House Speaker Hortman Optimistic about Session Goals
With the sound of thunderous applause, Rep. Melissa Hortman took the gavel on January 8, 2019 to begin her new role as House speaker.
In the three weeks since, the Brooklyn Park DFL lawmaker says her new job has been filled with 17-hour work days.
“So I’m a little bit of a workaholic. It fits well,” Speaker Hortman said. “I have plenty of time to dedicate to public service now. When my kids were little and we were running around for swim meets, it was more challenging. So it was the right time in my life to have a pretty hefty workload.”
That workload of House speaker includes meetings with fellow lawmakers and various stakeholders, along with trying to get her legislative priorities passed with a Republican-controlled Senate in place.
“I think it will get more and more difficult as the session goes on for both parties to find things that they can support and get behind,” Hortman said.
A couple of the DFL priorities this session include allowing more people to buy into the MinnesotaCare health coverage program, and pushing for paid family and medical leave for all employees.
“When you think about all the things we’re trying to accomplish, across a broad array of issue areas, the question we’ll ask at the end of session is: ‘Have we made it easier for Minnesotans to afford their lives?” Hortman said.
However, Hortman says it’s too early to say whether these proposals, if passed, would result in tax increases.
“First we’ll take a look at all the places we’re currently spending money, and whether that money is being effectively spent,” she said. “And we’ll look at what the needs are.”
As House Speaker, it’s Hortman’s job to cater to the needs of her party. But she says she hasn’t forgotten about her constituency in Brooklyn Park and Coon Rapids
“The way that I keep in really close touch with what’s going on with my constituents is I read all my own email so I know what people are raising to me,” she said.
One other point Speaker Hortman brought up was the possibility of raising the gas tax to pay for transportation needs. The legislature has not raised the gas tax since 2008, and Hortman says policymakers have a responsibility to make an adjustment to that, considering that asphalt costs more now than it did in 2008.