Rural areas now have less legislative clout

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Metro area dominates DFL, state House

When Minnesota Legislature convenes next Tuesday, Jan. 8, Republican District 17A Rep. Tim Miller, Prinsburg, will start his third two-term in office. District 17 Republican Sen. Andrew Lang, Olivia, will start the third year of his first four-year term.

District 17A includes all of Swift and Chippewa counties, all but two townships in Renville County, and the four southern Kandiyohi townships of Edwards, Holland, Roseland and Lake Lillian.

Senate District 17 includes House Districts 17A and 17B. House District 17B includes the cities of Willmar, Spicer, New London and the remaining townships of Kandiyohi County not part of 17A.

A significant change for Miller will be that he will now be in the minority party in the House. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will have 75 seats to the Republicans’ 59 seats and will control the House for the 2019-2020 biennium. Republicans had controlled the House from January 2015 through December 2018.

Republicans have a slim one-vote majority in the state Senate, 34-33, with a special election hold on a seat they had won in 2016. Minnesota’s incoming governor is Democrat Tim Walz. He is replacing two-term Democrat Mark Dayton.

While Miller’s legislative power as a member of the minority House party is marginalized his recent split from his caucus has further lessened his influence. Miller and three other members of the Republican Party announced in early December that they were forming their own caucus - “New House Republican Caucus.”

He says that since he is already a member of the minority party, the break with the main Republican caucus should have little impact.

“The creation of the new caucus has more to do about inside politics than anything else,” Miller told the Monitor-News. “We are still Republicans. We are still going to work with the Republicans in the Minnesota House and Minnesota Senate.”

Miller was also asked about the split with the Republican caucus at the District 777 Board of Education meeting Dec. 17.

“For the most part, and I mean this with to the good of my district, most of it isn’t going to have any impact whatsoever,” Miller he told the school board.

“If we had formed this and we were in the majority, there could have been more implications. But we are in the minority and my primary responsibility is really focused on the very specific needs of my district. As far as moving bills, when you are in the minority, you don’t move bills.

Without getting too much into the weeds or the problems he has with some people in the Republican Party leadership, Miller said the problem with the two party caucus system is that “you are compelled to do things that aren’t necessarily in the best interests of your district; however, not all the time.”

Outstate influence wanes with DFL control

With a quick glance at the Nov. 6 election results map, a person sees a sea of Republican red in rural Minnesota with a few islands of blue. The Twin Cities metropolitan counties show overwhelming blue.

With the metro region now containing 55 percent of the state’s population, it proved pivotal in the DFL wins for the state House and governorship. It is a DFL demographic advantage that could grow in coming years as the Twin Cities area population expands far faster than that of rural Minnesota. Those changing demographics in the do not bode well for rural Minnesota’s influence in state government.

The Nov. 6 election was the 12th consecutive year that Republicans haven’t won a statewide election for the governor’s office or the U.S. Senate. They also haven’t won a race for secretary of state, state auditor or attorney general since 2006.

What the growing dominance of the metro area in state politics means for rural Minnesota as it turns ever more Republican is that there will be fewer and fewer state representatives and senators to take leadership positions.

In the coming session, the two most powerful positions in the House, the speaker and majority leader, are going to be held by metropolitan legislators. The third leadership position, majority whip, will be held by a DFL representative from the City of Duluth....


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