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Capitol Chatter: Political positions change based on power

Minnesota House Speaker Paul Thissen of Minneapolis listens to Minority Leader Kurt Daubt of Crown during the Thursday gay marriage debate. Don Davis | Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — The gay marriage debate illustrates how being in or out of power affects how politicians look at the world.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, told Democrats during Thursday’s historic same-sex marriage debate that two years ago they were against the government defining marriage. This year, he added, that is what Democrats are all about as they promote allowing same-sex couples to marry.

Kelly offered an amendment to remove "marriage" from Minnesota law, replacing it with "civil union." He said that would be a compromise, but representatives overwhelmingly rejected the concept.

"We should not impose our beliefs upon every one," he said.

Kelly wondered aloud why Democrats changed their views about government interaction with marriage since 2011, when they strongly opposed Republican efforts to put a gay-marriage banning constitutional amendment on the ballot.

Republicans also have been complaining that when they were in power two years ago, then-Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, complained when the gay marriage debate interrupted budget work. The GOP now laments that budget decisions are not done, and lawmakers must wrap up work on May 20.

"With only four weeks to go to balance the budget, this is not the time to launch an effort to amend the state Constitution to further divide Minnesotans from one another..." Thissen said in 2011. "The clock is ticking. Minnesotans are waiting for an honest, responsible GOP budget."

As for the budget, heading into the weekend, the Democratic-controlled House and Senate and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton had not reached an agreement on how much to spend in each budget category or how to raise taxes to support that spending.

Republicans criticize Dayton for heading off for the weekend fishing opener, a long-standing governor tradition, without first reaching a budget agreement.

That is the same criticism Democrats leveled against GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty during his eight years in office.

Unionization hiccup

The drive to allow child care workers and personal care attendants to join unions hit a snag when two Democrats joined Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee to defeat the bill.

A couple of days later, Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, switched her vote and joined colleagues to send the bill to the full Senate.

It remains a divisive issue.

"Everyone wins when we come together and work together to improve our lives and profession," said Lynn Barten, an Alexandria child care provider. "It’s time to help Minnesota’s licensed and unlicensed family child care providers do the same."

Unionization opponents argue that those who would be affected by House and Senate bills are independent organizations that have no business being in unions to negotiate with the state.

A personal care attendant "union wouldn’t even have negotiating authority," Kristin Novotny of Zimmerman and Anne Ripka of Blaine wrote in an opinion piece. "Unlike state employees, whose union contracts are negotiated within the confines of the state budget, PCA payment rates are set in statute. Even if the PCA’s union negotiated a contract with the state, it would not be binding upon the Legislature."

Gay marriage celebration

Plans are in the works for a gay marriage extravaganza Tuesday night.

If the Minnesota Senate follows the lead of the House, as expected, and approves a bill allowing gay marriage on Monday, Gov. Mark Dayton is likely to sign the bill into law at a Tuesday night celebration. The festivities, probably including a concert, would be on the mall in front of the state Capitol.

Kluwe still kicking

Chris Kluwe no longer is a Minnesota Vikings punter after the team released him a few days ago, but he still was kicking as he left the state.

In a tweet, he said he lobbied Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, to vote for a bill allowing gay marriage. Garofalo did.

Kluwe also sent an email to gay marriage supporters to seek financial donations for their cause.

The punter has been open in his support of gay marriage.

Gov. Mark Dayton, another gay marriage supporter, told reporters he is not happy the Vikings let Kluwe go.

The Vikings drafted a new punter, and within days handed Kluwe his walking papers. But Dayton said the Vikings should have at least kept Kluwe and new punter Jeff Locke through the fall exhibition schedule to see who does best.

The governor will not call the Vikings and give his opinion.

"They don’t give me political advice and I don’t give them coaching advice," he said.

Carp fight OK’d

The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a provision to fight the advance of Asian carp.

U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, both Minnesota Democrats, backed the measure to establish a coordinated federal response to the invasive species that threatens to take over Minnesota waters.

"The spread of Asian carp in Minnesota’s lakes and rivers would prove disastrous for our fishing, boating and tourism industries, which support thousands of jobs and contribute billions of dollars to our state’s economy," Franken said.

Franken challenger

A newspaper that covers Capitol Hill reports a wealthy Minneapolis finance executive is ready to challenge U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Politico says Mike McFadden of Lazard Middle Market is expected to enter the race as a Republican against the first-term Democrat.

"McFadden did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but made it clear last month that he is interested in the Senate race," Politico reports.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.