November has come. Soon it will be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and before we know it the New Year will have come and gone. Soon it will be time to return to St. Paul and get down to the business of legislating.
Or will it? Signs are indicating the potential for a very strange session in 2016.
First of all, we don't convene until March. That leaves just 10 weeks to accomplish everything, and 10 weeks in legislative time isn't very long at all. Now the late start has something to do with the fact that the State Capitol is under a complete renovation and is closed to the public. The Senate will meet in its own office building, but the Speaker of the House seems to insist that we must meet at the Capitol, even though there is no public access, no running water and it will cost taxpayers about a half-million dollars in construction costs.
Now keep in mind, the Senate has offered us a large enough room for the entire House to meet during the session, for free. Make sense? I thought so, too, but GOP leadership wants no part of accepting an offer from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Senate.
So what actually needs to get done? This is the short session bonding year, after all, so there will be focus on that. Expect much arguing on the size of the bill. Never mind that state funding of these projects creates both direct and indirect jobs. Never mind that we can afford a debt capacity in the neighborhood of $1.3 billion. Never mind the long list of viable projects all across Minnesota in desperate need of funding. No, I expect we will squabble for just short of 10 weeks and then a few people in leadership will make the final decisions on the size and scope of a bonding bill in the waning hours of the session.
The good news is, we have great projects in the pipeline for Duluth and the surrounding region. And being the fourth largest city and a regional center, we are in a solid position to do well on behalf of our community. Your Duluth delegation of lawmakers began its strategy development during the 2015 session and despite the House GOP hurdle, we feel we are in a relatively strong position.
Oh, and in addition, there is still that pesky billion-dollar-plus surplus hanging out there and a few minor policy issues that need to be addressed such as education funding, Health and Human Services funding, Real ID, data privacy, a desperate need for transportation infrastructure funding and a few others. But hey, it's an election year, so don't get your hopes up for too much progress.
I just hope we can put the nonsense aside and do some work for Minnesota.
Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.