Greetings Neighbors & Friends,
“Genuine compromise is when nobody is happy”
- Gov. Mark Dayton
“Divided government shouldn’t be characterized as gridlock, but instead as producing compromises”
- Rep. Jerry Hertaus
“In all my years here, this was, I think, the most bi-partisan session I’ve ever seen”
-Sen. Majority Leader Tom Bakk
As most of you are aware, the 89th legislative session ended May 18, with several bills subsequently vetoed by the governor. During the following weeks, negotiations ensued between the governor and legislative leaders in attempt to resolve the issues unsatisfactory to the governor, hoping to avoid a government shutdown June 30 if unresolved, as threatened by the governor. After several weeks of negotiations, the Legislature was called back into special session last Friday, June 12, for the purpose of voting upon the new provisions contained within newly drafted bills as negotiated by Sen. Tom Bakk, Speaker Kurt Daudt and the governor. These bills had new House and Senate Files and replaced the original vetoed bills.
THE SPECIAL SESSION
Our state Constitution provides that only the governor can call a special session and only the Legislature can end it. Therefore, the governor would not order a special session until there was general agreement between the Democrat Senate majority leader and the Republican speaker of the House, not only upon the agreed upon language of the new draft bills replacing the vetoed bills, but also about the calendar of the day (the bills which would be heard) and also agreement upon the scope of the legislative special session. No changes, no amendments! No bills, government shutdown!
SEPARATION OF POWERS
Our bicameral legislative branch, the executive branch and the judiciary branch have separate powers meant to be the “checks & balances” to self-government. Each branch operating separately but still intertwined with each other. The divided legislature comprised of the Democrat Senate and the Republican House, proposed legislation, which after going through the conference committee process, produced compromised legislation which was passed with broad bipartisan support from both chambers and was forwarded to the governor for final approval.
The governor vetoed the K-12 education bill, the jobs bill, and the agriculture-environment bill. As a member of the Legislature, it was frustrating to see the bipartisan bills put forth vetoed by the governor. Worse were the stated objections for the vetoes. Not because of provisions or budget-busting appropriations, contained within the bills, but instead for policy that he wanted and were not in the bills. His actions certainly had the appearance of legislating from the executive branch violating the separation of powers and abusing the veto authority granted to the executive. The governor’s office has often been called the “bully pulpit” and threatening government shutdowns in exchange for legislation not put forth by the legislature is suspect. Special sessions are supposed to be reserved for situations of dire emergency, presumably by forces outside of the Legislature.
The governor has failed to deliver his State of the State addresses during the past two years until well into the legislative session (April 9 and April 30) well after committee deadlines for introducing legislation and just weeks before the end of the regular session. Building consensus and laying out his visions, goals or priorities early are essential to the legislative process. He has failed to garner support outside of or within his own caucus to originate his policy or priorities that would be introduced as bills or legislation that could be passed into law by themselves or included in the Omnibus bills.
SPECIAL SESSION: BY THE NUMBERS
$41.8 billion FY16-17 biennial budget
$17.2 billion dollar FY16-17 K-12 Education Bill
$311.6 million FY16-17 Agriculture & Environment Bill
$180.0 million General Obligation Bonding
$193.0 million Appropriation Bonding
$391.6 million Jobs & Economic Development Bill
$540.3 million Legacy Bill ( Minnesota Clean Water and Legacy Amendment )
Last election, voters wisely chose to return to the traditions of divided representation at the State Capitol. Divided government ensures that the minority voice is heard. Fiscally speaking, state government spending should remain aligned with the rate of growth of the private sector and should not be growing at double-digit rates of growth and nearly five times faster than the growth in the private sector like we experienced during the last biennium. Government does not earn its money instead it levies it from the people who do. With a nearly $2 billion revenue surplus, Minnesota did not need to raise taxes last biennium when the economy was on the mend.
This bipartisan approved FY16-17 budget represents the third-lowest increase in state spending since 1960 at 5.3 percent over FY 14-15. Still, faster than the rate of growth in a recovering economy, but significantly lower than tax increases imposed by one party control last biennium.
Enjoy our summer and take care while vacationing or upon our many lakes & streams.
Rep. Jerry Hertaus