Friday, February 22, 2013

Again: A House Divided

Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, a Star Tribune reporter, recently wrote a column relative to the new rule imposed by House Democrats requiring that all proposed amendments to bills on the House floor be submitted 24 hours before the main bill is taken up.  Supposedly, this move was done in the name of disclosure in that it would allow the public the opportunity to contact their legislators prior to public debate.  That may well be the case but those who watch legislation closely tend to be lobbyists and they are quite aware of all happenings relative to their interests.  I suspect this move is more about punishing the minority than serving the public.  However, what the Democrats should realize is that this will hurt the quality of the legislation and that will harm their own members.

Limiting member input is never wise.  The quality of a proposed law can always tolerate improvement through debate and amendment and no member’s right of participation should be restricted. The amendment process should be seen as an instrument that can forge quality and one that enhances the opportunity for bi-partisanship.

Flexibility and spontaneity are valuable ingredients in any management system.  Would we ever think of restricting a surgeon in the operating room or an airplane pilot handling a crisis?  We rely on judgment and experience.

We should expect no less from our legislators.  There should be no place for political revenge.  When exercised it only makes the majority look small.

Bear in mind, when legislators campaign for office and want our support they talk of representing the interests of their district.  I never heard a single candidate ever suggest that they would give their vote away to a political caucus or political party.  Yet, that is precisely what happens time and again.  And this increases unyielding partisanship.

In 2012, the public discharged the Republicans in part because of policy excesses, rigid conformity, and an abuse of power.  Usually when one side insists on revenge, the other will retaliate.  I suspect Republicans will think of endless amendments to every bill thereby slowing down an already slow process.  Further, they could hold the bonding bill hostage since a super majority is required for approval.  That is precisely what is not needed.

This session has major issues to confront including preparing a balanced budget, dealing with expensive infrastructure projects and handling the challenges of tuition and higher education.  Solid and intelligent management of these concerns will be required if the session is to be successful.  This amendment does serious harm to that expectation

Governor Dayton has set a most appropriate standard of conduct for his office.  It is one of graciousness, transparency, and a willingness to work with all.  The House democrats would be well advised to do the same.

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