PUBLISHER'S NOTEBOOK: Money still talks at Capitol
Tuesday, June 04, 2013 8:42 AM
One of the more noteworthy results of the last legislative session is the approval of same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Supporters of this measure can thank the Republicans for this one.
The thank you isn't necessarily to the few Republicans that crossed over to support the measure. Instead, it is to the Republicans that were so eager to put this issue on the ballot last election in the form of a constitutional amendment.
That move started a statewide discussion on the issue that ended up with many people discovering that it isn't so scary once the arguments on both sides were presented in the debate running up to the election. It also made many people in the state angry, motivating them to fight for the right of gay people to marry and to punish the legislators that tried to deny this right through the constitution.
With the resulting flip in control of the Legislature from Republican to DFL control last election, it seemed inevitable that the vote for same-sex marriage would come up. That it came up so soon and passed on the first try goes beyond what the Republicans initiated.
The credit for the rapid success goes to Minnesotans United for all Families, a lobbying group that spent more than $2 million in support of the passage of same-sex marriage legislation. It is also raising funds to help support legislators that may have difficulties in their reelection campaigns because of their vote.
Money talks and that doesn't matter which party is controlling the state.
Another noteworthy result of the legislative session was the passage of funding for Destination Medical Center. Mayo Clinic may not have spent the money on lobbying, but it has the name, the connections and, even though it angered some legislators, the threat that 49 other states really would love to have the facility expand in their state.
There will be no consequences from that decision because it was generally supported from legislators on both sides of the aisle and most people in the state. This is a case where the facts support the money.
But then, another noteworthy result - perhaps more for its controversy than its impact - is the bill that permits family care providers that care for children receiving a state subsidy and personal care attendants to form a union.
Opponents argue that this is payback by the DFL to powerful labor unions, which have been losing members and clout in recent years.
It does raise many questions. After all, most in-home day care providers are private, one-person businesses in the home, not factory workers toiling in potentially low-paying, unsafe conditions. And, the purpose of the union would be for representation to negotiate with the state for more state subsidies.
So, the state is expanding unionization so that these new state unionized workers can funnel more state money into the private sector.
Opponents have already filed a lawsuit against the childcare collective bargaining act, so it may not become a reality. But if it does prevail, DFLers may not have heard the last on this.
We'll likely hear a lot about same-sex marriage Aug. 1 when the law takes effect. But, soon, the issue will fade into the background and it will become a non-issue in Minnesota.
Childcare unionization won't fade away so quickly. There's the potential for increased costs to families that use these services and to the daycare owners themselves.
Just as Republicans a few years ago were blind to the aftershock of using a divisive social issue in a political move, DFLers may be blind to the consequences of using small, private businesses for political motives.
Minnesotans aren't anti-union in a Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker way, but there is a reason unions have fewer members and are losing clout in Minnesota. Legislating a reversal isn't the way to help the union cause.
Eventually, we may find out that this move has some quite unintended results for the DFL majority.