Patch sat down with state Sen. Scott Dibble to talk politics on the eve of the 2012 legislative session, and to hear what bills he will be bringing forward.
Patch: Let’s jump right into things with Governor Mark Dayton’s proposed bonding bill. What do you think of it?
Sen. Scott Dibble: It’s a little modest, but $775 million isn’t just walking around money. The criteria that should underlie bonding—infrastructure spending that sparks economic vitality—the investments (in the bill) have those kinds of benefits over the long term. It has investments in public education and higher education—it’s clearly investing in those things that will have benefits to the longer-term vitality of the state.
Patch: What bills will you be bringing forward in 2012?
Dibble: Well, with electric vehicles there are a lot of opportunities, but we need to solve several policy problems. How are we going to pay and provide for the electric infrastructure? How do we make sure the energy they use is clean energy? To the extent we want to spark a market, what can we do to encourage purchases of electric vehicle—through state purchases?
I’ll also be bringing forward a bill suggesting a home foreclosure moratorium that creates a pause to work out terms of loan with their lending institution. It’s not relieving people of responsibilities, and banks have an interest in helping people continue to pay their mortgages. I’ll probably be bringing a bill with Karen Clark to rescind the anti-marriage amendment. It’ll be a long shot, but there are enough Republicans who've expressed remorse, and it’ll give them the opportunity to vote their conscience.
Lastly, I’ll be bringing a bill to ban the practice of companies telling applicants they won’t give them interview if they’re not currently employed. It’s completely unprincipled. I think there’s support for that, but we’ll see when the business lobby comes around.
Patch: Still, the Democrats are in the minority.
Dibble: Absolutely, a lot of what we’re going to do is defending good things and keep bad things from happening. This extreme legislature is trying to unwind the bipartisan energy conservation consensus—which, by the way, keeps energy costs down because utilities push the cost of new power plants on to consumers—and we’re going to have fights on our hands to preserve the nuclear (power plant) moratorium and the coal offset, which requires utilities to offset the carbon created by coal purchases.
Patch: What about the constitutional amendments Republicans are reported to have in the works?
Dibble: They’ll be bringing forward amendments on voter ID—under this elderly, disabled, and low-income people will have a harder time voting—they’ll attempt to limit collective bargaining fairly dramatically and restrict reproductive healthcare access and choices for women. They’ll also try to artificially limit our ability to limit raising new revenue. Some of these are ideological issues, but they’re all designed to raise turnout. It’s a cynical use of our constitution for partisan ends, and it makes me very unhappy.
Patch: Do you think the shutdown has changed the tenor in the state senate?
Dibble: The Republican leadership’s absolute unwillingness to even consider compromise in anything has been really damaging to interpersonal relationships in the senate. There’s a long tradition in Minnesota to have long vigorous debate on merits of an issue, on principal, but at the end of the day move things forward and find a compromise, which this behavior goes against. Furthermore, it’s very clear that the Republicans are interested in dismantling state services, in dismantling things that help sustain the state and the middle class in the service of the wealthy. If they prevail they’re going to create a state that’s much less prosperous.
Patch: And lastly, what do you think about state financing for a potential Vikings stadium?
Dibble: Look, if we’re going to be making public investments in things that’ll benefit the region economically, we should put the money in other things like schools. In the end, I don’t think a stadium is going to happen.
Ed. Note: This story was corrected 1/26/12 at 5:28 p.m. to correct a misstatement of the foreclosure moratorium that Sen. Dibble is planning to propose. The original article described it as a farm foreclosure moratorium, not a home foreclosure moratorium. The bill will be based on a farm foreclosure moratorium bill passed by the state legislature during a previous recession.