May 25, 2006
Isn't that special

Some folks here this morning are all wound up at a news item that the governor may call a special session on the natural resources constitutional amendment. But it's not likely to happen.

Even the lead in the Star Tribune makes it pretty clear that it's not going to happen:

Gov. Tim Pawlenty may be willing to call a special legislative session to reconsider a proposal that would allow voters to amend the state constitution to fund support for the outdoors and the arts, but only under strict guidelines that may prove untenable.

Why would Senate negotiators be willing to move now after they just spent three months standing pat? They still remember 1998 when the constitutional right to hunt and fish was on the ballot and it drew lots of GOP and IP voters. This sounds more like Pawlenty throwing those voters a bone to show he's still willing to work for them.

How would you feel if the state Legislature spent public money on a retreat where they talked about how to win elections? That's exactly what Greg Wersal is accusing judges of doing, according to the Pioneer Press:

Hennepin County Chief District Judge Lucy Wieland, who sits on the council, said the retreat focused on maintaining an impartial judiciary in light of Wersal's 2002 U.S. Supreme Court victory.

"The goal of the session was to educate the Judicial Council about the national and potential local trends in the direction of the politicization of the judiciary and the impact that has on the public's confidence," Wieland said. "It was really educational."

Wersal countered that the retreat on an "impartial judiciary" was really about how to get incumbent judges re-elected. He points to a summary of strategies that lists, "First task how to help with judges who are up for re-election in 2006."

He points to another section labeled, "Campaign Tips, Ten Do's and Don'ts of Judicial Campaigning."

Wersal is guy who went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to win Minnesota judges the right to campaign.

And speaking of the campaign, it's already started over the one constitutional amendment that will for sure be on the ballot this fall. MPR had news items from both sides. First the supporters:

A group called Minnesotans for Better Roads and Transit launched a campaign Tuesday encouraging voters to support a proposed constitutional amendment that will appear on the ballot in November. If voters approve, the amendment will dedicate all of the revenue from the sales tax on new and used vehicles to roads and public transit. Currently nearly half of the money from the sales tax goes into the state's general fund.

The president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, David Olson, said the amendment is critical to the state's economy.

"It's a very important component of our state's future. If we don't have a great transportation system it makes it much harder for us to retain important businesses and attract new businesses to the state of Minnesota."

And now the opponents:

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland says the way the amendment is written, he worries all the money would be used for transit programs.

"We do in the city of Moorhead get a small amount of transit aid for our city bus system. But that's not going to help the road between Moorhead and Detroit Lakes. All you have to do is drive highway ten and you're going to see a pretty tough road. We are very concerned I think about the fact that across the state we are going to see a shortchange in road construction funds," he said.

You can see how complicated these constitutional amendments get. And that's the one the Legislature could agree on.

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 7:12 AM