Republican State Rep. Dale Lueck of Aitkin offered the Crow Wing County Board his insight into the Minnesota Legislature’s recent special session Tuesday, June 23, including why federal COVID-19 funding has not yet made it to local governments.
Lueck, who represents District 10B in the House of Representatives, said despite what commissioners may have heard, there were bills passed during the special session that received bipartisan support, at least one of which was unanimous.
“I just want to dispel this rumor, you hear it time and time again, ‘You people can’t work together in St. Paul, it’s all about partisanship,’” Lueck said. “Well, there was 11 of them that really we didn’t have any issue with.”
Still, major legislation in response to police reform and coronavirus relief were left on the table as the session expired early Saturday morning. Lueck said SF47, which would’ve distributed $841 million earmarked for local units of government from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, could’ve gone forward if it weren’t for add-ons in the House and the inclusion of Gov. Tim Walz’s supplemental budget. Crow Wing County is set to receive a little over $8 million of that allocation. He said before the session, all four leaders in the majority and minority agreed on a compromise with the funding.
“You’ve seen Christmas trees get decorated, that’s exactly what happened,” Lueck said. “ … There was some important, good things that got put on there, but as I said on the House floor, this is a classic example of … how do you destroy something by adding a poison pill to it. You know it’s going to blow it up.”
Lueck said he had the choice to vote in favor of the bill to send over to the Senate, where he expected it to die, or to register his disappointment by voting against the bill, despite his desire to get money in the hands of local governments. He chose the latter, he said.
“I’m part of the problem, make no mistake. That’s why you’re not counting those dollars at this point and spending them. It’s absolutely disappointing,” he said.
Commissioners also received a letter from state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, who expressed her own disappointment with the outcome. She asked the board to reach out to Walz, requesting he use his influence to get the bill passed through the House.
“The Governor is insisting on additional budget items being added to the bill. These demands from the Governor put in jeopardy much needed aid for every area of our state,” Ruud wrote. “As local leaders, I know you understand the great needs facing our area because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I was proud of the work we did in the Senate, on a bi-partisan basis — we passed a bill that would have helped every city and county in Minnesota. We passed a clean bill in the Senate and worked together to get the aid out the door.”
Lueck explained two other “nay” votes he cast during the special session, which he repeatedly noted occurred under “martial law” in reference to Walz’s emergency powers due to the pandemic.
“I use that term after suffering under this for a number of months. Make no mistake, we’re dealing with a classic exercise of martial law where one individual is essentially making the laws and enforcing them,” he said. “He’s doing that under the state statute that allows him to do that, so we gotta be fair with that.”
The two bills Lueck voted against sought to address issues that came to the forefront following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent property destruction that took place in Minneapolis. One was SF104, which would’ve established reforms for police departments in the state. He said the Senate had 11 key areas of reform it addressed in its bill, but when it arrived in the House, it morphed into something else entirely. The bill ultimately passed the House, but died in the Senate.
“That bill promptly got loaded up into a basketcase that I couldn’t support. I voted against that,” he said.
The other was HF132, which would’ve offered $300 million in relief to the Lake Street area affected by rioting to help rebuild if it had been passed by the Senate. But Lueck said he disagreed with the required makeup of a committee involved in distributing funds.
“One example that just turned my stomach was the creation of an appointed board that specifically, specifically called, to be a member, you had to be a person of color or a Native American, period,” Lueck said. “ … That, I’ll be quite blunt, looks like the kind of things that happened under Reconstruction after the Civil War. No place for that in the House of Representatives and so I voted against that.”
Lueck appeared to refer to a proposal that would’ve created the Metropolitan Area Redevelopment Corp. Sponsored by DFL Rep. Fue Lee of Minneapolis, the organization would “identify and address the adverse impacts of racial discrimination in the metropolitan area by facilitating access by people of color and indigenous people to resources for development, improvement, and expansion of health care facilities and services, small businesses, safe and affordable housing, and other benefits of society that have historically been unavailable to them due to systemic barriers.”
According to Session Daily, an amendment to the proposal would’ve required the organization to be led by a person of color or Indigenous person, with a staff and board made up of 51% people of color or Indigenous people.
Lueck said he expects to be back at the Capitol in mid-July when an extension of Walz’s emergency powers would require another special session to take place. He said efforts to curtail the governor’s powers have not been successful thus far, despite bipartisan support in the Senate.
Commissioner Steve Barrows thanked Lueck for his work in St. Paul and said he thought if he were sitting in his chair, he would’ve voted the same way Lueck did.
Lueck, who farms in rural Aitkin, told the board what his plans called for next in the day. “I’m going to go to the solitude of a tractor and a hay conditioner and cut some hay,” he said with a laugh.