Monday, June 27, 2011

Room 237 State Capitol--Has the "turn" happened on budget

Before I went to the Capitol today I went to the court hearing on the Judicial branch budget plea. The question, whether part or all of the Judicial branch will be open if shutdown occurs.  I listened, and learned a bit about Roman History, heard about the Gideon decision which is about the right to counsel, informed about how our State Constitution reads.  Fine and dandy, but the question in my mind was what were the Governor and GOP Leaders doing to avert the shutdown.

I would find out at 3pm this afternoon in the hallway where Room 237 is.  I set my self up as an observer, watching the press, and the staff, and of course, the Speaker, Majority Leader, and the Governor.

I was there a hour ahead of time, talking to the TV station cameraman, bs'ing, with some of the media and political people, even explained to a visitor from South Carolina what the difference between DFL and a Democrat is.

The press were mostly in front of the door which leads to the hallway to Room 237.  The GOP Leaders came first with staff, not many.  The Governor then came with notebook in hand by himself.  Going towards the Room 237.  As I saw the Governor go towards the end of the hallway I thought he is determined, he knows his stuff, and he is centered as to what is views are for compromise.  He may have answers to questions from previous meetings.

The GOP Leaders who came in before him were confident, projecting an air that they can get this done to avert a shutdown.  The Speaker I think realizes even though there is forty years of pent up energy of GOP not having full sway over the Legislature and many new first time elected people want to get tons of action on those forty years of so-called DFL influenced programs and policy in one year, it is not going to happen.

To the best of my knowledge it was only the three of them in Room 237.  As I stated in previous post, the meetings may have been an atmosphere of advocating their positions, or inquiring of each other of their positions, but the turn has happened.

The three are now discussing their interests, not their positions, which are two separate concepts.  The Governor, the Speaker and Majority Leader are trying to create solutions, then decide if those solutions work for them.  It's just plain problem solving.

They are acting with a purpose and knowledge which has carried them to where they stand today.  Each side is also realizing that the eyes of  Minnesotans are on our State Capitol.

Speaker Zeller and Majority Leader Koch know they can only go full steam ahead so far on the GOP's agenda of 2011 because what is in the back of history.  That is the GOP loss of the Minnesota House in 1986 when they took over in 1985 and went full steam ahead and with it alienating many independent voters.

Governor Dayton knows there is change in the air on some aspects of the Minnesota experience over the past forty years.  This is evident by several of the bills he has signed which surprised some interest groups.

Now for the last thing, where does transparency and accountability come into this process?  Frankly, at this point there is none, in the immediate sense, because the public does not have access or are not  given access to documents, memos, working paper, ie.

We do not know what is going behind the closed doors.  Even though most information would be public under current law for the Executive branch and not public under the Legislature, there is no willingness to share because of the "negotiations" and to build trust.  I did make a comment to legislative staff person today that after these meetings and agreement reached the Legislature should make public all their documents, memos, working papers, ie.  The person said they will "take it under advisement."  Bottom line, public wants to know how we came to this point and how it was solved.

As I have stated before it is a political reality that there is secrecy in these kinds of situations.  The question is why?

If there is any kind of comments as to what is being discussed it can raise anticipation, apprehension and disapproval among interest groups and the people before the t's are crossed.  If there is revelation on legislative issues and policies not resolved, it could make it more tough to negotiate.

In other words, the Governor, the Speaker, and Majority Leader are trying to do the best to resolve the budget crisis and serve the State of Minnesota without being "ping pongs" in the political game.  For that I salute them.

One thing though, I am not comfortable in not knowing the details of the agreement without the opportunity of seeing and knowing the details before it goes to the Legislature as I think many Minnesotans are of the same ilk.

If that means a special session on the Fourth of July so be it.   What a neat way to celebrate our 235th Birthday, Representative Democracy in action.

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