Your Senator Doesn’t Think You Can by John King

Your Senator Doesn’t Think You Can

The legislature has to wrap up its business in a few weeks, but in their haste to finish up, one thing is becoming clear.  Senator Gazelka and the Republican majority don’t believe in local democracy.  An astonishing number of bills that Senator Gazelka promoted and voted for, from the seemingly trivial to the truly significant, kill a community’s ability to make decisions for itself.

Does your community want to ban plastic bags?  Can’t do it now.  A real debate over the merits of plastic vs. paper was once an option, but the new legislation doesn’t even allow that debate to take place. Senator Gazelka’s vote will ensure that communities are prohibited from enacting their own ordinances on the issue.

Is there a disruptive or environmentally damaging construction project coming to your community?  Senator Gazelka voted for legislation that would limit a community’s ability to halt the project in order to conduct a review.  A city currently has the power with a simple majority vote to enact an interim ordinance halting a project while a review is conducted.  Senator Gazelka voted to require a two thirds super majority vote by a city council to force a review.  He also voted to shorten the time available for the review.

Animal feedlots have great potential to disrupt a community and damage water quality.  Current law recognizes this harmful potential by requiring an environmental review of any feedlot containing over 1000 animal units.  This review is requested by the community and the residents affected by the proposed feedlot.  Senator Gazelka voted to double the size of an allowed feedlot to 2000 animal units.  So if the feedlot down the road is tough to live with now, just wait until tomorrow when it doubles in size and you still can’t do anything about it.

Much of the debate over minimum wage was put to rest when Seattle passed a $15 minimum and none of the dire predictions came to pass.  Seattle, in fact, is doing better than ever.  Minneapolis has adopted a $15 minimum wage and it was about to go into effect when the senate, led by Senator Gazelka, slapped it down.  Under the legislation promoted by and voted for by Senator Gazelka, no city in the state can pass its own minimum wage or enact its own sick leave ordinances.  Period.

According the League of Minnesota Cities, these legislative slap downs have nothing to do with the issues themselves, and everything to do with the power grab in St. Paul.  Ann Finn, of the League, says it all:

“The bills are in conflict with the League’s long-held core value that local elected decision-makers are in the best position to determine what health, safety and welfare regulation best serve their constituents.”

Senator Gazelka is taking pot shots at democracy.  Next election, we can only hope that democracy sends the senator back to his insurance business in Baxter.

John King


15125 County 38

Long Prairie, MN


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