenda and second while before year to the radio are more concern is the 75 million dollars now being pledged by Canterbury Downs Canterbury Park to change the law and there's the editorial writer said this morning. It borders on bribery and we are very concerned about That kind of thought occurring over here and it won't occur in the Minnesota Senate. Well, that's because the new happen to be a wholly owned subsidiary of the Indian casinos right now (00:14:51) now gentlemen, let me ask both of you this as people are listening. It sounds like like legislators are bought and paid for by various wealthy interest groups. Whoever they might be. Is that (00:15:04) true? Well, right. Oh, go ahead dear. Well, that's that's not true. First of all any organization political action committee or citizen can contribute to our caucus to a party and were highly regulated by law. But also it's all public information and would invite anyone to take a look at the proceeds that go to the respective caucuses and I would offer as a spirit of compromise that I think we do. In fact need campaign Finance reform. We've come part way in Minnesota, but I think we need to Even even more there is no one whether they contribute or not. It's going to be shut out of the Minnesota Senate in the legislative process. Everyone has a right to as a right to be heard to be at the table and to give witness and testimony to their ideas and that's very (00:15:59) important speaking so I can (00:16:02) well without question Gary. I think the words Dean chooses are right and they're they're appropriate. The legislature is very very open process. It's a very very public process there certainly are contributions that are made but I don't think I don't think that I would say that there's any legislator imparticular any individual who is bought and paid for we don't operate in that level. That's it. We're not on the Congressional level. We're not in the level where that may be done. We're citizen part-time legislators and that's important to keep the citizen part-time nature of the Legislature there where we do run into difficulty is in that that caucus party activity and and that's where without question this significant significant contributions from the in casinos are are certainly affecting what the dfl Senate is or is not willing to look at in relationship to the direction by the citizens of the state of Minnesota. (00:17:04) Let's let's get some listeners involved with some questions for legislative leaders Steve Swig. Um, he's the speaker of the Minnesota house and Dean Johnson, who is the majority leader in the dfl control State Senate Terrier first your question, (00:17:17) please yes, I'm wondering if either one of the Legislative leaders can help in some way shape or form get this Transit strike over. I know that they have the governor's here a little bit. And I know that Senator Johnson has had a history of you know being concerned about Transit not saying that speakers Wiggum isn't but there's some way that we can work out some kind of Say deal but this is they could Hammer something else so we can get the transit system running (00:17:47) again. All right, gentlemen, (00:17:49) well Terry I again that's a negotiation that is not directly done by the state or directly done by the legislature. I don't know what we could do Terry in order to get the transit strike over other than others some have suggested putting more money into Transit. Well, we we put a lot of money into Transit over the years. There is a negotiation that takes place right now and and short of there being more money there there. I think there's there's some real difficult questions that are trying to be asked and being addressed in this negotiations that take place. I'm fairly well aware of the issues involved in the negotiation and there are there's a couple of things that have to do with retiree benefits that are just simply not within the realm of either the public or private sector as far as retirees are concerned that needs to be addressed in this negotiations, Senator Johnson. I agree with the speaker that we would encourage both sides to get back to the table. That's her will be resolved. We do have some questions about the ability of the governor to take if you will the $200,000 on a daily savings because the bus is not running to give that to charitable organizations. The the idea is a good one, but I'm wondering with appropriated money that comes from the legislature if it can be diverted without legislative Authority and a couple of our members asked that question this morning. So again, it's back to the table sooner than later would be much better to resolve this issue. (00:19:28) We have an online question from Cory in Minneapolis directed to the speaker. Mr. Speaker David Strom thinks we need no buses because there haven't been any traffic jams as a result of the Metro Transit bus. Strike, do you agree? (00:19:44) Well, I'm certainly not one to speak for David Strom is David Strom usually is attacking me with the positions. I take as you probably guess I take a little heat from both ends of the political Spectrum whether I cannot speak for him has there been a significant traffic congestion because of the bus strike I would tell you know, there