Our bet is that sighs of relief were common Friday when Minnesotans awoke to news that the Legislature had sent bills authorizing state spending in 2018-19 to Gov. Mark Dayton and adjourned. Dayton said he’ll take as much time as the Constitution allots before deciding whether to sign the bills. If they become law, Minnesotans can look forward to a summer without the disruption of a state government shutdown.
That would bring closure to a rocky, rambunctious lawmaking season that required three-plus days of special session to complete. Its end product is far from ideal. But its completion would reassure Minnesotans who worry that Washington’s partisan paralysis is infecting state government as well. This time, a Republican-controlled Legislature and a DFL governor compromised sufficiently to produce what looks to be a workable two-year budget.
That assessment is based on an inspection that has been disconcertingly brief. Once again, the Legislature and governor opted for closed-door dealmaking and a rush to the finish, making a mockery of their vows of transparency and public engagement. Several of the massive bills sent to the governor Thursday and Friday came into view less than 24 hours before floor votes; provisions in the 672-page human services bill were still being worked out after midnight Friday, Dayton said.
A crush at session’s end is favored by leaders of both parties. It helps them maintain control. But it damages public respect for the Legislature and discourages the citizen participation that has been a Minnesota lawmaking hallmark for 159 years. We’d welcome seeing the lack of openness at the Capitol emerge as a campaign theme next year.
In coming days — and with the Star Tribune’s help — Minnesotans will learn more about what their Legislature wrought. They’ll find prizes including a $1 billion bonding bill — a catch-up measure, since a bill of that size did not make it across the finish line in 2016 — and a $300 million increase in transportation funding. The surge they’ll bring to infrastructure investment is only a start — but a good start — at meeting growing needs.
Minnesotans will be glad for compliance with the federal Real ID requirement, lifting the possibility that driver’s licenses won’t be sufficient proof of identity to board an airplane next year. Those eager to shop for liquor on Sundays will be toasting the Legislature come July. Those who faced high costs when buying insurance on the MNsure exchange are already benefiting from this Legislature’s relief.
We’re also glad for what didn’t get done. Service reductions at Metro Transit, a tax incentive for donations to private school scholarships, a “stand your ground” gun law, a Metropolitan Council power shift in favor of local governments — all are among the ill-advised proposals that did not become law. They aren’t gone for good. But they’re gone until the Legislature returns next Feb. 20, and that’s a break we’ll gladly take.