House Democrats signal priorities in new committee structure

The incoming DFL majority in the Minnesota House released its new committee structure and named committee chairs on Wednesday, signaling a renewed focus on issues such as criminal justice, the environment, affordable housing -- as well as the legislative process itself.

Democrats reclaimed the majority on Nov. 6, picking up 18 seats from Republicans for a 75-59 hold on the chamber beginning in January. The new committees include ones focusing on climate change, clean water, early childhood education, labor and corrections.

“We’ve streamlined the committee structure by creating fewer stops for bills in the areas of agriculture, transportation, and civil law,” said Speaker-designate Melissa Hortman in a statement. "We’re also creating committees to give attention to issues that affect Minnesotans’ lives but which have not received enough consideration previously."

One new subcommittee will focus on changing the legislative process. Last session, Dayton vetoed a 990-page budget bill sent to him in the final hours of session by the Republican-controlled Legislature.

"The legislative failures of the past four years have revealed that the Legislature needs to reform the way it conducts business," Hortman said. "I am hopeful the Minnesota Senate will partner with us to make the legislature more efficient, effective, and transparent."

Republicans still control the state Senate by a single vote.

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Current House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who will be the minority leader in January, said Democrats' new committees "cater" to special interests.

"It is no surprise that one of Democrats' first moves is to make the legislature less transparent and less accessible to everyday Minnesotans," he said in a statement. "They are growing the committee structure by 30 percent, primarily by adding committees that cater to their activist base and special interests."

Democrats last held the majority in the House in 2014, and there were some changes in who holds a committee gavel. Rep. Alice Hausman, who had long chaired the Capital Investment Committee, will now lead a committee on housing issues, signaling some bonding dollars could head in that direction.

Rep. Carlos Mariani, who used to chair a committee that tackled education issues, will head a committee on public safety finance and policy.  Rep. Paul Marquart will take the helm of the House's prominent tax committee.

Here's a full list of the new House committees and their chairs:

Agriculture and Food Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Jean Poppe

Capital Investment Division -- Rep. Mary Murphy

Commerce -- Rep. Laurie Halverson

Education Finance Division -- Rep. Jim Davnie

Subcommittee on Early Childhood Finance & Policy -- Rep. Dave Pinto

Education Policy -- Rep. Cheryl Youakim

Environment and Natural Resources Finance Division -- Rep. Rick Hansen

Subcommittee on Water -- Rep. Peter Fischer

Energy and Climate Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Jean Wagenius

Environment and Natural Resources Policy -- Rep. John Persell

Ethics -- Rep. Mary Murphy

Government Operations -- Rep. Michael Freiberg

Subcommittee on Elections -- Rep. Ray Dehn

Subcommittee on Local Government -- Rep. Sandra Masin

Greater Minnesota Jobs and Econ Development Finance Division -- Rep. Gene Pelowski

Health and Human Services Finance Division -- Rep. Tina Liebling

Subcommittee on Long Term Care -- Rep. Jennifer Schultz

Subcommittee on Early Childhood Finance & Policy -- Rep. Dave Pinto

Health and Human Services Policy -- Rep. Rena Moran

Higher Education Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Connie Bernardy

Housing Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Alice Hausman

Jobs & Economic Development Finance Division Rep. Tim Mahoney

Judiciary Finance & Civil Law Division-- Rep. John Lesch

Labor -- Rep. Mike Sundin

Legacy Finance Division -- Rep. Leon Lillie

Public Safety and Criminal Justice Reform Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Carlos Mariani

Subcommittee on Corrections -- Rep. Jack Considine

Rules and Legislative Administration -- Rep. Ryan Winkler

Subcommittee on Legislative Process Reform -- Rep. Gene Pelowski

State Government Finance Division -- Rep. Michael Nelson

Taxes -- Rep. Paul Marquart

Property and Local Tax Division -- Rep. Diane Loeffler

Transportation Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Frank Hornstein

Veterans and Military Affairs Finance & Policy Division -- Rep. Rob Ecklund

Ways and Means -- Rep. Lyndon Carlson