OPINION | Legislative tug of war stretches taxpayer’s patience to the limit


Why is it that every year the Minnesota Legislature, that only works as a body for a few months each year, can’t get things done within the constitutionally allotted time? They act like college students doing all-nighters, waiting until the very last moment to meet a long-known deadline. Professional procrastinators, perhaps?

For the last couple of years, we get political gridlock, a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled legislature each refusing to budge an inch on anything. A tug-of-war with us state citizens caught in the middle.

Lawmakers pass bills; the governor vetoes them. Lawmakers try to override said vetoes. This is State Government 101, but I’d rather call it State Government none-oh-none.

The 2009 legislative session, Minnesota’s best reality show bar none, closed with the following actions:

• No resolution on a required balanced budget.

• Both the House and Senate passed a seat belt bill, giving police another
reason to practice DWBs (driving while Black), allowing them to stop motorists solely because they or passengers are not buckled up.

• A medical marijuana bill. Watch the new Fox show Glee to see the potential of people finding ways to abuse a law that would help terminally ill patients.

• An anti-bullying in public schools bill. This means that private school playgrounds will be nirvana for bullies.

• A $234 million bill for outdoors, clean water, parks and the arts: The lawmakers saw funding mosquitoes more important than our schools.

I had hoped that the state legislature would have passed a law against people talking on their cell phones while driving. If there is a law, then it certainly isn’t being enforced. Once while I was driving, a person in the next lane was driving their car with a cell phone on one hand and a comb in the other, fixing their hair. I don’t know how this person could drive unless they were an octopus.

Personally, I feel that only doctors and emergency workers should be allowed to talk and drive simultaneously, not soccer moms, pimp daddies and anyone else in between.

Furthermore, there must be some law that says you must have a cell phone — either in your hand, or some Star Trek-like device sticking out of your ear — at all times. More times than not, I see people walking, riding, sitting, driving, whatever, talking on some phone. I’ve even saw someone juggling two phones, carrying on two conversations at once. The only thing missing was the unicycle and the funny hat.

I’m sitting in church, and some Jay-Z tune starts playing. The person, so whipped up in the Spirit, just sits there while their phone acts possessed.
I’m standing in line at a restaurant, and somebody in back of me is acting like Roberta Flack — killing me softly with their phone conversation. I’m a reporter, not a gossip hound. I don’t want to know about someone’s day, night, weekend or their next day, night or weekend plans.

I’m standing in the check-out line, or shopping at the grocery store. A person passes me up in the aisle, pushing a cart with one hand and the phone in the other, picking up items as they go. What happened to jotting down a groceries list before arriving at the store?

And if the person isn’t talking, their tiny little fingers are texting non-stop like some court stenographer. And I promise that I will get into this Twitter nonsense the same day that Sylvester the Cat and Tweety become Odd Couple roommates.

Passing a law prohibiting cell phone use in public would have been a great move for this year’s state legislature.

Meanwhile, as the Minnesota House and Senate members strain their arms, back patting themselves for passing spending bills early in the session, they leave later with things virtually undone. A smiling Governor Tim Pawlenty flexes his fingers in using his red pen as he vetoes them. Meanwhile, we as citizens will be blue as we watch such essentials as health care, school aid and local government funding get cut before our eyes when the fiscal year ends June 30.

This is what we voters got for four months of legislative work in St. Paul. Wow! Just think if these lawmakers had a year to do this.

Charles Hallman welcomes reader responses to challman@spokesman-recorder.com.

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