Monday, February 26, 2007

Gag reflex 

I've disagreed sharply a couple of times with SC Times editor Randy Krebs, so it's only fair I highlight him when we agree. And I could not agree more with yesterday's column.

Since becoming Opinion Page editor about seven years ago, every legislative session I've followed has had at least one (but usually many more) "gag me" moments.

Thanks to the Senate and especially Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, that streak remains alive.

My first "gag me" moment of the 2007 session came this week in following how senators handled their absurd effort to increase their pay without increasing their salary. In case you missed it, the full Senate voted Wednesday to approve raising their daily expense allowance from $66 to $96.

That means during this 140-day session they now can collect up to $13,440 for daily expenses. And they aren't even required to provide receipts!

Now, you might think that's what tripped my Gag-o-meter. Not really. You see, back in January, after the Senate Rules Committee approved this plan, I helped craft a Times Our View noting the ridiculousness of the matter. That editorial appeased my personal beliefs and kept me from gagging.

But Wednesday's full Senate vote was more than I could take.

How come?

Because the proposal that was presented required senators who voted against the raise to fill out paperwork to get their expenses covered at less than the $96-a-day rate.

In other words, if you voted against the raise you were literally being punished financially for having a different opinion.

Gag me!

Sen. Tom Neuville of Northfield, obviously more of a diplomat than myself, called such a requirement "disrespectful." I call it stupid, asinine, immature. Wait, where's my thesaurus?

Here's a thesaurus set to the synonyms for asinine. I would have preferred 'boorish', but it's a matter of taste.

I've had people ask me what we can do about this. That's the whole point of the exercise by Pogemiller and the DFL Senate leadership -- you can't do anything. The accountability comes at the ballot box, leading one "unnamed" senator to say we won't remember because you don't vote for another three and a half years on the MN Senate. But a petition will do something; special elections can help if a senator should retire early or, say, run for higher office next year. Eventually, Larry Pogemiller is becoming an advertisement for initiative-and-referendum, because only then might the accountability show up.

UPDATE: I've been trying to come up with a nickname for Pogo that would reflect this boorishness, but apparently Craig has beaten me again. So since imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, meet Tiny Tarryl:

"Please, sir, $30 more?"

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