Editorial: Doing too much can leave much undone in session

Published 9:35 am Monday, June 1, 2015

The blame game is in full effect. After Minnesota’s legislative session ended with unfinished business and Gov. Mark Dayton vetoing three major bills, there’s plenty of opportunities for finger-pointing.

Amid the blaming, however, few fingers are pointing at the process, which appears to share blame with political parties and individuals.

Rep. David Bly, the ranking DFLer on the House Agriculture Policy Committee, came close Monday, noting emergency funding for the state’s avian influenza crisis was possible. “Today, I’m hearing House Republican Majority members express concerns that Gov. Dayton’s veto puts farmers at risk,” he stated in a press release days after the Environment and Agriculture Omnibus bill was rejected. “Gov. Dayton repeatedly directed the legislature to send him a stand-alone bill to provide the emergency funding. In the final days of the legislative session, I stood up five times and asked my colleagues to suspend the rules and send a clean bill to the governor.”

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He’s right; the emergency funding could have been — and should have been — handled differently. But so should many measures that were derailed by inaction or vetoes.

The governor’s buffer strip efforts are stalled in the same bill that delays funding for the bird flu response. The veto stems from several unrelated objections to a bill that may be doing too much at one time.

It’s the nature of Minnesota politics. Smaller measures are routinely set aside for larger omnibus bills on a general topic. They may be added to balance political strategies or grouped together to save time on the House and Senate floors. Regardless of the reasons, they eventually create bills that can put many issues in jeopardy based on objections to a single topic. After Dayton vetoed two omnibus bills during the weekend, House DFL Leader Paul Thissen noted, “Each bill contained a number of objectionable items that can be fixed or improved during a special session.”

But they are also items that could have been separated before approval, without putting countless other measures in jeopardy.

Locally, Olmsted County commissioners are waiting for approval to form a HRA board headed by elected officials, and Rochester property owners are facing bigger tax bills for Destination Medical Center expenses because of unrelated objections. Neither local measure has an impact on the state budget. Yet, they are tied to bills involving the state’s spending plans.

Despite what Rep. Greg Davids says, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. In the case of the DMC funding, several area lawmakers attempted to offer a smaller bill that could pass without an overall tax bill, but time ran out.

Now, it’s time for our state leaders to realize that large, omnibus bills aren’t saving time for taxpayers. They are delaying results and leaving work left undone.

It’s a simple case of attempting to do too much and achieving too little.

— Rochester Post Bulletin, May 27

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