Our view/flood recovery: Call Minnesota Legislature for right reasons onlyFour days. That’s how quickly politics were able to pollute what started out as a genuine, state-led effort to help Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota recover from our devastating flooding of June 20. Just four days. Pitiful.
Four days. That’s how quickly politics were able to pollute what started out as a genuine, state-led effort to help Duluth and Northeastern Minnesota recover from our devastating flooding of June 20. Just four days. Pitiful.
Gov. Mark Dayton and legislative leaders met for an hour a week ago today, emerging from behind closed doors to vow that the state would pick up whatever the federal government didn’t pay to repair streets, sewers and other damaged, publicly owned infrastructure and facilities. They promised a one-day session in the last two weeks of August, once federal officials decide what they’ll provide, as federal funds cover 75 percent of all approved costs.
Dayton and the legislative leaders said the special session would be limited to disaster assistance and disaster assistance only — as it should be.
“We are going to come through for those who have been affected by this,” Dayton said, according to a blog post written by Forum Communications’ Capitol reporter Don Davis.
By Monday of this week, however, some state legislators already were talking about taking on other issues during the one-day session, including the power of the secretary of state to write, or rewrite, constitutional amendment titles.
By doing so, by taking on other issues during their limited time together, lawmakers risk being distracted from their critical work at hand. Tacking on pet issues jeopardizes making decisions that must be made.
“When asked if they could keep the special session limited to disaster relief, House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, and Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said they did not think it would be proper to take up other issues,” Davis reported Monday.
That was good.
“But neither promised to control their members,” Davis also wrote.
Uh-oh. Not so good.
As their party’s leaders, Zellers and Senjem can do better. Zellers certainly was saying the right things late last week and can make sure now his words don’t ring hollow.
“To bring (the constitutional amendment title) issue into (the special session), I think, would be a disservice to those people that have had their lives completely disrupted, completely upended and who have no idea where they are going to go, what they are going to do, how they are going to provide for themselves,” Zellers said. “I do not think that would be appropriate.”
Zellers and other lawmakers flew over Duluth immediately after the flooding. The waters took “a nonpartisan path,” he observed. “(They) didn’t care if you were a Democrat or a Republican.”
And neither should lawmakers when it comes time next month to meet for a day and to do what needs to be done.
The greater Duluth region, with our damages estimated at $108 million to $150 million for public infrastructure and facilities alone, will more than appreciate and will graciously welcome state and federal financial assistance. Assuming the pollution of politics doesn’t get in the way.