Rural Republicans have affected legislative session

Published 9:35 am Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My Point of View by Brian Hensley

During this legislative session, in the Minnesota Senate and House, many different topics have grabbed the headlines of papers around Freeborn County — topics that are as diverse as this great state.  Sunday alcohol sales, agriculture research credit, tuition hikes and freezes at state universities and colleges, gasoline tax increases, sale tax exemptions, nursing home and long-term care funding, transportation funding, gun control measures, tax cuts and of course budgets.

Brian Hensley

Brian Hensley

That list is not even scratching the surface of the variety of topics that have been discussed, debated, pushed, lobbied, studied and ignored. But it always comes down to the last few days of the session when things start happening, often so fast the members of the Legislature themselves could not tell you where things stood.  The past few days have been no exception.

Email newsletter signup

But this year there’s a difference than the past two sessions. There is a balance in the Legislature. We see both viewpoints being heard, and reckoned with, because in November 2014, 10 Republican candidates won their races against DFL incumbents. This switched control of the House from DFL to Republican. Our own Rep. Peggy Bennett was one of those candidates. Elections have consequences, and that changed things for the next two years. One party didn’t control the entire process.

The governor in the 2013 and 2014 sessions, with help from the DFL Senate and DFL House pushed some items through and hoped nobody would notice, and too often that somebody was the residents in counties a few miles from the metro.

One was tax increases on farm machinery repairs. It wasn’t bad enough that your businesses equipment broke, but the DFL and governor saw your bad luck as an opportunity to increase the state coffers.

Then members of the DFL Senate must have decided their offices need some upgrades, and they pushed through a $90 million new office building for themselves. DFL members in the House are still sticking by their opinion that somehow this happened without them ever voting on it.

But this year, the last few days have been different. Republican House Majority Leader Kurt Daudt has brought the wishes of rural Minnesota into the negotiating room at the governor’s mansion. Those 10 newly elected Republicans have ensured that rural values, rural needs and rural concerns have been heard.

The DFL governor’s 50-foot buffer strip along every agricultural waterway proposal has been one of the hottest buttons as the legislative session headed into the final days. It has been a relief for many farmers and those who care for the environment that a rural voice will have to be listened to and a rural voice can explain the complexities of this issue to our DFL and city friends.

Funding of the transportation needs of the state, and the DFL proposed gasoline tax, have been another contentious issue. For many of those in the metro, who may not own vehicles, or drive short distances, an increase to the gas tax has been seen as a great way to raise funds. The House Republicans stood strong and refused to negotiate on the issue, protecting rural Minnesotans from the 16-cent per gallon increase.

Elections have consequences. Your vote in elections matter. Those 10 Republican House members from rural Minnesota who won their local elections needed each and every vote.  Those votes have changed the outcomes of the 2015 legislative session.

We are looking for great candidates to run in races for 2016.  From U.S. Congress, to Minnesota Senate, to local city council and local mayor races around Freeborn County. We urge you to get involved in the process.


Brian Hensley is chairman of the Freeborn County Republican Party.