The student news site of Stillwater Area High School

Potential power shift shakes legislature

November 14, 2016

Power Shift in the Legislature InfographicSince the beginning of this year, the focus of the election has been on the presidential candidates. Although this is a very important topic, the elections for US House, US Senate and State legislature are also very important. Over the past few years there has been a focus on the national legislature, since recently there has been a lot of political grid-lock in Washington. Locally, there has been some political grid-lock in St. Paul as well. With the upcoming election there is a potential for the majority to become less Republican and for the “power” to be equally distributed. There is also a need for a majority change, since the outcome of the presidential election was Republican, so the Congress needs to be more Democrat in order for there to be less grid-lock.

Since 2011, the legislature has shifted from majority Democrat to majority Republican, which happened to be toward the end of Obama’s first term. At the beginning of Obama’s first term, the national legislature had been majority Democrat.

National government in the 2016 election

Since the shift toward majority Republican, there has been an increase in political grid-lock. As published in an article by Pacific Standard Magazine, “…according to a Brookings Institution report, more than 70 percent of key political issues went unlegislated from 2011 to 2012”. During this time, the Senate majority was Republican and the House majority was Democrat. Because the two parties don’t hold the same beliefs and opinions, they couldn’t seem to agree on anything, which was a major problem.

According to Election Projection, the House is predicted to remain majority Republican, but they are also predicted to lose 16 seats to the Democrats. The site also states that the US Senate election is predicted to come out with a majority Republican as well. The Senate is predicted to lose only two GOP seats, but they still may maintain the lead.

I feel like it’s beneficial because it helps prevent bias for one side in the government.”

— Flora Sherr-Nelson

The Republican majority is also in contrast to President Obama, who is a Democrat. Since the President is the head of the Executive branch of the government, and Congress makes up the Legislative branch, the divide in Congress is made worse. It may seem as though the two Democrat branches would make it easier for bills to be passed, it actually makes it harder. Since the House is majority Democrat, they pass bills that comply with their beliefs. These bills then proceed to the Republican majority congress, most of which get shot down. The few that remain then get passed on the the President who narrows down the list even more, and finally, very few bills are made laws. Junior Flora Sherr-Nelson said, “I feel like it’s beneficial because it helps prevent bias for one side in the government.”

When the two national heads of legislature don’t agree on almost anything, there is a major problem. Even though they don’t agree on certain issues doesn’t mean they can’t come up with a compromise. Political grid-lock is detrimental to the citizens, as they are the people directly affected by these bills that were unable to make it past the House and Senate.

With the 2016 election, a major concern is another two years of political grid-lock, with nothing being accomplished. This is reflected in the prediction that the Republicans will lose 16 seats, since voters are beginning to believe less in what their contested legislator does. Without a divide between the Senate and the House, there is a potential for more to be passed and agreed upon.

On a larger scale, a smaller divide between the Legislative and Executive branches would increase the number of bills passed as well. If there were more bills being passed in one branch it would increase the number of bills being passed in total, since more bills reach the President. That is not to say that the Executive branch and the Legislative branch should be the same party, as that would make the bills being passed extremely one-sided.

As Sherr-Nelson said, it is beneficial to the government, since there is no extreme majority or minority party in the government, but there does need to be less of an extreme divide between the parties in order for progress to be made.

Local government in the 2016 election

Locally, a goal of this year’s election is to increase the number of bills being passed. Stillwater’s district, 39B, has two people running for the State House of Representatives, Alan Kantrud and Kathy Lohmer. Lohmer is the GOP candidate, and has been the Representative since 2010, whereas Kantrud is the DLF candidate and a newcomer to politics.

Stillwater is included in district 39 for the Senate race which also has two people running, Karin Housley and Sten Hakanson. GOP candidate Housley had been in the state Senate since 2012 and DFL candidate Hakanson is a newcomer to government office, but is a member of multiple boards and committee’s involving the public.

This past House session, little to no major bills were passed, all during the time Kathy Lohmer was representing this district. Locally, there is also a divide between the Senate and the House, so a problem similar to the national gridlock arose. When nothing gets done on a state level and a national level, the community suffers. Locally, since there was no major transportation bill passed, the Departement of Transportation had little money to fund public works projects.

Results and what they mean for the future

On election day, Kathy Lohmer and Karin Housley were elected and the Minnesota House majority party remains Republican. Nationally the Congress remains Republican. The Senate lost three Republican seats and the House lost 14 Republican seats, but even with the losses Republican’s were still  able to hold the majority.

The fact that the majority of local and national government is largely representative of Republicans is astounding. With Donald Trump winning the Presidential election and the majority’s being Republican that means that a large portion of our government is run by Republicans. The government has not been this one-sided for a very long time.

When a government mainly represents one party’s political views and beliefs, it can be detrimental to society since an entire population’s opinions are being drowned out by the majority. Just because a majority agree’s with some perspectives does not mean the entire population agree’s.

To some people, however, there is a plus side. Some may say that since there is not a disagreement in congress majorities there is an opportunity for more bills to be passed, especially since the executive branch is of the same party.

Just because more bills are able to be passed does not mean that those bills are what is right for our nation. With the Executive branch agreeing with the Legislative branch, that only means that more bills that are in line with the Republican agenda will be passed. That is not to say that everything that Republicans believe in is wrong, its just to say that many people don’t feel represented by those opinions, and that it is dangerous to have one side represented so heavily over the other.

The 2016 election has been a roller coaster for everyone. The fact that the government so heavily represents Republicans is a very sobering fact, especially in a liberal state such as Minnesota. Even though that side is represented more, that does not mean that  everything is over for the Democrats. America was built on democracy, which means that everyone’s voices can be heard not just those of the majority. In the future, there will be less political grid-lock an hopefully, congress-men and -women are able to hear each other out and come together to decide what is best for the country, not just for themselves or their represented party. At the end of the day, we are all Americans, and that’s what the people need to focus on.


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Comments (5)

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  • H

    Hailey WilliusJan 18, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Hannah is so talented in crafting an article without needing to shove her opinion down your throat. Powerful information to back up a well thought out article

  • A

    Abby BanksJan 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

    This was a great article. The information on local politics was great, especially since so many people are so wrapped up in politics at the national level. Everything was so well explained, and the bit of hope in the end was nice to hear! My only comment would be that there were a few grammar errors.

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    Emma LoweyNov 22, 2016 at 6:04 pm

    This is a really well written article. It flowed very well and was very informative. This topic is very important to remind students and community members about the importance of local government, which has been severely overlooked with the recent presidential election. It stayed a very neutral course, not being biased to one specific party. A very good job connecting student opinion and input as well.

  • M

    Megan RambergNov 22, 2016 at 2:25 pm

    Very informational article, considering this kind of stuff tends to fly under the radar and go unnoticed! Great use of facts and statistics, and I love how every paragraph ties into each other.

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    Anna KoenningNov 20, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    This is a great article! It’s very informative, which is important because many high school students don’t know very much about local elections or their effect on the community. The headline immediately grabs the reader, and the article really follows through in explaining how the legislature is shaking. I love the final sentence, because it acknowledges the turmoil of the current political situation while recognizing that we are still Americans working together. The article is also written very well, and it does a good job of relating politics to high school students.