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Farewell, Carol Molnau

Posted at 12:47 PM on February 28, 2008 by Michael Marchio

You can stick a fork in Carol Molnau's tenure as the head of MnDOT, because it's done. The Senate voted 44-22 along party lines against reconfirming her at that post.

The discussion was as acrimonious as you might expect, with Republicans accusing the DFL of a political hatchet-job, and DFLers saying that MnDOT hadn't performed well under her watch. Hanging over the whole debate, and invoked more than a few times, was the I-35W bridge collapse.

At the same time, the House was debating HF2553, Rep. Ryan Winkler's (DFL-Golden Valley) bill to compensate victims of the collapse. It would set aside a fund of $40 million for the victims and their survivors to cover medical and burial costs, lost wages, and mental health care if they didn't have insurance.

Some lawmakers raised concerns about how much the fund would cost, how it would be administered, and how to ensure that there won't be any way for people to collect from both the fund and their private insurers.

Rep Tom Tillberry (DFL-Fridley), who rarely speaks on the floor, had this to say about it:

"I had a friend on that bridge who died. His wife is up in the gallery right now listening to this. I want to make sure that we don't lose track of that, because sometimes I think we are.[...] Pat's not there for his family any longer. And to even further bring this to your attention, when Pat was on that bridge, when it all know about the green signs that are above us on the road ways, that came crashing down and that happened to Pat. There are times in this body when we have to have emotion and we have to have passion. It's not just about the dollars and cents...So please, I beg you not to forget. When tragedies happen, we forget. Its a known fact, we like to push it aside and not consider it.[...]We needed to have a special session [for the floods in southeast Minnesota] and we did. The state came to their aid. But guess what the perception is out there now? The perception is as long as it's an act of God, the state's there for you, it's got you covered. But if it was a bridge that we built, you're out of luck. Is that the kind of Minnesota we want to be a part of? I don't think so. Rep. Winkler, I applaud your efforts, and appreciate what you've done. It protects these people. It gives them hope. Hope that their government will be there for that in their need. I hope we remember that. Don't forget them."

He paused and looked up at the gallery, where a number of survivors and relatives of the victims sat wearing red. I have never heard the House as quiet as it was right then. For a few moments after he was done speaking, the whole chamber stood in awkward silence. It didn't last long, but his speech was certainly affecting. It came about 2 hours and 50 minutes into the floor session if you want to take a look.

The Senate version of the bill, SF2824, is different, so this thing isn't done generating points. I've already awarded them for Rep. Winkler, and if it goes to conference committee, he and Sen. Ron Latz(DFL-St.Louis Park) will both earn points there too.

In other news, the state is broke. Actually, officials are projecting a $1billion shortfall, so that's somewhat worse than broke. Over at News Cut, Bob Collins live blogged the press conference. You can check it out here.