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Minnesota’s partisan battles are not unique

On Monday, in Ramsey County District Court, Gov. Mark Dayton agreed to 90 days of funding for the Minnesota Legislature so it can hopefully come to a compromise with him on the recently passed budget bills.
A quick recap: Gov. Dayton, a Democrat, signed an agreement with the Republican-controlled Legislature that he would sign the budget bills. Although he did sign the bills, he line-item vetoed funding for the Legislature in the hope of forcing leaders back to the table to come to a further compromise on some issues that the governor feels are important. The governor claims that his action will avoid a government shutdown — with the exception of the Legislature, of course.
We find the governor’s manipulations deplorable, but apparently Minnesota isn’t the only state where governors and legislators go to extremes to get their way.
According to the June 19 Star Tribune, New Mexico is in a similar situation, where a Republican governor and a Democratic Legislature are at odds over spending. The governor, like Dayton, defunded the Legislature, and the legislative leaders went to court over it. The New Mexico Supreme Court tossed the budget hot potato back into the laps of the governor and legislature, which is exactly where it belongs. It is up to those entities to hammer out a budget, not the court. The New Mexico Supreme Court said that it would hear the case only as a last resort, and that New Mexico wasn’t quite to last-resort status yet. Hopefully, Minnesota’s court system will do the same thing.
In Minnesota, the Legislature is arguing that Dayton’s action is unconstitutionable, which it may well be. But let’s hope that he withdraws his action before the court has to step in.
And speaking of the Constitution, state Sen. John Marty, a DFLer from Roseville, is threatening his own lawsuit. Marty contends that the way the Legislature does business is unconstitutional. Marty claims that bills are supposed to be limited to a single subject.
And it is probably time for the Legislature to once again do business that way. The so-called omnibus bills — in which a myriad of small items are lumped together in a large bill — just aren’t working.
The theory may have been that by dumping a bunch of ingredients into a single pot (legislative bill), everyone would find enough tasty morsels to overcome their distaste for others: a true compromise, where everyone gets a little bit of what they want.
However, polar partisanship has created the opposite effect. Witness the 2016 session in which a transportation bill failed to pass over political sparring over light rail. If the light-rail issue had been considered separately, there may have been a jump start on this year’s transportation projects.
Maybe what’s really needed is a mega workshop regarding the Minnesota Constitution and how legislative responsibilities, duties and rights are outlined, which would result, hopefully, in a return to doing legislative business through proper channels.
And, hopefully, our leaders will take on that task themselves, rather than waiting for the Supreme Court to explain it to them.
That would be true leadership, and would show the rest of the country — New Mexico included — that Minnesota can rise above politics into statesmanship.