Sunday, May 24, 2015

Great governor, good governance

Several days ago we wrote in disgust and dismay about legislation the 2015 session of the Minnesota Legislature had sent to Governor Dayton. The dismay related to substantive content in the bills, particularly some very bad environmental policy. The disgust was triggered by the process by which those policy provisions, some of which had not been heard in any committee, were inserted during the "dead of night" into omnibus budget bills. Although the Minnesota Constitution does not speak directly to the question, this writer strongly opposes the idea that policy should be included in budget bills. All policy should be heard openly, in one or more committees, and adopted, amended or rejected on its own merits. I may get some pushback on this next point but the provisions of several of the bills in question strike me as coming dangerously close to constituting terroristic threats. I pose that assessment based on this definition of such threats, which includes the phrases:
  • "to cause serious public inconvenience, in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such terror or inconvenience."
  • "or influence the conduct or activities of a branch or agency of the federal government, the state, or a political subdivision of the state."

bees need real pollinator-friendly plants
bees need real pollinator-friendly plants
Photo by J. Harrington

Perhaps I need to take a remedial reading course, or some lawyers and legislators need to rewrite at least parts of the definition so it can't be as readily misapplied by folks like me, but elimination of longstanding environmental provisions, intimidation of state agencies, and the abolishment of a citizen board certainly strikes me as intended to "influence the conduct of ... the state in reckless disregard of the risk of causing such inconvenience." Legislatures and legislators seem to have developed the idea that, since they create laws, they are above the law. I don't think that's what the founders of this country had in mind. I haven't studied enough about the founders of Minnesota and the authors of that constitution to speak to what was intended.

water quality needs improvement
water quality needs improvement or protection
Photo by J. Harrington

Governor Dayton deserves thanks for his vetoes yesterday of two bills that had, in the opinion of many Minnesotans, very egregious provisions concerning Minnesota's environmental protection framework. He has dealt a serious blow to the degree of cynicism often underlying the scribblings of this scrivener. We should look forward to more of Governor Dayton's support for Minnesota's citizens and environment as we move through the special session and into the 2016 session. As voters we need to chose carefully those who would represent us in the legislature if we truly look forward to the day that cynicism regarding politics and politicians will be less well founded than it has become over the past few decades. Corporate "persons" don't vote, they just buy votes. Minnesota and the rest of the United States deserve better than that. We have better in the recent actions of our current governor and can hope legislative leaders listen to citizens more than "persons."


By Brian Russell 

the unthinkable prospect
of a world in which I am left
to my own devices

which are few and as soon
as the batteries die useless
first order of business

I draw a map in the sand
mark where I stand as the capital
of civilization   within me the
detailed blueprints of the pyramids
and the concept of zero
beyond me the finite frontier

the many miles of undeveloped
shoreline with spectacular views of a
sea filled with intricately depicted
monsters   I have a lot to do before

I introduce the new world
to art and astronomy and industry
medicine and technology
ethics politics democracy

by a show of hands we shall elect
which tree to burn in the first fire

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