Legislators kept a narrow focus on flood relief during the Sept. 11 special session, but some said the Legislature was leaving unfinished business.
“I am saddened and disappointed that we cannot finish the rest of the business that we have today — that we can’t do a transportation bill, a bonding bill and a tax bill,” said Rep. Phyllis Kahn (DFL-Mpls).
Kahn, whose legislative district contains, by her own estimate, three-quarters of the collapsed Interstate 35W bridge, said the flooding in southeastern Minnesota wasn’t the only disaster that needed to be addressed — and she raised concern over the prospect of future disasters.
“I hope … that we don’t have another reason between now and Feb. 12 to regret that we didn’t put the adequate amount of money into our Transportation Department,” she said.
In the end, House leaders delivered on their promise to the governor and the minority caucus to limit the scope of the special session — although they appeared to do so grudgingly.
“As we focus on these communities and their homes, their schools, their places of work, I actually also must say I share a bit of disappointment this evening as well, for some missed opportunities,” said House Majority Leader Tony Sertich (DFL-Chisholm).
Sertich waxed philosophic on the difference between being reactive and proactive in state government. “It is imperative, in moving forward, that we do a better job of being proactive in anticipation of various disasters, both natural and otherwise,” he said.
Newly sworn-in Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R-Wabasha), whose district was hard hit by the recent flooding, said legislators were right to focus their efforts solely on disaster relief.
“The agreement was that the special session focus on flood relief, and I really believe that if we had broadened it, we’d have lost our focus and lost our effectiveness as a body,” he said.
In an e-mail to his constituents following adjournment, House Minority Leader Marty Seifert (R-Marshall) noted that transportation funding, tax relief and other priorities could have been achieved during the regular session.
“The legislature had a great opportunity for 5 months (January to May 21st) to get work done on many other issues and it’s disappointing that it didn’t happen,” Seifert wrote. “I look forward to the next session, where I hope lawmakers accomplish something, rather than just jamming political bills back and forth with vetoes.”