The Potluck

Freshman Shakopee lawmaker jokes about getting HR complaint on first day

By: - January 21, 2021 3:07 pm

State Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee

Minnesota Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee, has already attracted considerable attention for a pandemic tour of Minnesota restaurants that stayed open in defiance of the executive orders of Gov. Tim Walz.

Now, in his first few weeks in the Legislature, he’s moved on to new provocations, drawing a human resource complaint for abusive language. He recently joked about getting an “HR complaint” on his first day on the floor of the House. He also laughed at a right-wing show host’s suggestion that government workers be “hanged” for enforcing Walz’s COVID-19 restrictions.

On a videotaped show called Action 4 Liberty, host Jake Duesenberg asked Mortensen, a freshman, “Did I hear right? Did you already get a complaint with HR on you?”

Mortensen laughed and said someone complained to House human resources because of how he spoke to House Speaker Melissa Hortman and a House aide at the dais. He didn’t share what he said.

Duesenberg replied that nobody cares because lawmakers have such low approval ratings, “so no one’s crying for them when you’re hurting somebody’s feelings.”

Multiple people have lectured Mortensen for going against the institution’s culture, he said. But he’s more convinced than ever that the system is so broken that “it’s going to take a very different approach to get anything done,” he said.

Hortman did not respond to a request for comment, and a spokesperson for Hortman said “I am not able to disclose or discuss the existence of any complaints, or their status.”

Later in the Action 4 Liberty interview, Mortensen talked about his bill that would make it a felony for a government agency to threaten to pull a business license for not complying with the governor’s executive orders, such as pandemic shutdown orders.

The host asked “Why can’t we just hang ‘em?”

Mortensen laughed and added, “I should send that to the House research staff to see what they say about that.”

When a listener suggested a firing squad instead, Mortensen laughed again.

Mortensen does not appear to have introduced such a bill yet, although he has introduced legislation that would suspend the salaries of the governor or state legislators when there is a peacetime emergency that restricts the operation of private businesses.

Mortensen made headlines before he even took office when he invited the attorney general and governor to a pandemic-defying party. He narrowly won his seat over Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Brad Tabke with the help of a potential pot party spoiler.


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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.