The government we deserve

From the sound of things from the Capitol, just about everyone elected to govern the state hates the way the state was governed during the Minnesota legislative session, culminating with last night’s meltdown. But this is what we elected; nobody to blame but ourselves. It’s easy to think we’re victims of the political process. We’re not.

This comment, attached to an MPR News Facebook post, is concise and accurate.

The lawmakers shouldn’t expect a hero’s welcome when they return from St. Paul today, the Star Tribune editorial warned today.

By operating in secret and pushing their work against the constitutional deadline to an extraordinary degree, legislators left much in doubt in the session’s final hours. They failed to operate with the timeliness and transparency that should be fundamental to a representative body entrusted with a large public purse.

Not until 7:30 p.m., four and a half hours before the deadline, were the contents of a 599-page spending bill revealed. A $995 million bonding bill was said to be coming, but was still unavailable at 9:45 p.m. Closed-door talks among legislative leaders left other legislators guessing about the deals being struck.

Is this the sort of thing that might show up as an election issue? Maybe. But, as Blois Olson reported in his Morning Take today, “voters don’t care about process.”

The voters also weren’t likely watching last night’s midnight cluster. However, we’ll all relive it via mail, TV and radio for the next several months. For DFLers, if the GOP is successful in convincing voters you’re against Greater Minnesota as well as roads and bridges, you’re in trouble. For the GOP, if DFLers convince voters that you are the reason that suburban commute times are currently your fault, you’re in trouble. Whenever a parent is frustrated with offspring bickering, the expression is “go work it out.” Clearly the House and Senate can’t do it. It’s ideology, and there’s not a lot of counseling or parenting that can help. It will be decided in November by voters, and all 201 legislative seats will have a deeper taint unless they come back in January with a different “can do” attitude. There is no other issue more important to voters in the upcoming election than transportation.

Here are some other day-after quotes from St. Paul.

“I hate this end-of-session nonsense. You have big omnibus bills and get a few people in a room getting stuff together that … undermines the democratic process.” — State Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes.

“It’s embarrassing. It does such a disservice to the institution and what we’re supposed to be doing here, and it’s completely unnecessary.” –Rep. Kim Norton, DFL-Rochester.

“Right now, I’m pretty angry.” — Rep. Jack Considine, DFL-Mankato.

“But that’s [Highway 14 funding bill] a perfect example of what I’ve been talking about … passing bills in the last few hours, there’s got to be a better way.” — Rep. Clark Johnson, DFL-North Mankato.

“It wasn’t exactly pretty, but it got the job done.” — Rep. Paul Torkelson, R-Hanska.

“”When we don’t get to see these things until there are moments left and then we’re forced to make a snap decision on millions of dollars in spending — that’s really problematic.” Rep. Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester.

“I’m torn about spending money … without knowing what the rest of the package is going to look like,” Franzen said. “It’s hard to see the entire picture,” Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina.

If you’re looking for the names of people who did their jobs expertly at the Capitol this session, read the byline of any story out of the Capitol today.

MPR’s Tom Weber and MPR political editor Mike Mulcahy will discuss the session at 11 a.m. on MPR News.