With the Republicans in charge at the Legislature, corporate lobbyists are having a field day in St. Paul this year, and cities around the state could be feeling the effects unless Gov. Mark Dayton brushes off his veto pen.
Republican legislators, mostly from rural parts of the state, are serving up a smorgasbord of bills in the current session, many of which are aimed at limiting the ability of cities to make local decisions. Much of the legislation comes straight from the well-stocked political shelves of the American Legislative Exchange Council, an industry-friendly organization, funded by the Koch brothers and other rightwing organizations, that drafts conservative legislation for implementation in legislatures around the country. And with the GOP now in the majority in the Minnesota House and Senate, ALEC’s handiwork is front and center.
Conservatives have been upset for years that city leaders, who tend to be Democrats, are enacting progressive local ordinances designed to, among other things, increase the minimum wage, discourage the use of plastic bags, or promote transit alternatives to automobile-choked freeways. Now, with their ALEC-inspired legislation, Republicans are proposing to cut local government aid to cities that enact such policies.
Not surprisingly, cities are pushing back. While many of the bills currently advancing would mainly impact larger cities, even smaller cities would feel the effects in some cases, which is why cities around the state, including Ely, have passed resolutions opposed to this push to eliminate local control. The League of Minnesota Cities is clearly worried by the legislative push, which they say “removes the ability for local elected officials to respond to the needs of their businesses and constituents.”
Of course, the Republicans aren’t just targeting cities. They also want to limit the ability of townships to stand in the way of things like large corporate feedlots, which are the bane of many Minnesotans living in farm country.
The overall agenda is clear— it’s about placing the interests of corporations, many of which are not even based in Minnesota, above that of the citizens of the state.
Most of this is happening largely under the radar, without the public’s knowledge and certainly without the public’s support. There is little public demand for taking away the rights of the people and their local elected officials to address the wide range of concerns that affect communities around the state. The realities and needs of cities differ, and that’s why the state has traditionally given them wide latitude to develop their own solutions.
And there’s reason to believe that many of the bills being advanced are unconstitutional, since they would reduce local government aid as punishment for enacting policies that conservatives don’t like. State funding, like LGA, is based on formulas for a reason. It not supposed to be used as a political bludgeon to enforce the flavor of the month from St. Paul. This is a destructive agenda, being foisted on Minnesotans by well-financed outside organizations and corporations. Gov. Dayton should be prepared to stand in their way.