Since the Minnesota legislature convenes on January 3, several MN-01 daily papers take a look at their local lawmakers' expectations in this weekend's editions.
Winona Daily News: Let's be friends!
In Brian Voerding's article, Let’s be friends: The Legislature looks to get along in ’07, area DFL lawmakers hopes for concord and action. State Senate version:
Bipartisan cooperation has been a talking point for Democrats, who took control of the House and widened their majority in the Senate in the November elections.
While DFL lawmakers now have the numbers to pass bills regardless of Republican opposition, they say they’re more interested in working together and setting a new tone in the statehouse. Sessions have been marked by bitter partisanship in recent years, including the 2005 session that caused a partial government shutdown.
Only time will tell whether relationships next year will be collegial, if not congenial, although a paucity of controversial issues could help. Some legislators, though, already have high hopes for cooperation across party lines.
Winona’s DFL Sen.-elect Sharon Erickson Ropes pointed to this year’s freshman orientation as an early sign that teamwork is a high priority. The orientation, both bicameral and bipartisan, was a first for the Legislature. Democrats sat next to Republicans. House members sat next to senators.
“It’s an indicator of an effort to reach out to everyone,” Ropes said. “You get to know your colleagues as people, because we’re all new, going through the same process.”
And, Ropes said, they all got along just fine.
20-year veteran House member Gene Pelowski concurs:
Longtime Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, has seen it all in his 20 years as a legislator and said he’s hopeful that next year will mark a new trend. As speaker pro tem of the House, he plans to use his influence to bring the same values of nonpartisanship that he uses in his model legislature program for high school students.
“I think (talks of cooperation) are real, and hopefully something that will permeate everything,” Pelowski said.
In Surplus is temporary; needs are now, the Winona Daily News' editorial board hopes that lawmakers will work on longterm property tax reform, rather than a one-year tax relief plan put forth by former speaker Steve Sviggum. The editors also think it's about time to attend to the state's needs:
. . .Recently, outgoing Minnesota Speaker of the House Steve Sviggum has made rumblings about introducing a bill that would give a one-time 15 percent break on state property taxes. While we doubt this bill would even make it out of committee in the upcoming DFL-controlled House, it is a very bad idea, one that’s been tried before and even one that other Republicans may not support.
One may argue that a state surplus doesn’t belong to the government, it belongs to the taxpayers. And that is certainly a legitimate point.
But throughout the campaign season, we heard about the dysfunction of our state education system. We were reminded that health care continues to gobble up resources. And we can’t forget that roads and bridges are crumbling right beneath our tires and feet.
With that much need, why would we give money back, especially when no one will feel the pocketbook pinch since the money has already been collected?
Maybe those issues were really just boogeyman tactics designed to scare voters last November. But will it take a bridge falling apart with motorists on it to get us to realize the state has needs, not just wants?
Property tax relief is also one of the issues we heard a lot about during campaign speeches and debates. But it seems to us that there was always an adjective before the word property — and that adjective was “permanent.” There’s a lot of merit to talking about permanent ways to decrease property taxes. However, a one-time relief effort just dodges an inevitable bullet. It doesn’t solve the problem, only eases the pain momentarily.
Furthermore, legislators on both sides of the aisle seem to have pretty long lists of things that must be done — money that must be spent — to make sure infrastructure like roads, police departments and schools are maintained in the future.
We seriously question whether giving what essentially amounts to a rebate could even do as much good as it can when Minnesota invests it in education, higher education, health care or even roads? . . .
Austin Daily Herald: Priorities, priorities
In Spam's hometown, Sparks, Poppe set priorities for 2007 Legislature. A taste of those priorities:
. . .Sparks said that first and foremost, balancing the budget has to be “our No. 1 priority” . . .
. . .Poppe said she wants to improve communication with her constituents during her upcoming term.
“That is the key piece in being a good representative,” she said. . . .
. . .Poppe said she wants to stick to the basics this term: an education the public can feel confident in, affordable health care and good public transportation, which fuels economic development.
“I don’t think people want us to focus on things that don’t matter in their lives,” she said.
Mankato Free Press: District sends newbies to St. Paul
The Free Press's Mark Fischenich writes that Mankato prepares to send a new crew to St. Paul. All three legislators from Senate District 23 will be new. Fischenich writes:
For years, when Mankato residents wanted something from the Minnesota Capitol, they knew who to ask. In the Senate, it was John Hottinger. In the House, it was John Dorn.
Including Rep. Ruth Johnson’s three nonconsecutive terms representing North Mankato, St. Peter and other parts of Nicollet and Sibley counties, the three lawmakers had a combined 42 years of legislative experience.
Starting Wednesday, Mankato/North Mankato’s three lawmakers will have a combined zero years of legislative experience. Along with being rookies, the three share enthusiasm for public service, a commitment to learning fast and a determination to do well for their constituents.
They also share interesting and winding roads from where their lives started to the limestone seat of Minnesota government in St. Paul.
But if the legislators are new, they are not without significant experience. They’re part of a new class of legislators who come to the Capitol not as young political operatives who won elections in districts where people mostly think like them, but are rather experienced “mature” people who bring broad experience and knowledge with them, says Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller, who appointed Kathy Sheran to two budget committees — something he says is unheard of for freshmen legislators.
The rest of Fischenich's article profiles Kathy Sheran; tomorrow, he'll look at Kathy
Netroots: And we’ll tak a right gude-willie-waught
DailyKos diarist KKJohnson takes up Gil Gutknecht's statement blaming Condi Rice for the situation in Iraq. Gutknecht had pinned Iraq policy on Rice, and his political "demise" on that policy in the Rochester Post Bulletin interview published last week. Make sure to read the DailyKos comments. Retirement balls, indeed.
We thank Norwegianity for the toast. But the netroots' share in helping elect Tim Walz belongs to every blogger who pitched in and helped spread the word about a rising prairie progressive: raise a glass to all. We'd like to give a special toast to two blogs gone dark: Backbone Minnesota and minvolved. Auld Lang Syne, bubs.