has not been actually for myself. It's been easier to move here in the cities from my apartment where I stay up to the capital then previously. I think the difficulty that exists and Corey the difficulty is for individuals in their lives individuals who need to be moved from one spot to another whether it's to get groceries or go to the or go to their job place to the work. That's where the real problem exists. That's where the you know, the real tragic situation is is in Ship to those individuals who whose lives have been dramatically and tragically changed because of the bus strike not necessarily because of the congestion or lack of congestion on the (00:20:53) road. Would you agree though with David strom's contention that at least we don't need a strike as proof positive that we don't need the kind of full-bore bus system that we that we (00:21:07) have. I probably would not go to the direct words that you said there Gary. I believe that Transit is part of the transportation package system mop. It just can't be all roads and bridges. I'm a Believer in Balance. I'm a believer that you got to have roads and bridges. Yes, and and those who don't want to build roads and bridges I think are wrong but those who say there shouldn't be any commuter rail or we shouldn't have any high speed bus ways. They're they're just as wrong there needs to be a balance in the Patient package Independence tribesmen transportation system and that's what we're trying to provide with the significant increase in Road and Bridge funding the by the bill that passed last year. That's significant Improvement to its Road bridges in the state that will be contracted 800 million dollars is Summer and did the passage of the Cedar Avenue high-speed bus way commuter rail on their agenda for this year where I think we're trying to approach a balanced approach not just all one or the other (00:22:10) Senator Johnson. Well, mr. (00:22:12) Strom, I think does not speak for the majority of minnesotans. We do need buses. And in fact, if you look at the amount of Financial Resources committed to Transit both in the metro area and in greater, Minnesota, it has lessened over a period of time and we have seen bus ridership in fact decrease because they've had to cut routes and had to increase and increase the amount that it cost to ride the bus. I guess I would disagree a bit with the speaker in this regard that MnDOT says we need to have eight to nine hundred million more in our transportation funding account. And that is not going to happen under the president ministration. In fact, you look from this point forward it begins to decrease over the next three years and with the metropolitan area that's going to grow by some 600,000 people over the next 10 to 15 years that we need to make more Investments both in transit our roads in our in our in our bridges. So it's going to be difficult situation certainly, but I think we need to recognize the fact that Transit is needed Light Rail is needed commuter rail is needed and certainly an increase in transportation funding. Roads here in the metro area as well as in Greater, Minnesota (00:23:48) may ask each of you this question gentlemen shifting gears just a tad before we break for news moving on to education and there has been some dissatisfaction and both the right and the left with the No Child Left Behind build the federal law. Is it possible when all is said and done at Minnesota will vote to opt out of that law, Senator Johnson. (00:24:14) Senate education committee under Senator Steve Kelley from Hopkins is holding hearings in that regard and I expect it cuts both ways. If we opted out we potentially can lose some federal funds but I'm not sure that the No Child Left Behind is designed for what the name suggests and so we're waiting Senator Kelly's Committee in in this regard as to how to how to move forward in that direction and quite honestly, that's one of the issues that surround the confirmation of commissioner yucky at this at this point of time. Mr. Speaker Gary, I do not believe we will opt out the concept the concept of leaving. No child behind that every child has an opportunity to increase them their learning abilities to move from one year to another I think is is a wonderful concept are there always devil in the details? Yes, but the concept is is a very very good one. I will tell you that there is no way we can leave that hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money behind. I mean, we're if the senator would tell me where he's going to come up with a couple hundred million dollars we can talk. Otherwise, I think it's you know, it's not even worth a discussion. (00:25:29) We're talking this hour with legislative leaders Steve Swig. Um, he's the speaker of the Minnesota house and Dean Johnson, who is the majority leader in the Senate they've joined us this hour from the state capital to bring us up to date on some of the big issues at legislators are dealing with this session can if you'd like to join our conversation, six, five, one two, two seven six thousand or 1-800 to for to to 828. Or you can send in your question online go to our website, Minnesota Public Radio dot org and click on send a question and we'll get to more of your questions here