The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Local News

May 4, 2010

A Life Remembered: Roy Schulz' legacy felt at every turn

Longtime legislator was behind right-turn-on-red law

MANKATO — Anyone driving around Mankato will see tributes to the contemporaries of former state Rep. Roy Schulz, a rural Mankato farmer who died Saturday at the age of 89.

Drive up Val Imm Drive, for instance, or past Gage Towers or to Gus Johnson Plaza and you see names of lawmakers honored for their service in the Legislature around the same time Schulz served. Nothing was named for Schulz, as far as daughter Dawn Clouse knows, but drivers still might want to give him his due, maybe while killing time at a red light.

Anyone waiting to turn left could think of Schulz’s list of accomplishments stretching from K-12 education funding to driver safety, from being a voice at the Capitol for farmers to working toward the modern version of Minnesota State University.

Anyone looking to turn right after stopping at the red light will have only enough time — thanks to Schulz — to think of one of his legislative legacies: The legal right to turn right on red.

“It was sort of innovative way back when,” said Clouse of her father’s legislation to allow for right turns at red lights.

And while that might be the one piece of his legacy that has impacted every Minnesotan, his tenure was much broader.

“I think he was really proud of the educational changes that the Legislature worked on,” said Clouse of Smithville, Mo.

The current system of providing school aid on a weighted per-pupil basis was established during Schulz’s tenure, which ran from 1950 until he chose to retire in 1970, Clouse said. He served as chairman of the Education Committee from 1967-70 and the House Motor Vehicles Committee from 1963-66.

His driving initiatives included not only the right-on-red law but the requirement that drivers get their eyes checked when renewing licenses and one that didn’t stick — the right to not wear seat belts, she said.

A St. Clair High School graduate, Schulz attended Mankato State College for two years and once sponsored legislation to transform MSC into the University of Southern Minnesota.

“It got played up well in Mankato of course, the surrounding areas,” said former House Speaker Rod Searle  of Waseca, who was first elected to the House in 1956.

“But the big university took care of that pretty quickly,” Searle said of the University of Minnesota. “They had quiet ways of stifling things like that.”

Schulz, longtime Mankato Sen. Val Imm and other area lawmakers were successful, however, in getting the current hilltop campus built for the college and making it a full-scale university, Searle said.

Schulz was a Republican but the Legislature was technically nonpartisan throughout his tenure, so he was a member of the Conservative Caucus that held the majority. Searle remembers one of the most monumental battles coming when lawmakers wanted to pass the state’s first sales tax despite the objections of Republican Gov. Harold LeVander.

Searle said the entire Conservative Caucus was invited to a meeting with LeVander the night before the vote, where he pleaded with them to not pass the sales tax and then threatened a veto when they weren’t persuaded. They passed the bill, LeVander vetoed it and the conservatives recruited a pair of liberals to join them in overriding the veto in the House.

“It was quite an exciting time,” said Searle, saying the Conservative Caucus unanimously supported the override.

The additional revenue from the sales tax — 3 percent when enacted in 1967 — was used to reduce local property taxes by 35 percent, according to a story in Session Weekly. Searle remains proud that conservative lawmakers made it happen.

“It’s been a great source of revenue for the state,” he said.

Searle’s overriding impression of Schulz’s time at the Capitol, though, was as a voice for rural Minnesota.

“He wanted to make sure his farmer constituents were heard in St. Paul,” Searle said. “And I think he did a pretty good job at that.”

Schulz’s funeral is 11 a.m. Thursday at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church in Mankato. A full obituary appeared in Tuesday’s Free Press.

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