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Our View: DFL's opportunity is legislating responsibly

From the editorial: "There is something to be said for political divide, its checks and balances not allowing one party to run roughshod over the other or over those it’s charged to serve."

Close-up of Minnesota Capitol dome
Don Davis / Forum News Service file photo
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As Gov. Tim Walz said at his inauguration last week, “the era of gridlock is over” in St. Paul. Minnesotans should be able to expect “action over excuses” from their elected legislative and other state officials this legislative session.

Their all-DFL elected legislative and other state officials, that is. Following the November election, DFLers hold a 70-64 majority over Republicans in the Minnesota House and a 34-33 edge in the Senate. Republicans had controlled the Senate since 2017. In addition, the governor, secretary of state, auditor, and attorney general all are Democrats this year in the Gopher State.

While not necessarily a hive mind, the Minnesota DFL should be able to more easily pass legislation, take actions, and get things done following years of partisan politics that stymied even the seemingly simplest of successes. For crying out loud, the Legislature last year didn’t even pass a bonding bill, once the only reason a session was even held in an even-numbered year.

The DFL has an opportunity this year to lead, to do what’s best and right for all of us, and to get things done that Minnesotans should be able to expect from their taxes-supported state government.

The DFL majority also has the chance to show it can operate responsibly and with respect for the state’s coffers and all residents, not just its supporters. It can expect to be judged by its results. And if it doesn’t deliver, it has to know Minnesota voters will hold its members accountable in 2024.

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There is something to be said for political divide, its checks and balances not allowing one party to run roughshod over the other or over those it’s charged to serve. With a divided legislature, neither party can act like teenagers throwing a rager the moment a parental figure is out of the picture.

With Republicans in the minority across the board this 2023 session, it’s on the DFL to practice self-restraint without partisanship holding it in check.

The DFL’s early-on focus, however, wasn’t super encouraging. Its priorities last week, in the first days of the session, featured partisan matters it hadn’t been able to push through in years past due to a lack of Republican and bipartisan support. Matters like driver’s licenses for all, including illegal immigrants, grabbed headlines. So did allowing felons to vote; codifying abortion rights, even though the Minnesota Constitution headed off the sorts of concerns and impacts other states experienced following the Supreme Court overturn of Roe v. Wade; paid family leave, seen by many as anti-business; and legalizing recreational marijuana, in spite of the insistence when medical marijuana was passed less than a decade ago that it wouldn’t be a step toward such full legalization.

All are legitimate issues, deserving of compromise and vigorous legislative and public debate. Any fast-tracking snubs agreed-upon processes that need to be followed no matter who’s in charge. And any focus on partisan issues over other important matters that affect far more Minnesotans is irresponsible. Other important matters like that bonding bill. Or crime, especially violent crime. Or meaningful tax cuts, the state’s record $17.6 billion budget surplus suggesting Minnesotans have been overtaxed for far too long.

“Now is the time to be bold and build a bright future for all Minnesotans,” Gov. Walz also said at his inauguration. “Now is the time to deliver.”

It is, but with a focus on what’s best for Minnesotans of all stripes and with political scores set aside. That’s the DFL majority’s challenge — and its opportunity to meet over the next four-plus months.

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