Schwab not thrilled with end-of-session stalemate

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 19, 2001


Saturday, May 19, 2001

ST. PAUL – The final weeks of the legislative session have been disillusioning for Senate freshman Grace Schwab (R-Albert Lea).

Email newsletter signup

After spending the day Saturday in a routine session of legislative house cleaning, Schwab said she felt like the day was spent waiting for a last-minute budget deal to be announced.

&uot;We were like a bunch of expectant parents just sitting around a waiting,&uot; Schwab said.

The last few weeks were not what Schwab expected when she arrived at the Capitol for her first session, she said.

&uot;They spend a lot of time at orientation telling you about the committee process and how a bill becomes a law,&uot; Schwab said. &uot;But they sure leave out a lot about the closed door meetings, the last minute budget deals and who actually has the final say.&uot;

But Schwab said the entire session has been contentious with the three legs of state government all representing different political parties. The center of debate has been Governor Jesse Ventura’s lean budget that allowed for only limited spending and had sweeping reforms — particularly in the areas of property and sales tax and education financing, she said.

The Republican-controlled House budget stayed relatively close to Ventura’s fiscally conservative plan, except for targeted spending increases in education and nursing home funding, Schwab said. The Senate Democrats proposed much higher spending in nearly every area, and disagreed with the notion that the budget surplus should be rebated to taxpayers.

Schwab said those central disagreements have prevented a budget deal between Ventura, Senate Majority leader Roger Moe, DFL-Erskine, and House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan, When the session ended for the day Saturday, no budget deal was in sight, she said, adding that party leaders seem to be giving up on meeting the Monday night legislative deadline.

&uot;We’ve been told to go home for the rest of the weekend – no Sunday session – and come back Monday morning,&uot; Schwab said. &uot;I don’t sense much urgency now. I think some of my colleagues are resigned to some kind of special session.&uot;

Schwab said that even if an agreement is near, it is most likely come too late to physically debate, amend, revise, process and act on bills before midnight on Monday. The latest speculations at the Capitol predicted the Legislature would adjourn as planned on Monday and return later in the week for a brief special session to deal with the final unresolved bills, she said.

While Schwab said she is hoping for a positive outcome – special session or no special session – she still has concerns over the process displayed over the final weeks.

&uot;I have been frustrated with the way things get wrapped up. We spend all session working on issues which are ultimately decided by a few powerful chairs in the last minutes of May,&uot; Schwab said. &uot;It’s rather disappointing, and it is certainly one of my goals to make the process more open and responsible. However, for this year, the important thing is to put our nose to the grindstone and muddy through until we come up with a plan.&uot;