in a couple minutes, Minnesota Public Radio invites you to join me Kevin Kling as we pay tribute to the best holiday of the year April Fool's Day, we gathered up a group of performers badge as Heather mackel hat and Todd Mitten Wendy (00:26:14) Lewis and red start for a great night at the Fitzgerald (00:26:16) theater the shows on Thursday night April 1st, but you want to find out more by calling the Fitzgerald box office at 6'5 1290 1221. Hey MP our members you get a discount. No Foolin. Let's catch up on the latest headlines all yours Greta Cunningham Greta. Thanks Gary. Good morning European Union Justice and home Affairs ministers announced today that they will hold emergency counterterrorism talks in Brussels. Friday officials. Say the meeting is in response to the devastating bomb attacks in Madrid a total of 200. People were killed and 15 hundred injured in a series of On Rush Hour commuter trains in Madrid last Thursday France's military. Chief says his troops have come close in the past to catching Osama. Bin Laden in Afghanistan. He would not give further details but says French soldiers are determined to catch Bin Laden by the end of this year. Martha Stewart has resigned from the board of Martha Stewart Living omnimedia Stewart's resignation comes after she was convicted of lying to Federal investigators looking into her sale of in Clone stock Stewart will stay on at the company in a creative capacity Steward is scheduled to be sentenced June 17th. She faces up to 20 years in prison, but legal experts say she'll likely serve 10 to 16 months in Regional news. The South Dakota house has upheld Governor rounds technical veto on a bill that would allow most abortions in st. South Dakota. The issue will be considered next by the state senate rounds issued a style or form veto on the bill to ensure that existing abortion regulations remain in place during what will be likely inexpensive expansive Court challenge the bill would allow Oceans only if a woman's life is in danger or if she faces grave health risks opponents of the measure say it's unconstitutional lawyers, representing Minnesota consumers and businesses begin their court case today against software giant Microsoft. The suit claims Microsoft used anti-competitive practices to dominate the software Market the case marks the first time a class action lawsuit against the company has gone to trial 25 similar cases in other states have been settled or dismissed. The trial is expected to last two months. There's a chance of light snow and cloudy skies in the South today with partly cloudy skies in the north high temperatures today ranging from 28 to near 37 degrees right now in Sioux Falls still report of snow a temperature of 29 skies are cloudy and Rochester and 28. It's sunny in Duluth and 23 and in the Twin Cities partly cloudy skies a temperature of 29 Gary. That's a look at the latest news. All right. Thanks Greta 25 minutes before twelve. This is midday on Minnesota Public Radio over the noon hour National Press Club luncheon. And today we're going to hear from the head of the IRS. The Internal Revenue Service Mark Everson is speaking at the Press Club parently. There has been an upsurge in tax cheaters tax cheating around the around the nation as the years have gone by and the IRS says enough is enough. It plans to crack down on cheaters and we'll find out more about that plan over the noon hour this hour were catching up on the latest developments at the Minnesota state capitol dfl Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson has joined us from the floor of the Senate and also on the line today the speaker of the Minnesota house Steve's Wiggum. And again, if you would like to join our conversations 6512276 thousand or 1-800 to for 22828 in let's see, our next caller is from Stansfield Steve. Go ahead, please (00:29:41) I just have a comment and kind of a question for them. I guess. I'm 50 years old and I have never seen an Administration. So thin-skinned. This includes Ventura and so non-responsive. I'm a registered nurse and I know what I'm talking about when I'm saying these Cuts have hurt the group home providers for instance and I've written at great detail and not you know, obsessing or disrespectful at all and have gotten form letters back from plenty's Office basically saying thank you for supporting the government is no tax pledge. I hear all the time any criticism dismissed his partisanship or you know, they start bleeding about well, let's raise taxes. Do you want to you know, it's just there's such a diminishment in the in the government right now and I wanted to speakers fig him. I feel totally ostracised. I'm pretty much a Democrat I voted for Dave durenberger a couple of times. I've ordered for Ventura once but I feel totally minimized by this Administration by the Republican majority in the house right now, then what if he had a comment about that? And was it Steve? Yes, Steve Steve. I'm sure you have that feeling I I guess I would take some blame for that. I'm blind not the administration. I certainly need to take some blame II hope that the blame is appropriate and you're not just looking to make a political statement. There is a assume you are not see the situation. I think you mentioned the