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 Response Page - David Senjem  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
David Senjem Interview of

The Questions:

_6.3 average_____ 1.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether elected officials in Minnesota should concentrate more on strategies specifically designed to support job creation in the private sector rather than on cutting or raising taxes? 

_4.5 average_____ 2.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether--because of strong opposition--it is futile to spend time trying to reform the precinct caucus system in Minnesota?

_6.1 average _____ 3.  On a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, what is your view on whether the length of Minnesota legislative sessions should be shortened?

Wayne Jennings (7) (3) (3)

Chuck Slocum (10) (5) (10)

Question 1: Tax policy is a part of any such job creation strategy, however.

Question 2: Nothing is entirely futile and since the system is the building block of the political process—Combined with the Primary and General Election campaigns—you have to pay attention to it.

Question 3: This is possible but a $32B two year budget does take some time to oversee, etc.

Donald H. Anderson (8) (10) (5)

Sen. Senjem seems to have a different focus on what is needed in Minnesota at this time - less partisanship, more working together. 

Ray Schmitz (8) (8) (10)

Question 1:   The focus on taxes as the enemy of jobs is distracting, value for taxes has always been significant in MN, but we have lost that leg of the stool.  Your question could be interpreted as the current trend, as with the IBM facility that Dave mentioned, of incentives to move or attract businesses, and that somehow has to be ended.  The current move a business from the suburbs to downtown St. Paul is a good example of strange priorities.

Question 2:   This is an institution, what real harm is there in it continuing, the party's still control the ultimate decisions.

Question 3:   Shortening is not the total answer, eliminating the global bills, returning to single issue legislation, and holding hearings throughout the year would make much more sense.  Today the time commitment during the session is impossible for either the representatives or persons interested in influencing legislation.

Carolyn Ring (8) (5)(10)

Question 1:  Jobs, jobs, jobs create more taxes.  

Question 2:  Getting people to participate in caucuses has been a problem as long as I have been in politics.  If, a good cross section attends, the caucus system can be effective and back in the 60's and early 70's it did work quite well.  Currently, the numbers attending are not great, but the extremes of both major parties are attending and making the decisions.  I remember being in Hubbard County in 1985 trying to recruit good candidates.  One of the former party leaders said to me, "I don't go to caucuses nor does anybody else that isn't from that "nut group."  He said we used to have about 100 people there and now there is about 15. I said, "Why don't you get 16 to go and outnumber them?" Oh, he said" they're so nutty no one wants to be with them."  You can't fight the system if you are not willing to participate.

Question 3:  To get full time legislators to vote for it would be more than a little difficult.  For many current legislators it's the best or only job they have ever had, and they are not about to give it up!

Fred Senn (6) (1) (5)

Don Fraser (_) (_) (0)

Question 1:  I'm trying to recall a job creating entity that moved here from
somewhere else. Why would they? We used to say that that we had two
things going for us - our weather and our education. The weather isn't
always a plus, so we're left with education. The enterprises we have had
in the past grew here. And that will continue if we invest in education.
So the tax argument doesn't make much sense to me. We need to be a high
functioning state. Watching one of my sons develop two advanced
technology start-ups has been instructive. Taxes aren't remotely
relevant until he gets the companies going and they become profitable.

Question 2:  Our political parties need to do better - but "reform" of the precinct
caucuses is far too vague a term. What we need is to find ways to
encourage more thoughtful people to take an active role in our political
life. That's a real need, but finding the ways to accomplish this
deserves far more thought than we have given it.

Robert A. Freeman (7) (8) (3)

Question 1: The state is not good at picking winners and losers but it should concentrate on ensuring our quality of life as well as a business-friendly climate, since the two go hand in hand.  We have not done a good job of doing both over the years - Silicon Valley should have been in MN, not CA.  The bioscience revolution is likely going to pass us by for the same reasons.  We need to get away from a view that tax cuts to business are corporate welfare and focus on how we can work together to make our state's business climate stronger.

Question 3:   It is better to have longer sessions in odd years because it gives new legislators a chance to learn the ropes - we have had huge freshman classes these last few years and those informational hearings have been invaluable.  However long or short the legislative session is it is guaranteed it will go down to the wire in the last few days. 

James L. Weaver (0) (10) (10)

Terry Stone (5) (0) (10)

In terms of intellectual substance, this interview was exceptional by any standard. Senjem carries an objectivity of policy intent that should make him annoying to both parties; simply excellent. Authentic solid ideas have a certain look and feel to them and Mr. Senjem presents them with no soy filler.

 David's statement that a major problem with recruiting candidates, “is that the real candidates you want can't do it. They have a career to attend to.”, has real consequence. There is an inverse relationship between the public need for expertise in governance and the quality of the people available to fulfill that need. The available pool from which to draw seems heavily weighted toward retired folks, the otherwise unemployed, highly motivated ideologues and front men for interest groups.

Question 1: This appears to be another well-intentioned (and frequent) false dichotomy. Cutting taxes is part of a strategy specifically designed to support job creation.  Cutting taxes also protects existing jobs and removes impediments to free market equilibrium while reducing the welfare overburden along with the size of government.

