Yesterday, I reported State Senator David Hann (R-Eden Prairie), the Minority Leader in the Minnesota Senate, had been asked to resign his leadership position by members of the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus (MN SRC). Sources I spoke with yesterday afternoon and again today said Hann has been asked to resign due to his vote against the tax bill and his comments to the media after the vote. A Republican state senator, who spoke with me yesterday on a condition of anonymity, said “yes, I do”, when asked if they wanted Hann to resign as leader.
The MN SRC has scheduled a caucus meeting for tomorrow evening. Republican senators I spoke with said caucus meetings of the MN SRC are usually scheduled for Wednesdays and are held in the conference room on the 1st floor of the State Office Building, where the official offices of the MN SRC are located.
A caucus meeting on a Monday evening is unusual for the MN SRC and tomorrow’s meeting will be held at a location away from State Capitol Complex. I’ve been provided with the specific location of tomorrow’s meeting, but I’m not disclosing the location. The location of the caucus meeting is at a personal residence, which has been used in the past to allow for the caucus to have open discussions and debate, in private.
Last Friday, Hann was one of only two Republican senators that voted against the tax bill, the other being State Senator Dave Brown (R-Becker). In a caucus meeting on Friday morning before the vote on the tax bill, Brown informed the members of the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus that he would be voting against the tax bill. Hann gave no advance notice to the members of his caucus that he would be voting against the bill.
The tax bill was authored by Senator Rod Skoe (DFL-Clearbrook), the chair of the Senate Tax Committee and since Hann is the Minority Leader in the Minnesota Senate, he was the last Republican senator to speak about the bill before Skoe spoke and the final vote was taken. It is customary for the author of the legislation being voted on by the entire Minnesota Senate to be provided the opportunity to speak last, therefore Hann spoke as the Minority Leader and then Skoe spoke as the author of the tax bill and the debate ended. Hann did not disclose in his final remarks that he would be voting against the tax bill.
Another Republican senator I spoke with today on a condition of anonymity, expressed “extreme frustration” that Hann was the last senator present in the chamber of the Minnesota Senate to cast their vote. By being the last senator to vote, Hann again gave no advance warning of his intention to vote against the tax bill and after he voted, the President of the Minnesota Senate instructed the Secretary of the Senate to immediately close the roll and the vote total was announced.
The voting board in the Minnesota Senate on the tax bill was open for almost two minutes and if Hann had posted his vote earlier, other members of the MN SRC could have changed their vote or discussed with Hann, why he was voting against the bill, according to the Republican senator I spoke with today. Please watch the video below, which confirms the Republican senator’s version of events and shows Hann being the last senator to vote.
As the Republican leader in the Minnesota Senate, it would be customary for Hann (or any caucus leader) to disclose their vote to the caucus, especially, if the vote would differ from the majority of votes cast by the membership of the caucus. The anger from the senators I spoke with over Hann’s vote against the majority of his caucus was amplified by comments made by Hann to the Associated Press and the messaging in a press release sent out by the MNSRC after the final vote on the tax bill.
Hann was quoted by the Associated Press as describing the tax bill as “…part of a huge tax increase.” A press release sent out by the MNSRC’s press secretary Katie Fulkerson said the tax bill, which 23 Republican state senators voted for “…results in a net $1.7 billion tax increase for the biennium.”
Compounding the messaging confusion, Hann appeared on Sue Jeffers’ radio show yesterday and discussed his vote on the tax bill. Jeffers said the tax bill contained “bad stuff” and she was “furious” about some of the bill’s specifics, adding she “would have voted ‘no'” on the tax bill. Hann said he voted against the bill, describing his decision as a “protest vote.” The Republican senators I spoke with said the problem with Hann’s appearance on Jeffers’ radio show is that Jeffers vigorously complained about the tax bill, which 23 Republican state senators had supported, but Hann – the Republican leader in the Minnesota Senate – offered a weak defense of why someone would support the tax bill.
It appears, the messaging coming from the MN SRC on the tax bill is focused more on why Hann voted against the bill, rather than why the majority of the caucus supported the bill. The strategy of the MN SRC differs greatly from the message of the Minnesota House Republican Caucus, who’s message focused on Republican house members voting to “undo” mistakes of Democrats in the Minnesota Legislature.
Messaging and voting snafus have tripped up other Republican leaders in the Minnesota Senate in the past. In 1997, the Minority Leader in the Minnesota Senate, Senator Dean Johnson (R-Willmar), apologized in a private caucus meeting and in writing to members for flip-flopping on whether he supported adding slot machines at Canterbury Park to fund a new baseball stadium for the Minnesota Twins. Earlier that same year, Johnson faced criticism from his Republican caucus members after he voted against an education tax-credit plan proposal promoted by Republican Governor Arne Carlson. In July of 1997, Johnson resigned from his leadership position in the Minnesota Senate.
While Hann has been asked to resign, the Republican senators I spoke with said it is more likely he will face an unpleasant caucus meeting, where he will be asked to explain his vote and the messaging from the MN SRC, rather than a vote to remove him as caucus leader. Communications staff at the MN SRC did not respond to repeated requests seeking comment for this story. Please check back to politics.mn for additional information as more develops on this story.