group home reduction. She let me explain to you the group home reduction of last year as I have spoken to this at length about the balance of priorities that we set as the administration the House Republicans this last year. We did not reduce per pupil unit funding to schools. We did not reduce rates that nursing homes. Those were very very high priorities. And when we also hype Riley prioritize the care for the developmentally disabled and and Stephen in all honesty. When at the end of last session we were working on this. Same numbers. It was the house Republican Steve House Republicans that had a 0 or in other words no reduction for the care for developing disabled for the wavered services and the group homes and the Senate when working on the same numbers had the same four percent reduction in rates as Governor pawlenty had recommended so Steve, I think you might be remiss reading the tea leaves just a little bit there as it was the reason for the only 1% reduction was that that was a adamant position taken by House Republicans. I'm very very close to the care for development disabled and will continue to be Senator Johnson. Well, we have always believed that government should be for uniting of its people rather than dividing in there is a real dividing right now in Minnesota, and we see it with the Constitutional Amendments proposed by Republicans. We're seeing it and if I could go back to the speaker's Last budget I was at the biting of cutting of local government of AIDS predominately in Greater Minnesota. The statement that we did not impact schools. Simply is not true the schools across Minnesota are hurting simply read the headlines layoffs of teachers layoffs of staff's reserves are gone class sizes are increasing to suggest that nursing homes long-term care did not receive a reduction is not true. In fact, two thousand dollars additional for private pay individuals that significant increases in regard to the caller. I think all of us all of us who are in office can never ever be responsive enough in this Democratic Society to listening to our constituents and what are the what are the priorities than to do their research and move ahead what is best for for the long term of our state? I know that the caller was a nurse. We have a nursing shortage in Minnesota. We need to provide in the bonding Bill some further facilities for training of our nurses for healthcare professionals making an investment in our people and in the Health Care system in this state that is second to none. But if we don't make these investments will start to fall behind and in Minnesota tradition, we want to be number one in healthcare, but we need Healthcare Professionals in which to do this and there is a difference there is a difference between spending and making investments in our citizens and that's almost decision that we have to make but again, I believe that government should bring people together and be respectful of all matters of opinion and certainly Dean that's that's correct. But I but I noticed in your response to Sivan and Steve we have to take certainly your direction your message to heart but notice it Dean did not disagree that we did not cut the Puna per pupil unit funding for schools. We did not cut the rate for nursing home. He did not disagree that the Senate Democrats were actually going to cut group homes by 4% and in relationship to dividing a constitutional amendments the and that's simply on Fair. I I I I got on the air when you were speaking of in negative terms to the initiative and referendum proposal Dean you voted for initiative and referendum in 1980 Senator Johnson you voted for it. I was correct Mr. Speaker I did that was 24 years ago. Well, you did the same time that you worry George McGovern activist, mr. Speaker. Actually that is not true and thanks things do change Gene that is not true. You did vote for the initiative referendum proposal and in relationship to I'm sure what you're talking about dividing Constitutional Amendments on the the question of same-sex marriage Dean that that's not our doing that's doing of of a supreme court in Massachusetts that's doing of a court in San Francisco that are avoiding and and even not We know law they're not following the rule of law Dean that is that is not dividing at all. The dividing has been done by a supreme court or boring of activism mayor in San Francisco. That's where the dividing has been done last that did happen in Massachusetts certainly, but I described we do have a 1997 law on the books, but also a larger question that I'm beginning to have along with many people. I represent why the Republicans are so insistent on directing the private lives of minnesotans and Across the Nation, you know, we do live in America and people do have by the Constitution the right of privacy to right to live and to work and to have some self-determination but this absolutely insistence that were going to direct their private lives according to their values are their faith base is starting to cause us to have further discussions about the The separation of church and state denied you were talking about as an opinion. It's an opinion that each individual has and then they decide they want to put that opinion or put into law or the