A tense legal and political conflict between DFL Gov. Mark Dayton and Republican lawmakers came to a head last year at the Supreme Court, when they battled over whether the governor can kill the Legislature’s funding.
But it’s still alive and well this year, illustrated, paradoxically enough, by items they actually agree on.
Consider the range of issues upon which there is relatively broad consensus: school safety; curbing nursing home abuses; ameliorating the opioid epidemic; shoring up the state’s public pension program.
To date, with just a week left in the 2018 session, Dayton hasn’t signed bills on any of these issues, which are all in various states of completion.
This is surely baffling to the public, but it’s perfectly understandable to insiders. The captain in “Hamlet” described the environment thusly: “We go to gain a little patch of ground / That hath in it no profit but the name.”
Every inch is fought over. Even items of agreement are opportunities for leverage. It will make for a chaotic and busy final week.
Clock is ticking
There’s actually less than a week. As the Legislative Reference Library notes: “When a bill is passed during the last 3 days of session in an even-numbered year the governor ... must sign and deposit it with the secretary of state within 14 days of ‘sine die’ adjournment or the bill will not become law.”
In other words, if they pass something in the final three days, Dayton can sit on it. Also, on the final day of the session, May 21, they’re not even allowed to pass any bills. So time is short.
It’s tough to be an Iron Range DFLer these days. Rep. Jason Metsa of Virginia, who is running for Congress, and Rep. Rob Ecklund of International Falls put out a statement on the wild rice-sulfate standard, which pits mining against environmentalists in northeast Minnesota: “We are very disappointed that Republicans forced a veto on this important issue by prioritizing politics over the people whose livelihoods depend on a responsible solution.”
That’s some strong blame game — especially given the fact that Metsa was on the conference committee and signed the report, and both he and Ecklund voted for the bill.
Republicans are optimistic that contradictions like these can help them harvest blue-collar votes in northeast Minnesota. We shall see in November.