#406 – Dick Bernard: Day 20 of the Minnesota Shutdown; 13 days till Default in Washington. Making Legislative Sausage in the dark or in the daylight?

UPDATE: The ink was not even dry on this post when it was announced that the Special Session was concluded. Later update with the information about who voted how. The Governor has signed the bill into law, and the transition back to work is beginning. This story will continue.
Tuesday I predicted a special session convening on Thursday. A few hours later, the Special Session of the Minnesota convened, and apparently is in progress as I write in the very early a.m. of Wednesday, July 20.
Such is how predictions tend to fare.
There has been the predictable kinds of news about the compromise to open the doors of government. There is much almost Biblical “weeping and gnashing of teeth” from both ideological sides in Minnesota: who “won” or “lost”, and what it is they actually won or lost. Weeping about what legislative must-haves were left out of the omnibus bill to be voted on, without amendments.
Posturing abounds, except at the very highest leadership levels – the folks who knew something needed to get done, imperfect as it is.
Such is probably the only reasonable outcome this ’round’ from the insane polarization that has become Minnesota politics.
The same process is well under way in Washington, only worse. Even there, the rhetorical quiver is about empty of arrows; the adults in the room know that something has to be done, and that their political enemy needs to save face.
Perhaps we, the people, will learn something, finally, about the costs of polarization. I can hope, though it’s a long shot.
Of the many interesting questions raised in the last few days is the question of process: do the acknowledged behind-closed-door meetings to hammer out a deal violate at minimum the spirit of the open-meeting laws?
Personally, I think that the only way this particular conflict could settle was the way it was: getting people of unlike minds together without interference from this special interest or that.
I strongly support open meetings, but there is a time and a place….
Closed meetings of public bodies are still common, and they are essential.
Recently I blogged about watching the July 5 meeting of the Dubuque IA City Council on television. The end of the program, and the Minutes of the meeting, indicated that the Council was going into closed session per Iowa law. I don’t know what they were discussing there in the ‘dark’. It could have been a personnel matter, or some pending legal issue. The Law acknowledged that they could do that. Likely the resulting vote, if any was taken, would have to be public. The discussion could be private.
Even more recently, the question of open meeting was raised here in my own tiny Homeowners Association Community. My spouse is “mayor” (Association President) of this town of 96 dwellings (she is tired of the job, but has done outstanding work over the years, in my opinion).
Recently the Association has been attempting to conclude a protracted and major legal dispute over a contracting issue, and came to the point of ‘fish-or-cut-bait’: to settle on a certain amount or continue on to court.
An offer was made, and the Association Board met privately about particulars before informing the residents.
Could there be a closed meeting on this issue affecting the entire community?
Yes, said the high-priced lawyer from the Downtown Canyons of Minneapolis who represents our Association. He cited the appropriate chapter and verse of Minnesota Statutes.
There is a time and a place for everything and, unfortunately for the advocates of totally open government, the settlement phase of a rancorous dispute is not reasonably in the public square through dueling opinions.
(I still won’t predict the specific ultimate outcome of the vote at the Minnesota Legislature – who votes how – but I will predict that the “yes” vote may well exceed 75%, even though such a vote of near unanimity is all but impossible to achieve. Stay tuned.
I make no predictions about the even more ridiculous and rancorous situation in Washington, especially in the U. S. House of Representatives.)

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