The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 22, 2013

Timing still legislative problem

The Mankato Free Press

---- — One can appreciate the deliberative, legislative process in Minnesota. We can respect the hours and hours of time legislators put in debating important issues. But time management seems to be an issue whatever party reins. This year is no different.

We're not sure if its politics or if there are just too many things to get done, or if priorities fail to be set or people are just not talking enough. It could be all of the above. But several key issues important to the people of our state were left by the wayside in this year's legislative session.

The school bullying legislation and progress on transportation funding stand as two examples of this inability to get things done on issues extremely important to our state.

In both cases, government officials and staff spent hours, days, even weeks traversing the state gathering information on these critical issues. Task forces were established. Educated people and experts spent time developing policies in both of these areas. They took hundreds of pages of public testimony. They wrote extensive and thoughtful reports.

In essence, these volunteers and public servants did what they were asked. And when we didn't even come close to resolving some of these issues, some elected leaders blamed politics as usual. In the case of the bullying legislation, DFLers blamed Republicans who apparently said they planned a lengthy floor debate on the issue. DFLers punted, saying there wasn't enough time.

But there's never enough time. Never will be. The proper management of this issue should have been conducted far before the end of the session. There should have been a vote and floor debate far before the last day. The issue management either needs much improvement or someone has to take the politics out of it.

The same mode of operation appeared to apply to the transportation issue. Again, the issues were studied. Public input was gathered in volumes. Proposals were made. Gov. Mark Dayton seemed to take this issue off the table when he opposed a gas tax. We wonder why he even allowed the task force to do any work. Gas tax is always one of the options. It seemed like this was a colossal waste of time and money.

On balance, there is no question many things were accomplished this year. Many staff, legislators and others worked hard to make these things happen. There were some successes. A budget deal without going into special sessions seems to be at least a moderate victory. We agreed to fix our crumbling Capitol. Gun legislation was at least rigorously debated, though change seemed small, almost minute. Remarkably, we made progress on sex offender legislation in a bipartisan way.

So we implore legislative managers to apply the principles of what worked on the smaller items to the big issues that fell by the wayside. These were issues extremely important to Minnesotans. Many should be disappointed, and we hope these events don't further feed their cynicism that government can't get the job done.

At the very least, gather among yourselves and analyze what went wrong and how it can be done better next time. Please don't do another study. Use the ones we did this year. In short, get better at your business. Manage the time. That is what people expect.