The Minnesota State Legislature has “returned” to the Capitol for what must be its 1,000th Special Session in our 162-year history as state.
Ostensibly the original reason for the special session was too address a massive bonding bill that neither party could agree upon during the regular session.
It used to be that the threat of a Special Session was so significant that lawmakers would, in the final hours of the regular session, literally cover the clock to try to shove bills to passage “on-time” so legislators could get back home.
Today, a Special Session has no longer found itself a unique species and the political ramifications of having one not nearly as dire in the mind of politicians who used to fear the outrage of constitutions demanding to know why they had to pay more to get the work done they elected their leaders to do in the time originally allotted to them.
This week’s Special Session has become more complicated, however, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis Police Officers who have been fired and now face significant criminal prosecution for his death.
The COVID-19 pandemic has decimated Minnesota’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are out of work. Thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, as well as non-profits, face financial uncertainty, some already having been ruined, by the responses of local, state, and federal policymakers to battle the virus.
The murder of George Floyd led to massive peaceful protests that were usurped for days by violent riots, mayhem, and destruction of public and private property.
The aftermath of the looting and pillaging and fiery conflagration were thousands more Minnesotans left without jobs, thousands of buildings where they worked and were served by business and non-profits damaged, and the Governor mobilizing the state’s National Guard to stop the violence.
A Special Session which was to deal primarily with a bonding bill has now become one in which Republicans argue needs to focus on fixing the financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Democrats argue needs to focus on fixing the human devastation of racial injustice and inequality on communities of color.
Politically divided as we are these days, and predictably, neither side intends to work with one another to get any of these things done.
Which begs the question: Why not do all of it?
After all, the stigma of a Special Session in Minnesota is no longer going to cost any member of the Legislature his or her seat.
To be honest, in the decades I have been involved in politics and government in Minnesota I can’t recall a single member of the Legislature losing an election because they were held “responsible” for a Special Session being called.
It’s already baked into the cake for most Minnesotans that a Special Session has become Summer School for Legislators who don’t satisfactorily complete the coursework they were assigned during the regular session.
So, let’s stop with the faux outrage and objections from both political parties and simply do all the things that we can and should do in this Special Session.
- Pass a Bonding Bill
- Embrace reforms intended to increase public confidence in law enforcement for communities of color and provide police greater training, resources and clarification to do the jobs we ask them to do
- Provide Minnesota employers and employees the economic assistance they need to regain their footing from the trauma of COVID-19 and its impact on our economy
Minnesota used to pride itself on a state where we got things done. Where Minnesota Commonsense trumped (pleased don’t be like that!) partisan haggling to let the greater good serve the common good.
We don’t have to devolve any further than we have in the bitter partisanship that has infected our daily life long before COVID-19 got inside our economy and wrecked it.
There’s nothing that says Minnesota can’t lead the nation in returning to a political and policy value system that is focused not on achieving the middle-ground but finding common ground.
Democrats want everything. They won’t get it.
Republicans want everything. They won’t get it.
There’s a word in the English language that we have all seemingly forgotten in this twisted world of social media where everyone believes their opinion is the ONLY opinion that counts.
The Governor’s raison d’etre for this Special Session should be simply to be an honest power broker and bringing Democrats and Republicans to the table to get these things – all these things – done.
He should resist the urge to be the additional partisan in the room. There will be time enough for him to exact his pound of flesh in the next election.
Regardless of currently booming poll numbers the Governor’s political strength is not enough to vanquish the loyal opposition.
He can, however, use those poll numbers and his influence to call upon Minnesotans to call all their legislators – Democrats and Republicans – and tell them to get it done.
All of it.
Get it all done.