Did Minnesota's fondness for using improv theater to consider public policy go too far today?
Bluestem was up in Willmar while the Minnesota House was in session, so we missed watching the moment described in Lawmaker's bird flu routine lays an egg in Minnesota House:
Dressed in a white lab coat and stethoscope, Edina Rep. Ron Erhardt told the House he was concerned avian influenza may threaten humans. He also held a bottle and spray can that were labeled "bird flu vaccine."
He related a story of feeling poorly over the weekend after eating turkey and speculated on whether the flu could transfer to humans, saying, "I'm worried that we're not paying strict enough attention that there is a possibility of transfer."
He indicated reluctance to take part in the lunchtime offer of free turkey burgers but added: "After I found out that this was a bipartisan offer and not just an offer to the DFL, I felt a little better about it — the burgers, I mean."
Later, in a statement sent out by the DFL Caucus, Erhardt apologized "for making light of this serious issue" and said he supported "immediate passage of legislation that will adequately fund a response to the avian flu crisis." . . .
The first colleague to rise to object was Jeanne Poppe (DFL-Austin). MPR reports:
Rep. Jeanne Poppe, DFL-Austin, said the influenza is not a partisan issue.
"It appears as though this is going to be a joke at some point" she said of Erhardt's comments. "But the turkey farmers in our state are suffering a very serious crisis. It's not something that we need to be making light of."
She's got a great point. But not only are farmers and their employees suffering, the state agencies working on the issue are trying to make sure that accurate information about the disease is shared. Bluestem's a huge fan of cheesy contagion movies, but we only want to see panic in the imaginary world of film. The last thing we need out here is panic and misinformation.
If the Edina legislator had been doing stand-up comedy or shock jock radio, the routine would have been tasteless, but the context clear. On the floor of the Minnesota House? Erhardt should keep his day job.
We're happy he apologized, and won't--in this case--chastise Speaker Daudt for his handling of the episode.
Here's the video:
Photo: Minnesota's poultry flocks have suffered enough; weak schtick only added insult to injury.
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