Opening Day: Daudt, Republicans gavel in new majority

/ 6 January 2015 / Shawna
HPIS Staff, Session Daily, January 6, 2015


For those keeping score, bipartisan standing ovations outnumbered partisan stand-offs by a 5-0 count after the first day’s action in the 2015 House of Representatives.

The House kicked off the 89th legislative session Tuesday with a floor session devoted to procedural business and marked by pledges of bipartisan cooperation from leaders of the Republican majority and the DFL minority. As expected, Rep. Kurt Daudt (R-Crown) was elected House speaker on a 72-62 party-line roll call vote.

In nominating Daudt, Rep. Jenifer Loon (R-Eden Prairie) said the third-term representative “is hardworking. He listens. He’s honest. He’s fair.

“But what most distinguishes him is his problem-solving skills,” Loon added. “He knows we are all Minnesotans who care deeply about our state.”

From his new spot at the rostrum, Daudt paid homage to his family and his farm roots in a short address to the chamber, saying they taught him “how to work hard and to fix what’s broken.” He lauded the optimism of the first-term members: “Let’s not change them,” he told the body. “Let’s let them change us.”

Daudt added that the gavel he’ll wield in the 2015-16 House is made from white oak grown on his grandparents’ farm.


Procedural business

Following Secretary of State Steve Simon’s call to order shortly after noon, Minnesota Supreme Court Chief Justice Lori Gildea administered the oath of office to the 134 members, whose ranks include 26 newly elected representatives – 21 of them Republicans. An 11-seat swing in the 2014 election allowed Republicans to reclaim the majority status they last held in 2011-12.

The day’s proceedings included the unanimous election of Patrick Murphy as chief clerk.

Murphy, who started in the House as a page in the late 1970s, succeeds the retiring Al Mathiowetz, who had served in the position since 2005. (Read our exit interview with Mathiowetz here.)

In other business, the House adopted temporary rules that moved the standing time for floor sessions from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., but otherwise differed little from the 2013-14 Permanent Rules of the House.

Bigger changes may yet surface, though.

One of the more contentious procedural issues to face the 2013-14 House during the early days of session involved a rule instituted by the then-DFL majority requiring bill amendments to be filed 24 hours in advance of scheduled committee or floor debates.

Democrats argued that the new rules were necessary to allow constituents time to consider amendments and offer input. Republicans said the 24-hour rule would stifle debate and hamper efforts to forge compromises while the House was in session.

Daudt spoke forcefully against the 24-hour rule two years ago, but said Tuesday that while there have been some initial conversations about whether to keep the rule, no decisions have been made.

“I think the Chamber probably works a little better without it,” Daudt said after the session. “But there are some reasons to do it as well. It allows folks who work for us to be a little bit more prepared in what we’re doing, but we’ll see. We need to let the folks who are going to make those decisions, the rules committee and others, really have a good debate about that.”


First bill introductions expected Thursday

The opening day’s action did not include any bill introductions, and so far House leadership has been tight-lipped about details of the pending legislation, which is scheduled to be introduced Thursday.

“Certainly we have a lot of different priorities for different members, but I think the first five or six bills would be something that’s a priority for our caucus,” said House Majority Leader Joyce Peppin (R-Rogers).

Between now and then, she said, members will be contacting each other to seek support for their proposed legislation.

“Education is clearly going to be a top focus,” said Loon, chair of the House Education Finance Committee. “The governor has already indicated that it’s a priority, and it will definitely be a priority for the Republicans.”

Count on at least one of the session’s initial bills to call for reforms to the MNsure insurance program, according to Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), chair of the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee. Peppin agreed, noting a need for greater transparency in the health insurance exchange’s operations.

Dean expects Republican legislative priorities to reflect a greater balance between the metropolitan-area concerns and Greater Minnesota issues.

“Minnesota will see an end to Minneapolis control over the state of Minnesota,” he said, “and I think you will see the voices of lots of Minnesotans across the state being heard.”

House Taxes Committee Chair Rep. Greg Davids (R-Preston) already knows which bill his committee will hear first when it convenes Jan. 13.

He makes a point of hearing a DFL-sponsored bill first, but added that it will be quickly followed by a federal tax conformity bill that is up against a Jan. 20 deadline that represents the start of state tax-filing season.


(Steve Perry, Jonathan Mohr and Sue Hegarty contributed to this story)