Minnesota is not alone when it comes to state lawmakers disagreeing and not getting along, but at least we know when it comes to helping out Minnesotans affected by natural disasters, they can check their gloves at the door and put aside partisan bickering long enought to do some good. The Minnesota House and Senate unanimously passed and Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed an $80 million disaster relief package during Monday's special session.
In Minnesota, we're used to special sessions. Usually those two words put together give us an unsettling feeling, one created when Republicans and Democrats agree to disagree, then disagree some more, and ultimately miss the session deadline for getting their work done. Then, the cynic in all of us rears its head. But Monday's special session had nothing to do with party affiliation - it was about securing money to help their fellow citizens, no matter who those citizens vote for. The declaration for 21 southern Minnesota counties - eight more made the list Tuesday, including Yellow Medicine and Redwood counties - hit by heavy rain and flooding came late Wednesday. The federal government will cover three-quarters of the public costs, leaving the rest for the state to take care of.
This is not to say there wasn't any politicking going on, but it was pretty minor - minor enough that it didn't prevent the bill from passing. The Associated Press reported that Democratic Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia tried to provoke Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer into a floor spat by questioning his past votes against disaster relief measures. To his credit, Emmer refrained from responding. Had he, it would've only made him look bad to the voters, and two weeks before the general election, locked in a tight race, is no time for a gubernatorial nominee to look bad.
Is this a sign the state's politicians are turning over a new leaf and will get along when next year's session rolls around? Fat chance. As much as we'd like to think petty, time-wasting arguing will cease to exist in St. Paul in 2011, the reality is it's become as much of a tradition in Minnesota as potluck dinners and pro sports teams losing the big game. To an extent, that's OK, that's politics, and give-and-take is good; only when our lawmakers let it get to a point where nothing gets settled, where important legislation fails to get passed and when crassness outweighs compromise do they get in trouble. Thankfully that didn't happen this week.