tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Friday, September 17, 2004

A Republican would give Minneapolis a seat at the table in the House

The city of Minneapolis is represented entirely by Democrats in the Minnesota legislature – six senators and 11 representatives. That representation may accurately reflect the philosophical nature of a majority of Minneapolis residents, but it is devastating for actually getting anything accomplished, particularly in the House where Democrats make up a clear minority. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the House 81-53. The Republicans have controlled the House since 1999, and with population growing in the suburbs it is not likely that Democrats will regain a majority in the House anytime soon.

It isn’t any fun being in the minority in the House. Ideas raised by minority party members don’t get serious consideration, even if the ideas have merit. That’s just the way it is. In an article summarizing the 2004 session, the Minneapolis Star Tribune said House Democrats are “so small a minority they were largely spectators during the session.”

The largest city in the state needs more than spectators in the House. There are real things that need to happen and Minneapolis needs representation that is in the game, not on the sidelines. With no representation in the majority party, Minneapolis is totally excluded from any discussions in the House about legislation that could have a huge impact on the city’s residents. If there were even one Republican from Minneapolis in the House, the city would at least have a seat at the table when the House determines its agenda, discusses the issues and tries to work with the Senate.

I live in legislative District 60B, which is represented by Rep. Frank Horstein. I respect him, as well as the other legislators representing the city. But given the make-up of the House, none of them can give the city meaningful representation as Democrats.

So would the residents in any of the city’s legislative districts consider voting for a Republican? Perhaps there is good reason to. The city would be much more effectively represented if it had elected officials in the majority party in both the Senate and the House. The city has majority party representation in the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats; in the House there need to be changes. Wouldn’t Scott Dibble, the senator for District 60, have a better chance of moving legislation if he had a majority party counterpart in the House representing District 60A or 60B? Clearly, Republicans and Democrats are going to think differently on social issues such as abortion and the definition of marriage, but on many issues – such as transportation, crime, energy and education -- representatives from the two parties should be able to work together.

Republicans didn’t even field a candidate in the 2002 election for the 60B legislative seat. This year, they have a candidate – Jeremy J. Estenson – who does not appear to have campaigned at all. He is not a serious candidate, so Hornstein easily will win re-election. That means my neighborhood will continue to have only “sideline” representation in the state’s House of Representatives. I don’t think that’s good enough and I hope by 2006 the Republicans field a serious candidate who gives Minneapolis a real shot at making a different in the House.


Jay said...

This makes total sense Tom. Two obstacles to this happening:

(1) People rarely know who their state reps are or what they stand for. This is a more-complex argument than most issues that would need more-than-average publicity to change minds.

(2) People vote party line more than they admit. It would take a special kind of pro-choice Democrat to vote for a pro-life Republican because the Republican would be in a better position to serve the community.

The key issue seems to be how to get citizens more engaged in the issues facing the state representatives.

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