Minnesota’s 2018 legislative session, which convenes Feb. 20, promises to be bonkers.
The Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision last week to uphold a line-item veto by Gov. Mark Dayton of the Legislature’s funding means cash will be dwindling when lawmakers return to town. They will take up a bill right away to fund operations, but Dayton will probably veto it unless he gets some of what he wants — like scaling back last year’s tax cuts.
But legislative Republicans continue to say they will not negotiate under these conditions, which they believe to be legislative extortion. Dayton has his own tale of betrayal, arguing that the GOP forced him to sign their tax cut bill as ransom in exchange for the budget of the all-important Department of Revenue.
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said the Legislature will not draft bills from the administration and won’t make payments on the new Senate Office Building.
“Maybe it’s time that this governor understands that there are ramifications for his decisions,” Daudt said.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, warned Minnesotans not to expect much. “This will be the biggest do-nothing session we’ve ever seen if this environment we’re in between the Legislature and executive branch is still as toxic as it is today on February 20.”
But the tension between Dayton and Republicans in the Legislature is just the beginning of the weird atmosphere that is likely to hang over the Capitol. A member of each party and each chamber will likely be under investigation for sexual harassment.
There could be depositions of lawmakers, lobbyists and other Capitol fixtures, asked to attest to allegations and perhaps provide their own. There could be correspondence that is tawdry and damning.
The allegations and suspicions about more people coming forward will add to the tension in a work environment that is thick with political intrigue even in normal times.
Finally, several lawmakers are running for governor and will be eager to seek out spectacle if it will help their campaigns.
Sen. David Osmek, R-Mound, who last week hired Rick Weible to be his campaign manager, can hold the Senate to a standstill on almost any issue he wishes because Republicans cling to a narrow, one-vote majority.
Add it all up, and it seems the Legislature could fund itself by selling tickets to the show.