Question 2: A fix to the caucus fiasco is fundamental. The political gargoyles of both major parties are adorning the henhouse. For this very reason, a non-partisan program of public education must be incorporated into a civics lesson on steroids. Other items to be included in the lesson plan are the evils of dedicated funding, the perils of micromanagement by referendum, the extent to which interest groups will fill any vacuum created by apathy or lethargy and the relationship between single party dominance and accountability.

Question 3: Legislative sessions should be shortened. In 2009, 4,573 bills were introduced. After 151 years of statehood, I find it unlikely that Minnesota is in need of 4,573 new laws per year; or even the 179 bills that the House and the Senate could agree on; or even the 149 that became law.

The cocoa bean mulch bill, the naming of a publicly funded highway after a deceased member of the majority party, and a House Ethics Committee investigation of childish Twittering by a DFL legislator are all indications that the session was too long. The failure to pass an acceptable budget suggests that the legislature need not have met this year. North Dakota seems to suffer no pain from legislative sessions every other year. The idea that “North Dakota has a small population” is a correct but insufficient argument for Minnesota to ignore the possibility of biennial sessions.


Rick Bishop (8) (5) (2)


Charles Lutz (4) (3) (3)


Bob White (6) (5) (4)

Compared with other Caucus interviews, I found this one of limited value -- except for the interesting example of the biotech initiative north of Rochester.


Christine Brazelton (9) (2) (5)

Question 1: While tax rates have an impact on expansion of new business and creation of jobs, they are only one part of the equation, and not the most important part.  Quality of life, cost of living, educational preparation for specific types of businesses are also major components in the decision making process.
Question 2: Nothing is futile if the plans make sense and take into consideration the concerns of those opposed.

Question 3: No matter how much time is set aside, what is important is how it is used.  Too little time and we can't properly research the issues.  Too much time and it goes to waste.  Perhaps we need to be thinking about different ways to structure the sessions so that members who need to work another job can do both.  Committee meetings with public hearings taking up a larger share of the week with one floor session per week to vote on pending bills, or weighted towards more research early on and more floor sessions later, with a triage process involving leaders on both sides of the aisle to determine priorities.

We need to attract the best talent, and our current system sometimes attracts those who may be good campaigners but not the best legislators.  But that may be part of another issue altogether!


Shirley Heaton

Senjem's attitude about his recent session is tantamount to what I'm feeling about our current local GOP sessions, here, in Florida. Would you believe our leaders are stil bemoaning the November election rather than getting down to business of how to proceed in this current economic climate?


State Sen. Sandy Rummel (5) (5) (0)

Question 1:  Job creation is certainly important, and in the private sector preferable. There is more to legislation than budgets and taxes however. Policy legislation covers a wide spectrum of quality of life and justice issues that make the State attractive to business and individuals.

Question 2: Maybe there is opposition because people who participate in it like the personal involvement in the election process.

Question 3: As it is, the sessions are too short. With a part time legislature, the research, consensus building, and sheer volume of work is difficult to cover with meaningful outcomes given the current time lines.

Austin Chapman (5) (7) (9)

Andy Driscoll (0) (10) (0)

Question 1:  Good luck. Cutting taxes is sexy. Raising adequate revenue isn't. If the public sector is going to be involved in private sector job creation - instead of leaving it entirely to capital markets where it belongs - then we well better be ready to raise the revenues necessary to do this - and not the least of those revenues better go to stabilizing society's economic footing all along the income spectrum, including adequate food, shelter, health care, education, environmental integrity, infrastructure construction and maintenance - and not throwing money at CEOs and corporations as if that strategy ever really incentivized job creation rather than fattening the bottom line. When an adequately fed, housed, educated, healthy workforce – which is society's/government's role – is available for the jobs capital is creating, and the commons is created and maintained, the bottom line will take care of itself. Anytime government injects itself into "job creation," invariably, the result is an imbalanced competitive advantage for one corporation over others in the same industry - stifling the very competition required for stabilizing capitalism.

Too many corporate types these days have come to the same trough seeking the same money they scream bloody murder over its use for supporting poor people.

Question 2:  It depends on how one reforms the caucus system. All parties work the system in their own fashion. The party's are responsible for these reforms and will, one would think, reform the system when they lose elections because of it. The caucus system isn't the problem. It's about the conventions and the ethos that assumes you can defeat Minnesota's open primary by demanding unfettered fealty to an outmoded endorsement process. Challengers to endorsements are many and often successful, challengers that were originally rejected as endorsees purely because of their unwilling to take the pledge of loyalty too often demanded as sole criterion for endorsement. Ironically, once a challenger succeeds by defeating the party endorsee, the party comes a-wooing to rope the challenger in under the party umbrella once more. So much for loyalty oaths and hypocrisy. Now, of course, the DFL is far more like to experience such intra-party schism, but desperate and dysfunctional parties abound. Each party's rules need revision, but it remains a party responsibility.

Question 3:   Democracy is sloppy and messy and not easily reined in. Shorten the sessions. Stifle the voices.

