Politics with Jennifer Brooks

'Shambles'

Good morning. (If you're not a legislative junkie, go toward the bottom, where I've got some weekend reads and pop culture notes.)

Quote of the day from a lobbyist: "The runway on the session is getting short and it's going to crash."

There's always the opportunity for a deal in the remaining hours. 24 hours from now we could be on our way to tax, budget, bonding, pensions.

That said, ugly finish to Saturday, with no agreement and Gov. Mark Dayton as harsh as I've ever heard him:

“I’m not optimistic there’s going to be a budget bill or a tax bill. I’m not optimistic I’m going to get education funding. I think this session has been a shambles. I think the failure to even manage the final weeks and days have been the worst I’ve ever seen."

Republicans, who started the evening news conferences, were a little less down on the prospects of agreement, but dismissive in their own right. House Speaker Kurt Daudt, responding to Dayton's compromise proposal:

“The governor used the word compromise but we can’t throw it around as if there were real compromise in that tax proposal. The gov’s tax proposal increased taxes about $300M on Minnesotans at a time when we have a surplus. Unfortunately, there was no real compromise in that tax proposal.”

Republicans offered $50M in school lands trust money plus budget flexibility on community education and professional development mandate. All told, GOP said it would make $225M available for districts suffering shortfalls. Key for Dayton, however, (and the teachers union) is that it's not new money added to the general education formula. They want dollars added to the formula so that next biennium's 2 percent + 2 percent or wherever it ends up will be on top of a bigger base. (Apologies if I'm in the esoteric weeds here.)

There's a strong sense that it's all a puzzle that fits together. Or it all falls apart -- no tax bill, no spending bill, no school money. And then other stuff potentially gets swept up in the maelstrom of acrimony. It's hard to believe they can't agree on a bonding bill, but who knows?

Lawmakers worked late on the massive, 1,000-page omnibus bill, with the Senate passing it around midnight and the House around 3 a.m. Dayton says he'll veto it. House and Senate back in session early this afternoon. 

As for pensions...House GOP source tells me it depends on DFL behaving themselves:

Dayton/DFL want it badly, much more than GOP. So if the House DFL wants to drag things out to jam us up, they risk no vote on the pensions. This ensures we have a calmer/smoother end of session.

Let's recall: The last time House Republicans went home without a tax or bonding bill? 2016, and they won big that fall.

Jen Brooks' column on the Legislature is perfectly timed to a session in collapse as she notes all the things you may have wanted out of this Legislature? You're not getting them.

As if to put an exclamation point on it all, Dayton sent a message Saturday night with four veto letters. He vetoed money to compensate deputy registrars who have lost money in the MNLARS mess of his administration's own creation, saying the bill didn't do enough to solve the overall problem. That drew a rebuke from Rep. Dave Baker. He vetoed increasing penalties on protesters who block transportation routes, drawing a rebuke from Rep. Nick Zerwas. And he vetoed a bill that would permit Enbridge Line3, a legislative end-run around the PUC.

The harsh words and the vetoes were well matched to a quote my colleague Erin Golden got from Rep. Ron Kresha:

“This is not the year for big movements on things. That’s just the way it is. We all know that next year is when we really get back to work, so you do the best you can.”

Dayton also seemed to be looking ahead, conceding that years of impasse could mean much left undone:

“The next year’s Legislature and new governor are going to have to deal with some leftover, which I regret. I wanted to leave it clean and wrapped up, but it’s not going to be, so they’ll have to deal with that.”

Good segue: U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was a limping frontrunner going into the DFL convention, having been beaten out for the SEIU and AFSCME endorsements this week by Rep. Erin Murphy. But Saturday evening he bagged the biggest prize with the Education Minnesota endorsement and its 70K+ members and deep pockets. Story.

Music interlude: Lot of waiting around at the Legislature Saturday, with absolutely nothing happening until the blowup in the evening. Googling songs about waiting, I came up with Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man," in which Lou Reed sings about waiting for his heroin dealer.

Sorta related: Brianna Bierschbach, now at MPR, on the death of a tax on the opioid industry to help pay to remedy the epidemic. A curious section of the story, quoting Rep. Dave Baker, a chief author of the legislation:

“Even through many meetings and demands, even by the speaker, [saying] ‘You guys need to step up and help us,’ it resulted in nothing,” Baker said.

This quote implies the drug companies have some kind of veto power over the Legislature, requiring industry consent before moving forward on a public policy. Baker must be mistaken?

The world needed Michael Pollan to write a book about the new emergence of psychedelic treatment, which combines drugs like MDMA and psylocibin with a form of talk therapy. In other words, safe tripping for people who really need it. Here's a fascinating excerpt. Pollan (and a consensus in the scientific community) is impressed. The treatment

may allow the whole system to “reboot,” in the words of Robin Carhart-Harris, a pioneering neuroscientist who has done extensive work imaging tripping brains at Imperial College London. The “loosening of cognition” that results, he says, is especially helpful to people suffering from the varieties of mental stuckness, including depression, addiction, anxiety and obsession.

U.S. hit a 40-year low in its fertility rate. This could become problematic for welfare state financing, especially if we're doing a long-term reduction in immigration. Though robots will either save or destroy us by then. (Anyway, low fertility is great for Liam's chances getting into the most exclusive colleges!) Still and all, seems worth asking why we're not having babies.

Do I really have to become educated in intellectual controversies involving Jordan Peterson? Here's a friendly book review, and a brutal profile. Maybe I'll get to them when all this is over.

With the passing of Tom Wolfe, a passage from "The Right Stuff," his seminal book about the first astronauts, who were military test pilots:

As to just what this ineffable quality was . . . well, it obviously involved bravery. But it was not bravery in the simple sense of being willing to risk your life. The idea seemed to be that any fool could do that, if that was all that was required, just as any fool could throw away his life in the process. No, the idea here (in the all-enclosing fraternity) seemed to be that a man should have the ability to go up in a hurtling piece of machinery and put his hide on the line and then have the moxie, the reflexes, the experience, the coolness, to pull it back in the last yawning moment--and then to go up again the next day, and the next day, and every next day, even if the series should prove infinite--and, ultimately, in its best expression, do so in a cause that means something to thousands, to a people, a nation, to humanity, to God.

Who in America today has "the right stuff"?

Correspond: patrick.coolican@startribune.com.

Have a great Sunday all!

-- J. Patrick Coolican

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