Thursday, January 17, 2013

Policy Whiplash

The Minnesota Legislature came back into session a week or so ago. It's a very part-time legislature, with sessions limited to only 120 days. They meet a bit less in even-numbered years and a bit more in odd-numbered years such as this, when they have to produce a two-year, balanced budget.

In the 2010 election, both houses became Republican majorities, which was a huge upset. The only thing that kept Minnesota from following Scott Walker's Wisconsin down the Koch/ALEC path is that we also elected Mark Dayton, a DFL (Democratic Farmer Labor) member as governor, who vetoed as much as he could of what the legislature passed. He couldn't veto the two state constitutional amendments they produced, however, which led us to voting on gay marriage (framed as being against it) and voter ID (framed as being for it).

Despite the fact that the amendments required only a one-vote majority to pass, neither one did. It was a sweet, sweet night.

While we were voting down those amendments, we also voted in DFL majorities in both houses, creating a matching set with our DFL governor for the first time in about 25 years. So now Minnesota government watchers are all atwitter about whether the Dems will overreach the way the Republicans did in 2011 and 2012. Both parties talked a good game about economic development and jobs, jobs, jobs, but the Republicans did zero on that front when they were in power, instead passing things about guns, gays, and God.

Will the DFL do more to stay on topic? I'm hopeful that they will, but the economy here is improving with or without them (our unemployment rate just hit 5.5 percent) so it may not matter as much as it did for the Republicans.

You can tell the DFL is in charge when you see stories like this in the paper:

  • A commission has presented its report on the possibility of restoring felons' voting right as soon as they are out of prison (not at the end of their probation). Yes!
  • Members of both houses have introduced bills to change the constitutional amendment process away from only a majority in both houses to requiring a two-thirds vote. Yes!
  • The House energy and environment committee held a hearing that gave voice to climate change experts. You know, like, scientists and people who know facts. Not like the guy who was chair of the subcommittee under the Republican majority, who thought that God wouldn't let us harm the earth.
There's also a lot of talk about whether the DFL will vote on a bill to legalize same-sex marriage (not as an amendment to the constitution, but just as a law). As much as I support such a bill, I only think it should be done if they can pass a whole lot of other bills that show their commitment to structural reform, economic development, and tax changes. Because if they look like all they care about are progressive social issues, they're likely to get booted out in 2014 as fast as the Republicans did in 2012.

And I think we've had enough of policy whiplash to last us for a while.

1 comment:

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I agree, the first priority should be to address the big economic and governmental issues and, in the process, build credibility and confidence.