Minnesota legislature launches into the unknown

This week the Minnesota legislature opened the 2018 session, a three-month sprint toward a May 21 deadline to do the people’s business.

So, what is the people’s business?

Good question. Right out the gate, we’re hearing about whether new Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach should be allowed to serve in her State Senate seat simultaneously. Fischbach, formerly the Senate President, assumed the new gig after the resignation of Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate after Sen. Al Franken’s resignation.

There’s an entire constitutional argument here that is very, very important to a very, very small number of people. Should an executive branch official be able to also serve in the legislative branch? That’s probably a violation, at least in spirit, of the separation of powers. However, it wouldn’t be nearly as important if Fischbach weren’t a Republican, Gov. Mark Dayton a Democrat and the State Senate held by a one-vote Republican majority. So, the state’s political class has the vapors and require fanning.

But what’s really going to happen in the legislative session this year?

Typically, an even year brings a shorter session focused on bonding projects. But last two attempts to pass a bonding bill during a legislative session the bill died in the late hours. Either the governor vetoed the bill late, or the Republican House delayed sending a clean bill forward, or a combination of the two. We got a bonding bill last year through a special session, more than a year after we were supposed to have one.

So this time will be different, right? Well, if you think so, I’d love to know why. I would expect the same back and forth between smaller Republican bonding bills, larger bills from the governor and last-minute negotiations that won’t really matter until the Tonight Show airs on the night before the end of the session.

Fact is, it’s an election year in one of the craziest political environments that most of us can remember. The Republican legislature won’t do anything to help the DFL governor look good, and vice versa. For years I’ve suggested that Republicans might pay some political price for how they run the legislature, but it appears that is only rarely the case.

In the end we shouldn’t expect much. I admire the Herculean efforts by Dave Orrick of the St. Paul Pioneer Press in his Tuesday story “Why should I give a hoot about the legislative session?” The best he could come up with:

State laws run our lives. From how we can use our phones when driving (or not) to how we’re allowed to protest (or not), state laws and rules govern our day-to-day rights and restrictions in ways federal rules and laws don’t.

Plus, state lawmakers work for you. Voters hired them and taxpayers pay their salaries. And the decisions they make decide just how much you pay in taxes. So there’s the principle of the thing.

The reason we should care is the *principle of the thing.* That’s like saying to a surly teen that they should stay in school because “school is cool.” Orrick’s story points out a number of issues the legislature may argue about — but doesn’t seem optimistic that any of it will end in a bill that the governor signs.

Republicans have one motivation. To keep their base happy enough to vote, because fear of a Democratic takeover is about their best weapon right now.

Minnesota Democrats might have a chance, especially if national Republicans continue to struggle. But boy, howdy, now would be a great time for a unified message that doesn’t make half the population cringe. “The principle of the thing” might get Democrats through a session, but not an election.


Comments

  1. In all fairness Dayton has been as obstinate and partisan as the legislature. Remember his attempt to defend the legislature like a third world junta?

    I sort of like it when the legislature and governor are controlled by different parties. If something is really needed, it happens. Otherwise, checks and balances.

  2. MN Born and Raised says:

    The democrats don’t care about us upnorth folks anymore. We need jobs, less taxes & less taxes on businesses. We need jobs. The dems are driving away our jobs. The mall is basically dead in Hibbing. Grand Rapids isnt doing so hot either. Blandin cut all those jobs MPNL isnt hiring. No good jobs. Just welfare if you qualify and non profits. And the school board referendums. The Blandin land issues we will be taxed for.
    The democrats dont care about those of us born and raised here. They do not help our Union jobs, only use our money to advertise for their politicians. Maybe we need a new party. But the democrats do not care about us.

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