Monday, February 25, 2008

And the winner by knockout! Is the Legislature as it successfully overrode the Governor's veto of the transportation funding bill. It didn't look quite like this:

But I am sure to some on both sides of the fight that it feels quite a bit like this.

The result in the Senate--a 47-20 vote to override (2 votes more than what was needed)--was not unexpected, as the Senate has a 45-22 DFL majority as it is. Once the override was accomplished in the House, it was more or less a fait accompli that the Governor was going to be the loser of this little fracas.

As in the case of the House debate, there was a lot of mention of the current economic state of Minnesota and how tax increases of any type are going to hurtaverage Minnesota families as they struggle.

Senator Steve Murphy (DFL-Red Wing) was philosophical in citing that the fact an override was needed constituted a "failure" at some level in that the normal channels of debate and compromise did not produce a bill that met the transportation needs of Minnesota as defined by the Legislature that could gain the Governor's approval. In this event, the Legislature had no choice but to try and override the veto of a transportation bill that was a scaled-back version of last session's transportation bill, which died when the Governor's veto was not overridden on the last day of the session.

Where to from here? No one asks me for political advice much anymore. . .but that doesn't stop me from ladling it out periodically. It seems to me that no one is truly at fault here and that the system worked. The 9th grade civics text may have an outdated chart showing how a bill becomes a law, but the separation of powers are alive and well and today's result shows that a legislative body can impress its will when it makes a strong case to enough members of the legislative minority.

It seems this is where, in my opinion, the discussion should head. Both sides should respectfully say that the system has worked, that they agree to disagree about the need for the tax increase, and that everyone can move forward from this point. Hopefully (although not likely), toned-down rhetoric would lead to a level of cooperation that is going to be needed in the near future.

The budget news on Thursday is not going to be good and it would be great if the Administration and the Legislature could work together to build a package with broad support to solve what is likely to be a monster-sized problem.

The photo I chose for this installment is of Joe Louis knocking out Max Schmeling in their famous 1938 rematch. This was not only a fight, it was a political event as tensions between Germany and the rest of Europe escalated. Further, Schmeling had knocked out Louis two years earlier and Louis, who became World Champion by defeating James "Cinderella Man" Braddock in 1937, clearly needed to defeat Schmeling to be the undisputed champion (as Braddock refused to fight Schmeling). Louis won the fight in astounding fashion and went on to an unprecedented reign as heavyweight champ (Okay. Enough boxing history.)

But later in life, Louis and Schmeling managed to settle their feud (photo below), which was no small feat given the symbolism that accompanied their athletic confrontations. All of this may seem to be another tortured analogy supplied by yours truly, but if Louis and Schmeling can close the gulf that separated them, you'd think that the Administration and the Legislature could do the same and work toward bipartisan solutions to some pretty big problems. At least that would be my hope.

Photo Credit: AP (fight)

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