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Some parting thoughts

Posted at 4:30 PM on May 20, 2008 by Michael Marchio (5 Comments)

The 85th Legislative session now belongs to the ages, and I think we can say it was a good one. The governor got a property tax cap, we'll have the first new state park in 30 years put on Lake Vermilion if all goes according to plan, and the first steps in health care reform were pushed through. The Central Corridor is on track, and there's more transportation funding on the way. Everyone compromised, and everyone pretty much got some of what they wanted. This is the way things are supposed to work in civics books, and a productive session like this was a good present for lawmakers to give the state on its 150th birthday.

On Sunday, the last day of the session, the Capitol was filled with people from all over the state who came to celebrate the Sesquicentennial and watch the fireworks burst over the marble dome later that night. It's an inspiring thing, in a way, that in a democracy the bosses - the people - wear sweatshirts and jeans and their employees - the lawmakers - wear suits.

Session came to a close right before midnight, but not before Rep. Mark Olson (IR-Sherburne) gave a windy speech on Real ID. Hey, it just wouldn't be right for the session to end any other way. After, retiring lawmakers in the House gave their parting speeches, and the mood changed to something akin to a high school graduation, relieved that it's over, but a little melancholic that this was the last time they would all be together in one room. Party divisions disappeared and lawmakers spoke to each other not as members of the majority or minority, but as colleagues, something you might wish they'd do more during the session.

Rep. Chris DeLaForest (R-Andover) and Rep. Neva Walker (DFL-Minneapolis) gave especially good ones, and I'd encourage you to watch them all here. The speeches begin at 1 hour and 20 minutes in. They, along with Reps. Brad Finstad (R-Comfrey) John Berns (R-Wayzata) Scott Kranz (DFL-Blaine) Frank Moe (DFL-Bemidji) Aaron Peterson (DFL-Appleton) Connie Ruth (R-Owatonna) Kathy Tingelstad (R-Andover) Erik Paulsen (R-Eden Prairie) and Bud Heidgerken (R-Freeport) won't be coming back for another session. But the best was from Rep. Dennis Ozment (R-Rosemount), a 24-year veteran at the Legislature respected across the aisle. I've taken a bit of the audio from his speech, and you can listen to it here. His are wise words for lawmakers, and if they're heeded, might produce fewer sessions that die in partisan acrimony as the clock runs out.

There's a phrase they use around the Capitol, the "end-of-session depression." It's kind of strange, when you think about it. Lawmakers and staff go through a truly remarkable amount of stress during a session, beginning their day earlier than most people and working late into the night, sometimes until 3 or 4 a.m. for little pay and less public appreciation, and many are far away from their families for weeks at a time. To be sad to see that end might seem odd, but I think I know what they're talking about. There is something about the workings of government, smoothly churning or sometimes - okay, a lot of times - just clanking along, that becomes reassuring and even fun. The call of the roll, the suspense of a narrow vote, the heated banter - these things become welcome additions to our lives for a few months, and I for one can't wait for them to begin again next January.

We certainly had a lot to follow, with 1,703 House bills and 1,531 Senate bills introduced this session alone, and a record total of 4,256 in the House and 3,889 in the Senate for the biennium. I want to thank everyone who commented on the blog and participated in the MFL. You folks are the reason we brought the MFL back for a second year and will be the reason if we bring it back next year. It's been an honor to serve as your commissioner during the session.

Comments (5)

Thanks for all your hard work Commish!

Ultraliberal Elite

Posted by Aaron | May 20, 2008 6:15 PM

This was a blast. I have never spent this much attention to what the legislature is actually up to. Please do this again!

Thank you for the huge efforts; they are well appreciated.


Elizabeth T.

Posted by GopherMPH | May 20, 2008 9:47 PM

Thanks Commish! Wonder if you worked as hard as the legislators did.

Hey! The Coen Brothers are coming. Time to transition to my new career in film.

Posted by Nancy | May 23, 2008 10:50 PM

Hey -- the Gov is still signing or not signing bills -- shouldn't that alter curretn scoring?

Posted by Johnnie | May 27, 2008 9:10 AM

Hey Johnnie, you're right that the governor been signing - or vetoing - bills for the last week or so. I've been adding the points in for your lawmakers, so don't worry, you and your lawmakers will get credit.

Posted by Michael Marchio | May 27, 2008 5:44 PM