Lessons of a tripartisan session

It appears our legislative process actually works. Gov. Jesse Ventura signed, with three hours remaining in the fiscal year, tax and appropriation bills preventing a government shutdown. For the past few weeks, the state has been caught up in the drama at the State Capitol as our tripartisan government wrestled to agree on bills to prevent the government from shutting down. The victory lies solely with citizens of the state, and lawmakers should not be quick to congratulate themselves for completing a job they should have done months ago.

These past few weeks have brought out some ugly examples of partisanship. If the legislature takes only one thing away from the entire session, it should be that compromise is an important political tool that cannot be neglected. Despite the extremes Republicans and Democrats found themselves at, the people’s business is not served by them sniping at each other. The job of legislators, no matter how far out their political positions may be, is to work in the best interests of the citizens who elected them, as well as working with other representatives in the best interest of the state.

Of course, one of the major
sticking points in this session was property and sales tax relief. With the reduction of property taxes, homeowners in the state will now find a certain level of tax relief. However, as Democrats have pointed out, the tax relief does seem to favor those with higher home values. A fairer system could have been worked out so the reduction in property taxes was the same percentage across the board, no matter what a homeowner’s home value. Though, in the end, some tax relief, even if distributed unfairly, is better than no tax relief and it is good to see more of a libertarian philosophy shine through in this session.

Far be it from Republicans to be honestly interested in keeping
government out of the lives of citizens. Fortunately, in the final version of the health and human services bill, the desires of House Republicans – for a “gag rule” for organizations that want to refer or provide abortions, as well as wording that would have created a 24 hour waiting period before a woman could have an abortion – were thwarted. If a gag rule and waiting period had passed, the government would have been seriously imposing itself into a person’s individual decisions. It is unfortunate that the Republicans felt the need to tie in a political issue with a funding bill and because of their insistence to include this pointless and insulting legislation, the session continued to drag on.

Rightfully so, Ventura appears to have come out of this session the least maligned. Though his attitude did not always work in favor of settling the various disputes, and he was not as involved as he possibly could have been, at certain points he seemed above the bickering the House and Senate were engaged in. In the future, if Ventura focused more on the details, he could act as a more effective broker between all sides and our state may not need to teeter so close to a government shutdown again. Additionally, he should not necessarily look at the deadlock that consumed the legislature as proof that a one-house legislature would be able to do a better job. This session’s pace was more due to the differing ideologies than any necessary deficiencies of our state’s legislative process.

Alhough the state avoided a shutdown at the last minute, lawmakers should have come to these agreements months ago. The legislators need to remember they are accountable to the voters of this state. Our government functions only as well as the people we put into office. Voters should reflect on this fact when incumbents go campaigning for their next term in office.