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Legislative Update: Taking the Time to Get It Right

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On April 13, I posted a blog entitled, “The Minnesota legislature has some work to do before they adjourn if they want to avoid the ‘do-nothing session’ label.”  At the time, there was a lot of confusion over where the legislative session was headed.  I heard too many legislators talking about ending the session as soon as possible, which was rather puzzling.   Ending the session ASAP would have meant abandoning a raft of important bills, but all of the legislators I know on the right and the left ran for office to bring about meaningful changes in state law and policy for their constituents.  

One might argue that it’s entirely appropriate for a conservative legislature to want a short session.  After all, conservatives support limited government.   What better way to limit government than to limit the time to pass legislation?  But this is only the second year that conservatives have controlled the Minnesota legislature in over forty years.  The backlog of conservative policy initiatives, many of which would limit government, is long and requires all the legislative time the state constitution allows. 

Fortunately, it’s now clear the legislature is committed to investing all the time that’s necessary to advance and pass a meaningful set of laws that will move Minnesota forward.  In my last post, I outlined a number of bills moving through the legislature that would improve job opportunities, education, health care, the business climate, government operations, and the transportation system.  I’m pleased to report that many of these bills have been passed and sent to the governor’s desk over the past two and a half weeks.  And the session is not over.  More bills are poised to pass in the coming days.

Could the legislature have done more to advance solutions to fix long-running problems that past legislatures failed to address?  Maybe.  There were a lot of good policies related to taxes, education, energy, and health care that never advanced.  But these were mostly policies that were guaranteed to be inked by Governor Dayton’s veto pen. 

Whether good political strategy or not, in my view the legislature has tried to put together bills that the governor will sign on the first go around.   I know that last statement might make some liberal observers guffaw.  Some bills certainly passed where the legislature knew full well a veto was coming.  But when we look at the big and important omnibus bills, the legislature has worked hard to craft and negotiate bills that the governor will sign.  The very important health and human services finance omnibus bill is a prime example. 

With the exception of the education bill that paid back a portion of the K-12 shift, none of the omnibus bills are so conservative or so partisan that they guarantee a veto.  This reality is quite a contrast to the image of the recalcitrant legislature that is so often portrayed in the media.

Of course, not much of this work is in the headlines right now.  The Vikings stadium drowns out most of the hard work being done elsewhere in the legislature.  When the session eventually adjourns, we’ll provide a thorough analysis of all that was done.