Thursday, December 14, 2006

Expulsion for Mark Olson?

Here's a story from a Coon Rapids publication. I would expect that if Olson is found guilty, he would resign before facing expulsion by the House.

Expulsion from Legislature possible in Mark Olson matter
Tuesday, 12 December 2006
by T.W. Budig
ECM capitol reporter

Whether Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, could face expulsion from the House if found guilty of misdemeanor domestic abuse charges against him seems a possibility.

On Thursday (Dec. 7) the House Republican caucus suspended Olson from the caucus.

According to House Minority Leader Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, to vote to suspend Olson was unanimous. It means Olson cannot use House Republican resources, nor vote with the caucus.

If found innocent, his standing within the caucus could be re-evaluated, Seifert explained.

Seifert said he would not discuss the hypotheticals of the Olson case — it could play out for weeks and have a dozen possible conclusions, he explained.

Crossing the line

But Seifert also indicated that should Olson be found guilty of domestic abuse charges, that’s crossing a line. “I don’t think the Legislature is a place for domestic abusers,” he said.

Olson doesn’t believe his problem reflects on the Republican House caucus.

People make distinctions between individuals and parties — lumping them together is something the media does, Olson recently argued. “It’s not their (the House caucus’) mistake,” Olson said.

Indeed, Olson dismisses the idea that Republican Congressman Mark Foley — a focus in the recent U.S House page scandal — negatively impacted Minnesota Republican candidates last election. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,” he said of the scandal’s influence.

Although it’s likely no member has ever been expelled from the House, the process for lawmakers removing one of their own exists.

The state constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote for expulsion, but is silent in setting thresholds.

A definition of what constitutes an action meriting expulsion is left unaddressed.

Expulsion attempts

Attempts at expulsion have been made.

In 1929 the Minnesota Senate took a vote to expel Sen. Ambrose Lennon, convicted of illegally handling liquor in the days of Prohibition.

The House in 1986 took a vote to expel Rep. Randy Staten, of Minneapolis, embroiled in a bad check writing scandal.

The action failed, but Staten was subsequently censured.

It was believed the censure was the first meted by the Minnesota House.

Controversies stemming from elections have resulted in sworn House members being ousted by their colleagues.

One such instance occurred in 1969 when Rep. Barney Bischoff, of St. Louis County, was voted out of the House.

It was deemed that Bischoff’s newspaper and radio ads were “deliberately made with the intentions of deceiving the electorate.”

Other such actions have been taken.I

n some cases, lawmakers facing ethics problems have resigned or chosen not to run for office again, ending the political drama at the Capitol.

House Speaker-elect Margaret Anderson Kelliher issued a statement last week on the House Republican caucus’ decision to suspend Olson.

“We respect any decision from the House Republicans pertaining to their own internal affairs,” she said.

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