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Public Workers, Lawmakers In Heated Debate Over Raises At Capitol

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) -- Discussion over union contracts led to some tense moments during a subcommittee hearing at the Capitol.

Republican State Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca is the chair and is also running for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District. Earlier this week, Parry accused Governor Dayton of being a "pill popper" and a "scary man for the state of Minnesota."

On Thursday, the Republican took heat from DFL lawmakers when he threatened to clear the room after union members laughed.

The hearing was filled with public workers, and up for discussion was whether or not to approve new contracts for union members with AFSCME and MAPE. But after threatening to clear the room, it was Senator Parry's leadership that was debated.

"I feel like you are not showing proper respect to the people in the room," said Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley).

Parry responded, "when you run a committee Representative Winkler, you can have your rules. But until you do, we live by my rules in this committee."

That was just the beginning. A few minutes later, Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) accused Senator Parry of "editorializing" while lawmakers were asking questions:

Lille: Is that allowed in the Senate?
Parry: When you are chair, it is.
Lillie: So all is good and fair in love and war in the Senate?
Parry: I guess that's what it is.
Lillie: It's probably a blessing you are down to your last three meetings. I figure you will milk this for three days of per diem perhaps.
Parry: We will take a 10 minute recess.

Parry left the room and when the hearing reconvened 10 minutes later, the tension had subsided. But afterwards, Winkler wasn't done questioning Parry's leadership.

"I think if people are in a meeting and they are being fair and reasonably well-behaved, and they laugh at something they think is funny, and then to threaten to clear the room, I think that's not a civil way to handle it," said Winkler.

Parry disagreed.

"I let the sparring go maybe a little bit too long between the representatives and all. And I just felt it was time just to slow it down and the best way to do that is to call a recess," said Senator Parry.

Lawmakers did not vote on the contracts as union members had hoped, but Parry said they would definitely vote on the contracts on August 23.

If they vote in favor of the contracts, they will go into effect immediately. If they vote them down, they will go for a full legislative vote in January.

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