Constitution. You know, the Constitution is for the protection for the protection of minority of minority thoughts. Mr. Speaker. Yeah, Gary, I think that in the motion of the passion you hear from the Senate Majority Leader myself right now, we probably come to the defining issue of this country. And and I and I really worry about the country. I worry as much as Steve does about the country may be a little different direction of the dividing this taking place, but I do worry about where our country is going and and the potential that our country is going to divide and and Decay from within that we are going to we're going to lose from within not from without and and Dean and Dean and I will probably disagree totally on this but the defining issue of this next election Maybe Maybe the kind of maybe the question of same-sex marriage the day that may be the defining issue. And and if it is I'm willing to stand up and be counted. I realize you are too and we just had everybody else stand up and be counted as opposed to four members of the Supreme Court and I think being that would be very very fair. (00:38:06) Let's get a lesser involved who I think has a question along these lines Seth go ahead Place. (00:38:11) Hi. Thanks for taking my call and mr. Figgins and Johnson. Thanks for being on NPR. I have a comment and then a question about the proposed Constitutional Amendment Banning gay marriage. My comment is it irks me to hear politicians call this judicial activism when judges are doing what is required of them and that is interpret the constitution in this case the Massachusetts Constitution. I'm sure it goes both ways if Democrats feel Republicans are doing the same. So I I think that's kind of a cop-out having said that my question is as follows, Since this is such a divisive issue and what I consider to maybe be bigotry is somebody else's looking at is defending important values of marriage for them. How about we approach it this way and that is government's only issue civil union licenses and those can be for same sex or separate sex couples, but we don't call it marriage and let individual churches and since that is where the institution of marriage began let individual churches issue or carry out you marriage, okay marriages, and since there are churches who are on both sides of the spectrum. There are churches who will marry same-sex couples and there are some who won't why don't we leave that out of the government and let the government just offer civil unions. Thereby taking care of many of the issues Catalan. Well as one who has been ordained Lutheran Pastor for let's see 31 years officiated a number of marriages. Between men and women I have said that I would not officiate in the church setting between two women or two men second of all, I know that I also in a sacred setting and he dual role and officiate on behalf of the state of Minnesota in the Civil sense. And so we do have those, you know to issues before us I think one of the issues that drives this is that of pension benefits and health care benefits and that also needs needs to be talked about the speaker talked about he fears for this country, (00:40:27) but I know just a minute I'll let but the Seth had a specific question that I'd like both of you to address if he what about separating the two so that the state essentially gets out of the marriage business as such provides civil unions or some arrangement like that so that the benefits and so on that are that are talked about they're taken care of marriage as an institution. Ocean as a Sacrament is left to the churches. Well that makes sense to you Senator (00:40:52) Johnson. I guess I hadn't thought about it necessarily in that way. But that's not the Constitutional question amendment. That is before us. It's just a broad-based both for I guess for civil land for faith-based marriages, but we do know that under current Minnesota law that it has to be civil in nature because that's the way within an organized government that we if you will demographically keep track in the official and unofficial records. Mr. Speaker. Yeah Gary, I have not made a final determination on the question of civil union said I'm still seeking background information research as to the the consequences the rights to liabilities. I'm not ready to make the public statement on civil unions yet. I will tell Seth though that's from his initial comment about judicial activism. I happen to be one that believes it to the judge assisted the judicial system in this country has been extremely active to the point of trying to make law rather than just interpret the law and or the Constitution and and to that point Seth. That's why I think it'd be so so important that the majority of this country or at least the country as citizens have an opportunity to make this decision as opposed to four Supreme Court Justices appointed by the way up pointed Supreme Court Justices. I just don't think that that is in any way shape or form relating to the what this feeling of the side of the country might (00:42:32) be even if they roll the way you wanted them (00:42:34) to even if we ruled the way I wanted them to I mean that I can understand Gary that you know that this is an issue. That should be discussed amongst all