2017 Legislature: Not much to brag about
Proclamations of great achievement started pumping out of St. Paul early last Tuesday, not long after the clock ran out on Minnesota's latest lawmaking session.
"The 2017 legislative session will be one of the most productive in recent history," Minnesota Senate Republicans declared in a public statement.
"(We) have reached an agreement," DFL Gov. Mark Dayton proclaimed.
But why the boasting?
The agreement Dayton referred to wasn't on any of the many budget bills that needed to be passed, lest state government grind to a halt, or on any other piece of legislation, either. It was an agreement to simply keep going, to saddle Minnesota taxpayers with the expense of a special session because the people's work still wasn't done.
Rather than scoring some terrific victory, Dayton and our elected legislators failed this session — yet again. They failed to cooperate, to compromise, and to complete their work on time. They failed to do the job they were sent to St. Paul to do.
And then they failed again when their agreed-upon deadline for the special session, like the set-in-law deadline for the regular session a day earlier, came and went with work still incomplete, including a $46 billion, two-year budget, a bonding bill, and other measures.
"Work" may be too generous a word for what lawmakers weren't getting done.
"Frustrated and tired legislators began shouting and had trouble communicating through the night," as Forum News Service's Don Davis reported. "Republicans blamed Democrats for trying to gum up the budget works, while Democrats said the GOP failed to live up to a promise to pass bills on time."
Yep, in the absence of accomplishment, party politics and partisan bickering took over — no matter how fed up Minnesotans may be with such games and with the constant refusal to put people ahead of party.
What legislation was able to be cobbled together this session consistently lacked enough time for Minnesotans — and perhaps even the lawmakers themselves — to consider and to weigh in on. Was there even time to read the bills? Transparency took a beating along with civility and Minnesota's purported work ethic.
Moments before lawmakers' first adjournment deadline Monday, with 70 percent of the state budget still not done, Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, very astutely summed up the session as an "epic failure," according to Senate DFL Media. Disappointingly, however, it seemed he did so just to take cheap shots at the "Republican leadership."
Gov. Dayton and all lawmakers — DFLers and Republicans alike — can take responsibility for falling short this session, for failing. They're the ones accountable, after all. They were the ones elected to do a job, and that job didn't include playing political games at the expense of meeting responsibilities.
"We began (the) session with a $1.65 billion surplus," Simonson said, according to Senate DFL Media. "This isn't how we should be finishing (the) session, by going into overtime. ... I'm disappointed."
Not nearly as disappointed as his constituents and Minnesotans statewide.
We deserved better. We got politics as usual instead, something we used to say was beneath us. Guess not.