Sparks takes heat on vote; Republicans accuse Austin senator of lying

Published 10:56 am Friday, June 10, 2016

Republicans are accusing a local senator of lying about his vote in the closing moments of this year’s legislative session.

The accusations center around whether District 27 Sen. Dan Sparks, DFL-Austin, intentionally misrepresented his vote on the amendment, which, according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press,  added local funding for a Southwest Light Rail project.



After the Legislature adjourned, Republicans took issue with Sparks’ following statement that was published in his column in the May 29 edition of the Herald: “I want my constituents to know that though I understand the need to address important transit corridors in the metro and why some of my colleagues needed this issue addressed, I voted against their amendment to the final bill. I knew that we had limited time and worried that we would not be able to get the revision processed. Due to that concern, I needed to stand up for the interests of our district and vote no. Unfortunately, the House did adjourn before the bill made it back to them for approval.”

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Sparks voted no in an initial voice vote, but ended up standing in support of the bill later that night.

Freeborn County GOP Party Chairman Brian Hensley said video showed someone coming to Sparks and telling him to vote yes, noting he thinks Sparks only admitted voting yes once the Rochester Post-Bulletin ran an article on the subject.

“He says he will take responsibility for it, but how?” Hensley said. “It killed the bonding bill.”

District 32 Sen. Sean Nienow, R-Cambridge, on Twitter also accused Sparks of lying.

Sparks said he was referring to his no vote in a voice vote in his column, noting he took responsibility and was sorry for any confusion caused by the situation.



Hensley said Sparks referring to his no vote in a voice vote did not matter because it was not the final vote, noting he thought by doing so Sparks was “flat-out lying.”

He said there was a lot of confusion and excess noise on the floor in the closing moments of the legislative session, and he remained seated until standing up in support of the amendment because he was told that was the only way the bill could be passed. He said he had been told it was part of the agreement between Senate Democrats and House Republicans.

He accepted responsibility for standing up in support of the bill, noting he believes he should have done a little more research into the issue before voting.

Hensley said to him it is clear Sparks is always one of the last to vote and makes sure the DFL has enough votes to pass their bills.

“When it really matters he votes the way Gov. Dayton and Sen. Bakk tell him to and not how southern Minnesota residents elected him to vote,” Hensley said.

Sparks disputed Hensley’s assertion that he had misrepresented his position.

“People’s trust is way too important,” Sparks said.

Hensley said on the most important vote of the session, Sparks either made an honest mistake or he did what the DFL party leaders wanted him to do and lied in columns.

“Either way, I think we really have to question if it’s not time for a new senator from District 27,” Hensley said.

Sparks claimed Republican accusations were about political game playing, noting he believes he has been successful in delivering local bonding projects.

He said legislative leaders are slated to meet Wednesday to discuss a possible special session.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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