Scott Halstead (5) (5) (10)

Question 1:  They are interrelated

Question 2: It is past time to elect a significant # of legislators that represent the citizens of Minnesota.

Question 3: 

1.  It is time for the unicameral legislature.

2.  Reduce the number of legislators by 50%.

3.  Reduce their rate of pay and reimbursement on a sliding scale after 60 days. 

4.  No pay and 50% reduction of reimbursement if called back into session by the Governor except for emergencies.

State Sen. Jim Carlson

I think it would be worthwhile for the "caucus" to do a little homework before an interview and call him when he gives a B.S. answer.

I was formerly under the understanding that your group had experienced managers and legislators as members or advisors.  The questions below seem to be written by someone who not only has no legislative experience, but probably can't even find the Capitol.

David Detert (10) (2) (1)

Paul Magnuson (8) (4) (8)

Jim Keller (0) (0) (10)

I believe job creation and tax policy are not mutually exclusive; I believe the business community would respond favorably to a tax policy that actually spread the tax over the general population, rather than imposing new taxes (for the benefit of the general public) on minorities, (smokers, drinkers, people making over 250k, business property, etc). Finally, I believe we would rid ourselves of many of these problems, (stemming from professional legislators), by moving to term limits!

Bert Press (10) (0) (10)

Al Quie (10) (0) (0)

Question 3: The problem is the organization of the legislature. Also, annual sessions never worked. Legislative Study Commissions between sessions would make the members more knowledgeable and less dependent on lobbyists.

David Broden (10) (5) (8)

Question 1: The job environment in any state and particularly in Mn must be first in setting the agenda for the role of government and how taxes are applied. If we do have a strong economic climate then the approach to government can be one direction if we are moving to a maintenance of the population state then we have a different environment. Mn is positioned to remain a job friendly state with a strong workforce, well educated population etc.--the issue is how do we maintain this position and only by having the jobs to keep the educated and trained workforce involved in the jobs and thus growing the economy. Jobs must lead--other things follow. 

Question 2: The weakness in the precinct caucus system in Mn is too often blamed on the role of government in setting the format for the caucuses. The caucus weakness is more the impact of the political parties, the leaders of the parties, and how citizens want to and can participate. Reform is futile but the change can and must come from the people who want government to work effectively and not by some abstract vision from the legislature. The political parties must be the leaders or lead through the candidates that participate no by ideology. Each party must evolve back to be focused on "good government first--politics second--not politics rules in all respects. 

Question 3: Shortened is a great goal however more important is finding a way to evolve the legislature to have more citizen legislators and move away from the professional members. There are various incentives for this to happen. It will take some real leadership from the people to make this happen.  The legislature itself cannot do this.

Ray Ayotte (10) (5) (7)

Bill Hamm (5)(5) (2)

This was not especially stimulating guys, take care.

Question 1: The question fails to accept that Minnesota's tax climate is a hindrance to job growth.

Question 2: The answer here totally lies in the facts of the proposed change. The concept of change for changes sake completely fails.

Question 3:  They can't get the work done now.

Glenn Dorfman (0) (10) (5)

None of these things makes any difference, Senjem doesn’t make any difference nor does the senate republican caucus. They vote for all the spending bills and in the end oppose the tax increases that the spending requires. We should not pay any of them since they do not stand for anything nor do they provide any constructive opposition.

Robert J. Brown (8) (0) (10)

The legislature went from a 60 day biennial session to 90 days to 120 days. At that point when I was there we came up with what we called the flexible session so those 120 days could be used over two years with a main session and some days held for emergency or unique problems in the off year.  Nick Coleman and I agreed later that this was the greatest mistake we made (both of us we key advocates of this change)as we allowed those who wanted full time jobs as legislators to subvert our intent and create a bureaucratic legislature more interested in preserving their jobs than serving the public.

Tom Swain (6) (5) (10)

Kent Eklund (5) (1) (2)

Bill Frenzel (3) (1) (9)

Clarence Shallbetter (8) (4) (7)

Question 3:  It takes considerable time for legislators to become informed about specific areas of legislation, whether complex policy areas such as health and welfare, education, taxes, or the budget. The challenge is to get the process moving earlier so that all the big decisions don't pile up for trading in the last week. The one advantage of shortening the session might be if it enabled more people to be part time citizen legislators.

Lyall Schwarzkopf (7) (9) (9)

Peter Hennessey (_) (_) (10)

Question 1:  What a false choice! How the heck can legislators "concentrate" on private sector job creation? The only thing they can do is make sure government does not hinder the private economy. And there is only one way they can do that: keep taxes low, regulations few and reasonable. The job of creating private sector jobs is the job of the private sector, not government.

Question 2:  I have never seen the caucus system myself. In a primary election system we still have the secret ballot. In a caucus you have to declare your stand to your neighbors. Seems to me, there would be people sensitive to criticism or reprisals. Would be interesting to study if the two methods return the same result.

Question 3: Yes, keep the miscreants out of session as long as possible. The more they are in session, the more they feel compelled to meddle and "reform." The shorter the session, the more they have to focus on the few important issues that are properly their concern, and waste less time on grandstanding.



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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