Speaker Zellers apologizes to the House

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

A somber Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers apologized to House members today (Friday, May 20) for comments made by a visiting cleric.

“Members, I can only ask for your forgiveness,” Zellers said of allowing Rev. Bradlee Dean to offer the morning prayer.

“You will have my commitment that this type of person will never, ever be allowed on the House floor again as long as I have the honor of serving as your Speaker,” said Zellers.

“You have my commitment, you have my sincere apology,” he said.

Dean, a right-wing talk show radio personality, in his prayer mentioned that House prayer was suppose to be nondenominational but cited “the head of the denomination and his name is Jesus.”

Dean took a prayerful swing at Democratic President Barrack Obama.

“As every President up until 2008 has acknowledged,”  said Dean of recognizing the primacy of the Christian God.

Another prayer was offered after Dean finished, but House members were upset.

Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, rose on the House floor to say he thought prayers were a time for the House to come together.

“Some of you who are standing near me can see I’m shaking right now because I’m mad. I thank you for restarting (the House floor session). I thank you for listening,” said Morrow. “I thank you all as we move forward and renew a commitment that this cannot happen again,” he said.

Zellers indicated he agreed with Morrow’s sentiments.

Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton said later he had not personally witness the prayer episode, but had heard about it. “Hatred has no place in the Minnesota Capitol, and certainly not on the House and Senate floors,” Dayton said.

After a bill signing, Dayton spoke of his meetings with Republican leaders and committee chairs this morning.

He indicated the standoff over revenue — the governor wants an additional $1.8 billion in revenue while Republicans refuse to raise taxes — persists as the session clicks down to its final day on Monday.

He wasn’t going to “cave” on his position, said Dayton. “It’s not going to happen,” he said.

Republican leaders are expected to meet with Dayton again this afternoon.

The recently passed Republican omnibus budget bills have not yet reached his desk, Dayton explained.

He indicated again that he wants an overall budget agreement with the Republicans leaders before he’ll consider their budget bills.

Dayton met this morning with House K-12 Finance Committee Chairman Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, and Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, to discuss the omnibus K-12 finance bill.

Although the governor indicated that some of the administration’s concerns have been addressed in the bill, Dayton criticized it for picking on the cities of St. Paul, Duluth, and Minneapolis.

Dayton refused to talk about making preparations for a government shutdown should the budget standoff linger into summer.

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