Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Looking at it now, it still looks bad 

The St. Cloud Times editorial board today says it simply: There's got to be a better way.
Minnesota has to find a better way to fashion a state budget and set policy so two things don't occur:

� Legislators cram and jam so many decisions and votes into the final hours of a session that nobody really knows what passed and what didn't.

� The public has no reasonable opportunity to learn about, much less weigh in on the final versions of major legislation.
The seeds for this debacle were sown early in the session when the DFL chose a set of rules that allowed much of the shenanigans that occurred over the weekend and on Monday in the rush to adjournment. I take you to the House Journal of February 26, 2007 (beginning at page 545) and March 1, 2007 (beginning at page 671). The discussion is over the permanent rules that the Rules Committee chaired by Democratic Leader Rep. Tony Sertich (the black hole of the Legislature, which is where among other things Swansongate still languishes.) Here are the highlights:
  1. The report allowed for budget bills to be voted on by the House with only two hours notice. Dean Simpson offered an amendment to increase that to six hours. The amendment got sent to Rules and never appeared again. Thus the two hour limit was enacted.
  2. Bills have traditionally had germaneness requirements, so that each bill would have only one subject. Such were not the rules offered by Sertich's committee. When Rep. Matt Dean tried to re-introduce the single subject rule, it was defeated by the DFL.
  3. Rep. Mark Olson tried very hard to get sanity into this process. For example, he offered amendments to the rules that would have required a) conference committee reports for the budget to be completed a week before adjournment; b) forced the tax bill to get done first; and c) required a one-day notice for bills to be heard. All were defeated.
I could highlight other points, but in retrospect these were the key votes. The rules agreed by the DFL majority and forced upon the Republican minority were a key contributor to the gridlock and breakdown that occurred at the end of the session. The contributed to the lack of civility at the end of the session that Margaret Kelliher promised us at the beginning of the session.

Did the DFL overpromise and underdeliver? It appears so, and by it's own hands.

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