the citizens of the country. Not for Supreme Court Justices under Johnson. Well this whole issue of pain lesbian Community. I guess it depends upon were where we start from. I happen to believe that our sexuality is more designed by genetics and it is learned behavior recognizing that both factors do take place. Now. I keep going back to this issue of privacy and allowing people to let their lives lead their lives and that way no our judicial Folks at the federal and state level been more active. Yes, they have but in many cases in the case of Minnesota are Supreme Court judges are elected every six years. They must stand for election. They are accountable to the people. It would be interesting I guess to and we do not have this in Minnesota are as many states do to make an official inquiry of the Supreme Court. We could only have casual conversation and ask them what they thought. What about the 1997 Defense of Marriage Act? So the debate will continue. Yeah, Gary if I could just add one thing from my perspective in this this whole discussion and that would be that I believe that there is a balance. There's a there's a balance that needs to be approached in this issue as in others and from my standpoint and I think speaking for most persons within my caucus at least most versus Republicans. We believe that there should not be any discrimination whether it be race color creed sexual orientation, which were speaking about in the job Workforce in the in Workforce and housing that those things need to be protected. There should be absolutely no discrimination for anyone at any time or another but the question of marriage goes to a little further level that I just simply cannot support. (00:44:42) Let's go back to the caller's Alex your next your question, (00:44:46) please. Hi, good morning. Mark taking my call. Uh-huh. I think that the defining issue is not gay marriage. As I think the defining issue is jobs. And I think that we need to do something about all of our offshoring of jobs. I agree with you and this regard the Senate Democrats have put together a jobs package of Outsourcing of increasing the minimum wage protecting over time people work overtime and the excuse me, when we're having a moment of silence for people who lost their lives in Spain. (00:45:21) Mr. Speaker. Would you care to comment in the meanwhile? (00:45:24) Well in the meantime, it's having seen the Senate Bill they're putting together. It'll probably be a little probably Force more Outsourcing of jobs in the than less and less you just try to build barriers and and and pre and pretend that the markets and we don't have a World Market that we don't have a world economy, which we do have the Senate bill will actually We increase or focus and force decisions made for board Outsourcing Alex. We need to keep work here in the state in this country that has been our Focus jobs. You are correct is a defining issue Alex and whether it be the job see legislation, which was passed by the governor pawlenty and initiated by him last year, which by the way is had some significant announcements already North Branch, Minnesota, Wyoming, Minnesota Lake Crystal, Minnesota all jobs, which are directly related to the job see legislation of last year. I will fight for jobs and keeping jobs here in the state Alex understanding at the same time that I just can't build a barrier around the state of Minnesota that can't be done in this world anymore. Well, the framework of the Senate Democrat Caucus is jobs jobs jobs private and public sector jobs. That's why we hope to advance a very very aggressive bonding package and the A pencil be the people of Minnesota of the suppliers and the vendors. We also around jobs. We need to have healthy minnesotans educated minnesotans and people who can get to and from from their jobs. And so that is about our our caucus and we feel very very strongly in regard to job creation job retention. If the government can help we will help if we're in the way we should step (00:47:14) aside just to clarify on this Outsourcing business very briefly. What do you do you support the idea of the state essentially requiring that work that it contracts for be done here in the United States, Senator (00:47:33) Johnson. Could you repeat that again? Because I was distracted here on the senate (00:47:39) floor. Do you support the idea of requiring that any contract work that the state? Let's be done in the United (00:47:47) States. Well, maybe even if even if it costs more people of Minnesota pay taxes and I think the very least we can require the money to be spent in the United States and hopefully in Minnesota and there are competitive bids at certainly are available. So rather than to send it to India, which the president ministration did in some regards I think is not good public policy. Mr. Speed that that's probably not fair to say the president ministration if I know the situation correctly that was a subcontract of a contract given was it not Yeah, it'd be pretty hard to blame that on the president ministration. I know I know you'd like to blame governor pawlenty for everything but I don't think that's a that's a fair shot. Let me we're not blaming the governor. We're just resets and (00:48:33) personalization. Okay, let