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< Scorecard! Get your scorecard here! | Main | Legislator Awards: Your turn! >

Why legislators don't matter

Posted at 5:03 PM on May 16, 2007 by Bob Collins (1 Comments)

One of the reasons I started the Minnesota Fantasy Legislature, is that after 15 years of covering (in some capacity) politics in Minnesota, the work of a large number of legislators wasn't getting appropriate coverage from mainstream media, including you know who.

We always heard from the same six lawmakers, and we usually only heard about five or six bills, usually in such general terms as to be relatively meaningless.

Watching the last days of the Minnesota Legislature, I'm reminded about why media coverage treats 195 legislators as if they don't matter. They don't.

Don't blame me for that fact. Don't blame any of the media for that fact. Blame the process that legislators seem to embrace for that fact.

While listening to the debate this afternoon in the Senate, Sen. Sandy Pappas -- and then Sen. Betsy Wergin -- went off on Sen. Tarryl Clark because a few people -- guess who ? -- made all the decisions on the E-12 omnibus bill late last night -- or overnight -- and none of the great unwashed was involved or even got a chance to look at it. (Listen to their comments)

Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, made a similar comment in Tim Pugmire's story tonight.

"When you have 40 percent of the state budget at stake, I think if there's any process and any bill that needs an open forum for its consideration it's that one," she said.

Now Gen Olson isn't a nobody on this issue. She's on the E-12 conference committee that apparently, legislative leaders thought, is as irrelevant at this time of the Legislature as the original E-12 bill that the governor has vetoed.

This isn't really -- although I understand the gut instinct to make it so -- a Republican vs. DFL scenario we're talking about here. For one thing, Pappas is a DFLer. What this is is a every-big-and-little-city-and-town-not-named-Minneapolis-or-St.-Paul issue.

The big problem we in the mainstream media face every year around this time, is tracking bills like a horse race, and forgetting the real scandal of our legislative process in the last days of a legislative session: you don't matter, your district doesn't matter, your lawmaker doesn't matter, all the committee hearings don't matter, and all of the people who took time to testify on legislation don't matter.

In many ways, despite the occasional criticism of the MFL for "trivializing" the Legislature (Rep. Pelowski?) , the MFL treats lawmakers far more seriously than the system in which they toil.

Comments (1)

I couldn't agree more - education funding should be debated and discussed more. And simplified (that's another post). I have to agree with the lawmakers who are concerned about metro/outstate funding: some of the same concerns that inner city schools have are shared by rural schools. We need to start talking about these issues and ideas more....and have consistent and adequate school funding (that'll be my third post).

Posted by Douglas | May 16, 2007 5:37 PM