Freshman Rep Applebaum Takes One on the Chin

In boxing, the determining factor in a fighter’s career is figuring out if he can take a punch, meaning after taking a shot to the head if he can get up and clear his shake off the cobwebs and perform and this is the situation for freshman Rep Jon Applebaum (DFL-44B, Minnetonka).

Yesterday, Applebaum experienced his first his first rude awakening and that is Republicans do not play nice and when pressed circle their wagons quickly. During a meeting of the House Higher Education Policy and Finance Committee Applebaum present two bills HF820 and HF 1716. The first called for a “Merit based grant program” and the later an “Income tax credit for student loan payments”. Both seems somewhat innocuous, but it is clear the second bill was not seen this way in Republican eyes.

After concise testimony from University of Minnesota-Twin Cities (MSA) President Joelle Stangler, a long winded ramble from Ashely Hall Vice-President of Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) at the U of MN and Minnesota College Student Association (MNCSA) President Kerri Maleski Applebaum fielded questions from his colleagues.

Initially, it was expected the bill would be heard a easily passed on to the Tax Committee, but this was not to be its fate.

During Applebaum’s testimony Rep. Drew Christensen (56B, Burnsville), he too a freshman, a twenty-one year old who stills lives in his parents home, asked if Applebaum’s bill was intended to taken from a person’s tax liability or could result in direct payments from the state to existing loans holders. He also asked if there was a Fiscal note to accompany the bill. We learn from staff this would not require a Fiscal note, but rather a Revenue note, which we occur in the Tax Committee.

Applebaum sought to defend the principle that all student debt was a burden, a detriment to a person’s economic future and sought to remedy this through state assistance. Applebaum appeared to defend the idea of more disposable income for a person would help reinvigorate the economy. Then Rep. Marion O’Neil (R-29B, Maple Lake) asked if Applebaum had considered a limit to the benefit, meaning she has a similar bill and her contained a 5-year limit. Applebaum, had a more freewheeling approach and sought not to limit the bill at this time and just try to foster a discuss in support of the concept.

O’Neil seemed to be telegraphing the punch and informing Applebaum her bill would be more palatable to her Republican colleagues.

Then when the matter came up for a vote Chairman Bud Nornes (R-08A, Fergus Falls) ruled the bill passed on a voice vote and O’Neil piped up and called for a division, effectively superseding the chair. It is worth noting O’Neil has a bit more weight than due her colleagues, because her older brother, Rep. Brian Daniels (R-24B,Fairbault) whom she recruited to run against Rep. Patti Fritz (DFL-Fairbault).

In a show of hands the bill failed on a partisan vote and even Chair Nornes voted against the bill on the prevailing side. This was a surprise since Nornes is a second line signer on the bill. Usually, if something like this were to occur the chair would give the author a heads up. Apparently, that didn’t happen and Nornes, who appeared somewhat befuddled, didn’t give Applebaum that courtesy, but maybe he didn’t expect things turn turn so quickly or dramatically. The Republicans do not seem interested in advancing any issue with an unclear price tag even when it is set to be determined in another committee.

Now the question is will Applebaum take this lying down or get back up and fight?

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