A special session? There is no reason for one

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 25, 2007

Tom Emmer, Guest Column

A few weeks ago, Democrat leaders of the Minnesota House and Senate traveled around the state touting their most important accomplishment of the legislative session &8212; getting done on time.

Then what&8217;s all this talk about a special session?

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We passed a government operations bill, we passed a public safety bill, and we passed a transportation package, an education bill and a health bill. We managed to balance the budget for the next two years. The general consensus at the end of session was that the Legislature accomplished everything necessary and that no further action is required at this time.

If this is true, why are we holding meetings and negotiations to discuss a special session?

Perhaps someone should clue the rest of the state in on the discussions of needs versus wants. The Democrats failed to deliver on their campaign promises, namely education, health care and property tax relief. This failure was and is their own. If the Democrat leadership wants a special session, we have every right to question the need for that session.

Special sessions are typically called to address an emergency or to resolve incomplete issues like budget bills.

Is Minnesota facing a state of emergency? No.

Did we balance the budget and pass all appropriation bills that invested our priorities, and kept government functioning? Yes.

By answering those two questions, we have resolved the need versus want debate.

I question whether the need for a special session might be because some people aren&8217;t happy with the results.

I readily admit that I am not happy with all of the outcomes of the session. The mediocre education bill does nothing to provide the necessary funding or reform needed to evolve our education system for a 21st century economy. There is no property tax relief or measures to at least control the increasing rates. There was no agreed upon compromise to a transportation funding bill that would benefit all of Minnesota. Rather than address the skyrocketing costs of health care, we rolled back welfare reforms, took away personal liberties and added more government mandates.

But none of this means we need a special session.

If we were not capable of addressing the areas of concern the Democrats have said they want to take up in special session during five months of legislative hearings, floor sessions and conference committees, how do we propose to resolve them in one day?

Legislative leaders getting behind closed doors to negotiate a pre-agreed upon deal for special session is akin to the destruction of democracy. We are all elected to represent the people in our districts. A few people in a room does not a participatory government make. If you can&8217;t get the results through the elected body, you should not resort to back room politics.

The Minnesota Legislature is a part-time citizen Legislature. It is not a full-time occupation, nor should it be. We all lose valuable perspective when we are confined to the halls of the Capitol for months at a time. We lose an even more valuable perspective when we elect more full-time legislators than real, working citizens.

And therein lies the crux of the problem.

I encourage those thinking of holding a special session to step away from the paid lobbyists and look beyond the boundaries of Minneapolis and St. Paul. There is big state out there and the citizens of Minnesota just might have something to say.

The budget is balanced. The work is done. We finished on time, and in doing so we took a great step forward. There is no reason to now take two steps backward.

Tom Emmer is a state representative from Delano. He represents House District 19B.