Letter: Partisan stunts sabotage good government

Published 9:37 pm Wednesday, October 31, 2018

While campaigning for the Minnesota House of Representatives this year, I’ve knocked on nearly 10,000 doors and heard lots of questions about the omnibus bill Gov. Dayton vetoed last spring. I’m talking about the nearly 1,000-page bill the majority party released to legislators in the middle of the night and voted on during the last four hours of the 2018 session.

This is bad legislating. No legislator was realistically able to read the entire 989-page omnibus bill before voting on it.

My opponent often references legislation she authored or supported that was vetoed in this omnibus bill and implies the governor’s veto stopped her from being an effective legislator. That’s not the whole story.

The omnibus bill contained several pieces of good bipartisan legislation that the governor supported, but it also included many partisan pieces he had made clear he wouldn’t support. By lumping all this legislation together in one huge bill, majority leaders were essentially daring the governor to veto it, and he did.

Partisan stunts like this sabotage effective governing and are a perfect example of why so many people have low opinions of politicians.

And it’s not how bills are supposed to be passed anyway. Individual, single-subject bills should stand on their own merit and be debated and voted on separately, not slip through and become law only because they are tied to unrelated legislation in an omnibus bill.

The Minnesota State Constitution agrees. Article IV, Section 17 states that laws are “to embrace only one subject. No law shall embrace more than one subject, which shall be expressed in its title.” This omnibus bill violates the constitution and should never have been sent to the governor. Both parties have proposed omnibus bills like this over the years, and the practice is wrong no matter who’s in control.

We can do better. If elected your state representative, I pledge to follow the Minnesota State Constitution — especially Article IV, Section 17. I will oppose the use of last-minute omnibus bills and fight for single-subject bills.

The first bill I’ll fight for is Minnesota’s tax conformity bill, sacrificed last session as part of the omnibus bill. This bill would bring Minnesota’s tax code in line with recent changes Congress made to the federal code and simplify filing for Minnesota taxpayers. If elected, I’ll work with anyone from either party to pass a stand-alone tax-conformity bill by the end of January. Farmers, businesses and regular taxpayers all stand to benefit when this bill becomes law.

Good leaders listen, build alliances, negotiate and compromise. I’ve done this all my life as a teacher, businessman and farmer, and I’ll do it in St. Paul. I’ll work on good, single-subject legislation because it makes sense and because I don’t want to make excuses to the voters of 27A at the end of my first session. Together we work, and together we win.

Terry Gjersvik