Democrats take over the Minnesota House; GOP criticizes committee structure

The 2019 Minnesota House convened Tuesday under Democratic control for the first time in four years and it didn’t take long for lawmakers to square off in a partisan fight.

Shortly after Rep. Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Center, was elected the new Speaker of the House, her rival for the gavel, former speaker Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, lambasted Democrats saying they were breaking a campaign promise to be more transparent.

House minority leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown. (Courtesy photo)

Daudt criticized the how Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has organized the House to do business. He said nesting 21 subcommittees under the powerful Ways and Means committee will obscure how legislation is crafted in a year when lawmakers are writing a budget expected to top $48 billion.

“If you are a member of the public at home trying to follow this process, good luck,” Daudt said, referring to the new structure as legislative “three-card monte.”

Ryan Winkler, the new DFL majority leader, said the way legislation is drafted and amended will be largely the same as it was under Daudt’s leadership. The only changes were for the sake of expediency, he said.

“To make sure we don’t burn days moving paper,” Winkler said.

The procedural argument was in contrast to the cooperative tone Hortman tried to set in her remarks after winning the speaker’s gavel.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park. (Courtesy photo)

“The campaign is over,” Hortman said. “It’s time to take off the blue and red jerseys. It’s time to govern as team Minnesota.”

In November, DFLers flipped 18 Republican-held seats, most of them in the suburbs, to take over control of the House.

Democrats plan to outline their top legislative priorities Wednesday when they detail their first 10 bills of the legislative session. Hortman said they will focus on a strong education system, affordable health care, community prosperity and keeping people safe from gun violence.

Republicans in the Senate announced their priorities Tuesday morning with a focus on school safety, lowering health care costs and rooting out government waste.

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