Governmental identity crisis

Cal Bahr
Guest Columnist

How many times have we heard “We live in a democracy”? Or “It’s a constitutional republic”? Or some combination of “republic,” “democracy,” “constitutional” or “representative”?

Each of these words has an exact meaning. When misused, whether intentionally or not, they convey an unintended meaning.

Example: We elect representatives to all levels of government in a democratic fashion, yet we are not a representative democracy. So what are we? What form of government do we or did we have?

The answer lies in who is the sovereign.

In a democracy, sovereignty lies with the whole. In a representative democracy, those elected to represent a portion of the whole may implement any law they wish as long as 50 percent plus one agree. An example could be that on Tuesdays, everyone must wear a shirt of a certain color, or any money earned in excess of a specific amount will be seized by the government and spent however the representative body agrees to.

In a republic, sovereignty lies with the individual. Each of us may decide for ourselves what is right or wrong, what color clothes to wear and the disposition of our earnings. We may choose to surrender a select portion of our sovereignty to a larger body – a state or a city, for example. When we, as individuals do, write down what we surrender or delegate in the form of a constitution, anything not surrendered is retained by default.

What are we? We are a constitutional republic.

Article 4, Section 4 of the Federal Compact guarantees each state in the union a republican form of government.
You are the sovereign! You did not delegate away all of your rights and responsibilities, only those things listed in either the state or federal constitutions.

Article 1, Section 8 of the Federal Compact lists those things delegated to the federal government. Those things delegated to the state government are listed by article in the Minnesota Constitution.

Give both a read. Decide for yourself if we are being represented as a constitutional republic or a representative democracy. One is following the law, the other is not.

Words mean things.

Tax relief

A priority of mine in St. Paul that you likely heard from me on the campaign trail is my desire to put more money back in the pockets of Minnesotans, instead of in state government’s coffers. In April, the House passed a tax relief bill that provides $1.35 billion in tax credits and deductions aimed at helping our students, seniors, business owners, and middle class families. While I would like to see even greater tax relief for Minnesotans, this bill is a good start toward getting more money back to the folks who worked so hard to earn it.

Some of the bill’s highlights:

–$269 million in relief for Minnesota’s senior citizens by increasing the income limit at which social security income is taxable. Under current law, seniors making more than $32,000 for a married couple or $25,000 for an individual must pay taxes on social security income. Under the House proposal, that threshold would increase to $61,000 for a married couple and $46,500 for a single filer in tax year 2018 and $72,000 for a married couple and $56,000 for a single filer in tax year 2019. As a result, by 2019 nearly 284,000 senior citizen tax returns (single and married filing jointly) would be eligible to receive a tax exemption on their social security benefits with an average tax reduction of $710.
–More than $125 million to address college affordability through a first-in-the-nation tax credit for student loan payments. Through the student debt tax credit, 77,500 students will receive on average a $640 reduction in their taxes.
–$35 million for families with young children by modifying the child and dependent care credit. A family of four earning $50,000 a year will receive an addition $1,200 toward their child care expenses.
–$100 million in direct property tax relief for homeowners.
–$203 million in relief for hometown businesses by exempting the first $200,000 in property value from the extra tax on businesses and freezing its automatic inflator.

I am hopeful that the governor and the Senate will join the efforts of the House to get this bill signed into law as soon as possible.

I want to thank you again for allowing me to serve you in St. Paul. If you ever have any questions, comments, or concerns regarding any issue related to state government, please feel free to contact me.

Cal Bahr is the representative for House District 31B.