Minnesota Opinion: Drop partisanship for important work in Minn.
Summary: Lawmakers from the left and the right have the chance to come together for the good of all Minnesotans at a moment in history when unity is what’s needed most.
Minnesota lawmakers are probably wishing they had spent less time on their usual politicking and more time actually getting their work done during the 2020 session. (Minnesotans almost always find themselves wishing that when sessions close in St. Paul — especially when our elected state representatives and senators obligate us to pay extra for overtime work via a special session.)
A special session of the Legislature this year was pretty much a foregone conclusion the moment lawmakers adjourned last month without passing a bonding bill — the reason sessions in even-numbered years like this one even started being held. Bonding bills responsibly invest in and pay for the upkeep of public buildings, spaces, and infrastructure.
But a bonding bill is now suddenly only a small part of a special session that’s expected to be called yet this week. The state and world are far different places from the end of the regular session just a few weeks ago.
The Legislature also now needs to consider extending the peacetime emergency declared by Gov. Tim Walz in response to the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to George Floyd’s death while in the custody of Minneapolis Police officers, the Legislature also has a raft of proposals to reform Minnesota’s criminal justice system and how law enforcement is practiced in the state.
In addition, different lawmakers have publicly pushed for measures to address racial disparities in schools and to help Minnesota small-business owners recover from rioting and from the COVID-19 shutdown.
It’s a big agenda for what should be a short session. A little more work completed during the regular session would have made the list of priorities now a whole lot less daunting.
Threatening to derail it all, Republicans in the Senate said they’d hold hostage a bonding bill and perhaps other legislation until Gov. Tim Walz relinquishes the emergency powers he assumed in March to promptly, effectively, and appropriately deal with the coronavirus outbreak. With COVID-19 still very much with us, it seems unlikely Minnesotans would support Walz stepping back.
Also threatening to derail it all, DFLers in the House said they’d hold hostage a bonding bill and perhaps other legislation without significant law enforcement reform in the special session. It’d be an enormous bandage on a fresh wound, and other lawmakers aren’t wrong for questioning whether all of it can effectively and appropriately be addressed within the time restraints of a special session.
The issues demand to get done. All of them. And without partisan politics, please.
Lawmakers from the left and the right have the chance to come together for the good of all Minnesotans at a moment in history when unity is what’s needed most.
They can pass a reasonably sized bonding bill that not only would responsibly maintain and invest in public amenities but also would help jumpstart our economy.
And they can address criminal-justice and law-enforcement reforms, recognizing that more work undoubtedly will need to carry over into the 2021 session.
But lawmakers are unlikely to accomplish anything with the threats of sabotaging other legislation hanging like a dark cloud over their important work. Such divisiveness needs to be dropped first.
This editorial is the opinion of the Duluth News Tribune's editorial board.