DEBATE: Poppe wants stricter requirements; Neitzell favors amendments

Published 11:57 am Thursday, October 4, 2012

The two constitutional amendments coming up for Minnesotans on the November ballot have garnered a lot of attention, and House candidate Nathan Neitzell would like to see more of them.

At a KSMQ/ Austin Daily Herald taped debate Tuesday afternoon between he and incumbent Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, Neitzell said amendments should be more prevalent on voters’ ballots in the years to come. The debate will be available at and aired on KSMQ later this month.

With the two amendments to the state constitution coming up in November, candidates were asked whether the requirements for sending an amendment to the ballot should be raised. Constitutional amendments ask the voters to decide an issue, taking it out of the Legislature’s hands. Right now, it needs a simple majority from the Legislature, and the governor cannot intervene.

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Neitzell, on the other hand, suggested the state should use constitutional amendments more often, and the criteria should be geared toward any major change that would affect everybody.

“I strongly disagree with the idea that lawmakers have the right to change our constitution or the way that the fiber of America has been put in place,” Neitzell said.

He highlighted the Affirmative Care Act, also known as Obamacare, as an example of a change that was “rammed through” on the national level without giving voters the chance to decide by popular vote. The same problem could take place on the state level if people are not given the chance to vote.

Poppe disagreed, pushing instead for tougher requirements.

“I really do believe that we should have a higher threshold,” Poppe said.

The point of having elected officials is to allow them to represent the residents of their district, she added. Constitutional amendments are a more permanent way to change the law than by passing bills in the Legislature, which may not be good for certain issues.

In response to other issues, Neitzell took a hands-off approach to bolstering small businesses and farmers.

“The best help that the government can do is to step back and let people run their lives,” he said.

He said he has asked many small business owners and farmers during his campaign what they were struggling with. The answer, he said, was “so many rules and regulations tying their hands that they can hardly even do their job without committing some kind of a felony.”

Neitzell pointed to the red tape as making it difficult for business owners and farmers to function, though he did not specify whether he supported farming subsidies from the state.

Poppe was in favor of subsidies, saying farmers were an integral part of society and the Legislature should do what it can to allow farmers to earn a profit and continue growing food.

Both candidates said they hoped to work in a bipartisan manner. Although Republicans and Democrats have already started to make major stances showing their differences, Neitzell said. If elected,he plans to work with unions and other groups of people to see what their complaints are.

The media may exaggerate the gridlock between the two political parties, Poppe said. Reaching across the aisle could depend on focusing on the common goals both parties have, such as giving children a good education and maintaining the state’s roads and bridges.

“We do have different philosophical ways of going about getting that done,” Poppe said. “But if we can try to figure out those commonalities … then we really do break down the differences.”

Roundtable air dates

Tom Stiehm and Dick Lang, Austin Mayor: 7 p.m. Oct. 30, 9:30 p.m. Oct. 31 and 9:30 p.m. Nov. 1 on KSMQ

Jeanne Poppe and Nathan Neitzell, House District 27B: 7:30 p.m. Oct. 30, 3:30 p.m. Nov. 3 and 4:30 p.m. Nov. 4 on KSMQ

Dan Sparks and Linden Anderson, District 27: 9 p.m. Oct. 31, 4 p.m. Nov. 3 and 5 p.m. Nov. 4 on KSMQ

—Videos will be posted on before the election.