me we're running out of time here, but I wanted to cover a little more ground. If I could please smoking ban. Is that going to pass the Senate Senator (00:48:44) Johnson? I think it has a very good chance. It's one of the major health areas in Minnesota. And that is second hand smoke and I think it's time to state is serious about smoking bans in public places. And if we do it Statewide, I believe the hospitality Association would be much in favor of that as opposed to county by county or city by City speakers. Welcome Gary. I think that extends a little bit too far the all-knowing attitude that politician State elected politicians have we know so much better than everybody else and I realized that Do say that a little facetiously Gary Banning smoking in publicly owned places publicly owned buildings. We've done that. They think that's appropriate but to tell individuals that government knows better and their way in their privately owned facilities homes, entertainment facilities restaurants. I think that maybe steps a bit beyond in a free Society. What government should be making decisions on the Senate Bill does not include one's private residence as the speaker has suggested. (00:49:56) Okay, Governor pawlenty will be releasing his Stadium plan this afternoon when all is said and done when the dust clears will the legislature approved construction of one or more sports stadiums, mr. Speaker. (00:50:09) Well, I think that the opportunity depending upon what's in the bill now Gary. It depends what's in the bill what's in the bill will determine what type of support but I think you're going to see Significant amount of support within the house for a stadium proposals as long as it does not and this is the heavy Factor does not include any direct state tax dollars any direct State money going to a to a stadium (00:50:36) effort. So Johnson. (00:50:38) Well again, we're kind of confused by the priorities of the governor and I was the chief author of the bill two years ago to build a stadium, but we're still awaiting today the financial documents on the budget for Health and Human Services and Corrections, and the governor wants to talk about his Stadium today, which we applaud him for bringing a plan. But we want to get the other budget items done and discussed in for public purview first. And so that's kind of a priority order for the Senate at this point. Will the Senate Democrats LED last time this time. We're going to wait for the House Republicans to pass the Agent Bell and then we will be there and be supportive and put the finishing touches on the ball park (00:51:29) bonding bill, which of course is kind of the main item of business at least in theory will higher education end up with more in that bonding Bill than the governor has proposed under Johnson, right (00:51:41) certainly looks so this is the investment in people in our colleges and universities and our environment our transportation system. It's a wonderful time to bond interest rates are historically low it puts people back to work. And the truth of the matter is we can't we can't afford it in in this budget and we will be quite aggressive especially at the University of Minnesota, which by the way garnered 513 million dollars of Grants last year from some of the programs and buildings that we advanced in past in past budgets and bonding years, mr. Speaker and with that I need to go and thank you very very much. Gary on the house side, you will see a bonding bill that includes more Minsk you and University projects that Governor pawlenty recommended that will be part of our house of bonding proposal and and as a senator leaves and I should have spoke to him before he left rather than after he's left. That's probably not fair to speak to him after he left but I look forward to the Senate budget. If you've heard they heard them say they were going to have more spending in the bonding Bill. They're going to hire hire bonding Bill. They're not going to use the reserve. They're not going to raise any taxes you and I both heard the the lines. I'm very interested to find out how they're going to put this together. (00:52:58) I assume you'll be there you folks will be there till May 17th (00:53:04) acquired a German date Gary May 17th is Sutton the - Norwegian Independence Day and I would hope that the citizens of Minnesota would have an Independence Day that would be much quicker than that. We should be able to be done by the end of April if we are not done by the end. Of April, it will not be because of House Republicans not willing to compromise we're willing to cooperate we're willing to compromise but we need to get a job done to and unlike the Senate. We're just not going to sit around and collect per diem. (00:53:33) Thank you, sir for joining us. Appreciate it. Good luck. Thank you. Bye Gary house Speaker. Steve, swing em joining us this hour of our midday program. And of course, we'll keep you posted on all the latest legislative developments here in Minnesota Public Radio. Check out our website to Minnesota Public Radio dot org news headlines coming up next and then it's off to the Press Club to hear from the head of the IRS. IRS is cracking down on tax cheaters.


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