Since the latest special session ended, there has been a lot of conjecture and theories about what happened. With all the misinformation going around, I felt I should share my perspective of the controversial votes that started and ended the session.
One of the first bills we took up was the resolution to end the state of emergency that Gov. Walz invoked early in March. The Senate had already passed the resolution earlier with bi-partisan votes. The resolution was to end the state of emergency (please note it was NOT to say the COVI19 virus was no longer a threat, but only that the original emergency to move quickly was no longer needed.) The vote failed, but two DFL members did vote yes with us.
The Minnesota Constitution made the Legislature and the governor co-equal branches of government as a check and balance to better represent the voice and concerns of the general public, so that no one branch has total authority. With the original emergency dealt with and the ability for the legislature to work with the governor to address any emerging issues, it is time to end the emergency and move forward together. At least that is what I thought, but again it was defeated.
Whereas that beginning to the session was very disappointing, the end was just as disheartening. Prior to the end of regular session in May, we were very close to an agreement on how to divide up the CARES dollars that the federal government sent to Minnesota for COVID related expenses incurred by local governances. We could transfer up to $841 million to local authorities, but it wasn’t a requirement to send it all.
During the break, majority and minority party members in the House and Senate continued to work on the formulas on how to best distribute the funds. An agreement approved by all four caucuses was eventually reached.
The Senate approved the bipartisan compromise on a 62-4 vote. The next day House Republicans tried to vote on the bill, but the DFL Majority defeated the attempt claiming it needed to be fully reviewed and testimony to be given, but they assured us it would be brought back to us for a vote.
After a Ways and Means committee hearing, House Democrats promptly amended the proposal to include the governor’s supplemental budget. This bill had not been heard or even negotiated with the Senate, and had nothing to do with the original bill for COVID fund distribution. Yet we were told to vote on it.
To put it in another way, let’s suppose you and your spouse/significant other decide to build a new $200,000 house, which is all you can afford. On the day you plan to begin construction, the contractor says he is going to change the design and the new total is now $250,000. You are only given the option to say yes or no. What do you do? Will you ever trust this contractor again?
That is how we first saw the final bill early Friday evening. Many GOP members implored the DFL to keep the bill simple and clean, but they did not. The amended bill did finally pass and was sent over to the Senate where it was not accepted. Talks of a compromise ended after the Governor intervened and implored Democrats to walk away. Eventually the Senate adjourned without a deal.
Late last week, Gov. Walz distributed the federal funds to cities and counties through executive order, but it’s something that should have happened in non-controversial and non-partisan fashion.
In St. Paul the only thing we can count on is our word, when that is gone we have nothing left. It is no wonder that the public has no faith and trust in the dysfunctional legislature in St Paul. What will happen if and when Gov. Walz calls another special session in July to continue his executive powers? Stay tuned.