Editorial: Elected officials get C+ for 1st week of session

Published 10:12 am Monday, January 9, 2017

It’s a little generous to give the Minnesota Legislature a grade of C+ for the first week of business given that there must be some comparison to last year’s grade of F.

Citizens who were promised results in the election, particularly outstate citizens, may feel a little underwhelmed with the tone and reality of the first week.

It started out with what appears to be the typical partisan rancor, with a GOP news release castigating Democrats who “would block emergency aid for those dealing with the health care crisis,” in reference to a bill that would provide premium relief for skyrocketing health insurance rates on the individual market.

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“The same Democrats responsible for Obamacare are now blocking relief from the mess they created,” House Speaker Kurt Daudt said in a statement issued to the press. Not exactly a good way to get bipartisan support.

He was blaming Democrats who apparently did not go along with a suspending of House rules to vote immediately on the measure. Democrats, of course, have a different take on their action. They say they delayed because there were longer term measures in the bill, not just temporary emergency aid, and that the Senate was going to deliberate and not suspend the rules.

They escape an F grade for the first week because the House did pass a somewhat noncontroversial tax bill that makes Minnesota tax code consistent with federal tax code. It passed the House 130-0 and will apparently provide Minnesotans with $22 million in tax relief, a relatively minor amount considering an annual state budget of about $20 billion.

Another critical piece of legislation, the bonding bill, was again proposed by Gov. Mark Dayton, who said the bill was similar to the one agreed upon last year but that fell short due to last minute partisan disagreement over transportation ideology.

The Republicans answered Dayton’s call for the bill with a frigidity that mirrored the below zero temperatures that blanketed Minnesota. Again, the GOP was at least half to blame for the failure of the bonding bill last year. To say they may not even consider it this year — as costs of construction grow and interest rates rise costing taxpayers more money — is nearly unconscionable.

They get a D for this tepid response to critical needs.

While we’re sure that local area legislators of both parties have less of a role in this tone than their leaders, it’s reasonable for them to urge their leaders to work more together in bipartisan ways.

One can only be positive about the first week knowing that there is much room for improvement.

— Mankato Free Press, Jan. 7