Minnesota Report

The arrest and felony burglary charge on Sen Nicole Mitchell (DFL-47, Woodbury) has been come the titillating twist and scintillating subject matter saturating the entirety of the conversations through the Minnesota political establishment. All legislative action has ground to a halt because the Minnesota Senate is sitting at a 33 DFL-33 Republican tie.

The Republican minority up until this time lacked any leverage to stop legislation because the DFL majority ran roughshod over them and maintained complete unanimity among themselves, under the leadership of Sen Kari Dziedzic (DFL-60, Minneapolis) last legislative session. After Dziedzic stepped down due to an adverse ovarian cancer fight and the caucus selected Sen Erin Murphy (DFL-64, St Paul) as the replacement the ship seemed to right itself, and continued to steam ahead.

The Senate Republican Caucus filed this Ethics complaint against Sen Nicole Mitchell.

With this latest blunder by one of its own members, which reads like an episode of Dumbest Thieves Caught on Camera, sans camera, everything that was hanging in the balance, remains in limbo. The outcome, which seemed predetermined is now a mere question mark. The Republican caucus appears prepared to stall every floor action to a halt and debate the question over what to do about one of their fellow senators future relationship with the body.

Yesterday, Sen Eric Lucero (R-30, Saint Michael) a known firebrand, and member of the cohort of the four former Representatives who left the lower house and joined the Senate last election, put forward a motion to call for an expedited ethics investigation of Mitchell, which failed on a party line vote. He and fellow Senator Steve Drazkowski (R-20, Mazeppa) are never shy about claiming the limelight and stirring the debate with agitative rhetoric on the floor of whichever body in which they stand. Because of the Constitutionally required legislative endpoint of May 20th, and the fact much legislation remains unfinished, the ethic process becomes an important focus.

There are no “traditions” about ethics of which can be called upon and the extreme position is for the Senate to expel one of its own. This requires a 2/3rds majority of the body to do so, since Mitchell could not vote for herself, it would necessitate eleven members of the DFL to join with the Republicans to do so. Not happening.

This means the phrase Due Process become sacrosanct for the members of the DFL.

It is through process, protocols and procedure that this issue will be addressed by the DFL, which still holds majority, but unless Mitchell appears is unable to exercise its power, although in a neutered form, they can. The ability to remotely vote, which is in force, and utilized by Dziedzic, Sen Lindsey Port (DFL-55, Apple Valley) and frequently by Sen. Andrew Lang (R-16, Olivia) is a way around the problem, but again the debate will shift and the focus applied to Mitchell’s participation in anyway.

Her committee activity will not matter much since the DFL has tactically, applied a larger than needed majority on each committee in which she serves, which was a bone of contention in the early part of last legislative session, and now seems like a prescient decision.

Everyone knows all legislative work on the floor of the senate is determined by all members of the majority being present and accounted for.

These means there will be hours of debates over process and procedure. Already, the State Constitution is being invoked as is the floor rules as established by Mason’s, but the lack of precedence of the body disciplining one of its own is where the magic will occur for Majority Leader Murphy.

As of now, the process is the Rules and Administration Subcommittee on Ethics has up to 30 days to be called and lacking any definitive court action in Becker County, where the alleged crime took place, it seems to be the maximum time frame will be applied.