Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The understatement of the year (so far).

In a remarkable bit of candor, a member of the Minnesota Senate has admitted that a bill he purportedly authored is "really stupid." According to the Bemidji Pioneer, Republican John Carlson, a freshman senator representing Bemidji, Minnesota, has pulled a bill that would have repealed Minnesota's Pay Equity Act. The Pay Equity Act is eliminates gender-based wage disparities in public employment in Minnesota local governments.

As you might imagine, Senator Carlson’s bill caused a bit of a stir. The Pioneer ran an editorial against the bill and Senator Carlson wrote an op-ed opinion defending it on February 15.

Since his op-ed, Senator Carlson changed his view of the bill. He recently told a group of Minnesota teachers that he pulled the bill. He also apologized for authoring the bill. I am not sure he should have apologized for that since the Pioneer’s article makes it seem like he did not, in fact, author the bill. How does the article do that? By presenting Senator Carlson’s admission that he didn't know what the bill did. Senator Carlson said “What I was told by the League of Minnesota Cities was not to worry about it as it’s not about fair pay for women. It’s about some onerous reporting problems and it costs a lot.” So, because his interest group said that the bill he wanted to repeal was not about pay equity (despite the name of the bill), Senator Carlson just went along with what he was told. It apparently did not occur to him that the cost in question was, you know, paying women as much as men. Nor did it occur to him to check.

To his credit, Senator Carlson admits that he “didn’t do [his] homework very well.” One might suggest, that he did not do his homework at all. However, we should keep in mind that, as Senator Carlson puts it, “When you’re new in the Legislature, the learning curve is unbelievably steep and we honestly don’t know what we don’t know.” I can certainly agree that we often don’t know what we don’t know. However, I would have assumed that the “author” of a piece of legislation might know what his bill actually does.


  1. And I agree it falls in the category of things not taught in legislation



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