State Sen. Dave Thompson (R-District 36) of Lakeville, was in town over the weekend for an end-of-the-session town hall meeting held at . A small but supportive audience was on hand to mainly thank the freshman legislator for his work during the last year and discuss some potential upcoming issues in 2012.
Thompson, a former radio talk show host, was his usual candid self during the 90-minute session and stuck to a theme of adhering to principals and beliefs and reflected on an active first year in the political realm.
“I’m a freshman and there’s a fairly steep learning curve for freshman,” Thompson said of the political process. “The politics of politics is a big deal. Knowing what you want to do is one thing, knowing the process of how you get it is another. I can promise, though, that I’ll be a better legislator next January than I was this January.”
If that’s the case, District 36 constituents can expect an even heavier dose of legislation activity from Thompson who led all freshman senators by being the chief author of 39 bills.
Among Thompson-authored bills that passed were reforms that eliminated state mandates for school districts to reach union contract agreements by Jan. 15, maintenance of effort requirements for district mental health professionals and a 2% funding requirement for staff development. Thompson had proposed a for all school district employees as part of that bill but that portion failed to make the final version.
“The school reforms, I think, were very good,” said Thompson. He called the Jan. 15 deadline for contract agreements “silly” and said the $25 per pupil penalty districts incurred if that deadline wasn’t met gave an unfair advantage to unions in negotiations.
“We shouldn’t artificially advantage or disadvantage either side,” Thompson said.
Thompson also co-authored legislation in the senate that will put the on the 2012 ballot letting voters decide the outcome of that controversial topic rather than lawmakers or judges.
Other, less flashy legislation authored by Thompson included a jobs bill that allows insurance adjusters the flexibility to hire non-licensed employees to process simple claims such as those on cell phones.
“Many things we did were under the radar,” said Thompson. “They don’t have the emotional bang of, for example, the marriage amendment. Everyone knows about that, but things like changing the formula for the way we forecast for Health and Human Services, that’s not an interesting issue people hear about.”
Thompson lamented the in July and said he wasn’t altogether happy with the by shifting education money and borrowing from the state’s tobacco settlement.
“I refuse to call it a budget deficit, I call it a shortfall and I don’t even like that,” Thompson said of the budget battle. Thompson said Gov. Mark Dayton “has a very different vision of what government should do and how big it should be. When you have those strong opposing views, you end up doing things you don’t want to do.”
When an audience member asked Thompson if Minnesotans could expect another budget battle in the future, Thompson said that was almost assured.
“Oh, yes, we’ll have another fight for sure,” he said. “(Another) Shutdown? I think it’s way too early to project that. I don’t think any rational person would want that, but if you’re asking if I’m willing to engage in another battle of that magnitude, the answer is yes. Do I want to? No.“
Thompson also said there was a bill “in the works” that would legislate funding priorities in the event of another shutdown and pre-define essential services.
Thompson also talked about a number of items that are likely to come up in the next legislative session. Among those items:
Right to Work – a measure that would make it illegal for employees to be compelled to join, or pay fees to a union, as a condition of employment.
“My personal belief is that I think that would cure a lot of ills,” said Thompson. He said there was a “decent chance” the issue would rise to a vote.
Vikings Stadium – to new taxes to help fund a new Viking’s stadium and says hard decisions must be made to keep spending in check.
“If you want to throw me out of office for not supporting a Viking’s stadium, I’m okay with that,” he said. “What I’m not okay with is voting for something I don’t believe in.”
Voter ID – Thompson hinted he may go against the party grain in not supporting a constitutional amendment that would require voters to show photo ID at the polls in order to vote.
“The constitution should not be a dumping ground for legislation we can’t get the governor to sign,” said Thompson. “It should be a document of principles. It may well pass with thirty-six republican votes and I will be the one that votes against it. As much as I want it politically, I have to go with what I believe in.”
Day-Care Union – The hot topic of the moment is an effort that would unionize day-care providers and Thompson is adamantly opposed to any effort by Gov. Dayton to sign an executive order to allow it. Thompson said it was inconceivable that self-employed people could be granted union protections.
“I don’t understand how self-employed people unionize,” he said. “Who are you unionizing against?”
Thompson said if Dayton proceeded to sign such an order “I would personally be willing to put my name in a lawsuit as a plaintiff” to challenge the move.
Thompson says overall, getting the message out of what he sees as necessary reforms in government is critical.
“I believe that the more people that hear our message, the more people will be with us,” he said. “If people are informed, I have incredible faith in the heart and soul of the American people to do the right thing.”