- Associated Press - Friday, May 27, 2016

Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 26

Civility takes a hit as protesters cry foul

There’s a toxic stew brewing in the American political bloodstream this year. It’s bubbling up on both sides and not just in a presidential race that is shaping up as one of the more venomous in this nation’s history.

A protest in Albuquerque, N.M., at a Donald Trump rally this week quickly turned into a riot, with flaming T-shirts and plastic bottles hurled at police and rocks tossed at police horses. Inside, the ever-pugnacious Trump stoked the ire, taunting protesters to “Go home to mommy.” A Democratic convention in Nevada recently ended with supporters of presidential candidate Bernie Sanders shutting that event down amid screaming and profanity, followed by days of threatening phone calls and texts to the convention chairwoman.

In Minneapolis this week, Mayor Betsy Hodges was cornered by protesters at a talk she was giving on equity. Protesters shouted her down, strode onto the stage and edged within inches of the mayor, grabbing her microphone before police finally escorted them out. Similar protests have disrupted Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and school board meetings.

Every one of those protesters doubtless believe their cause just, and the frustration is, in some instances, understandable. Nevertheless, they are indicative of a troubling trend: Americans who have decided their issues and feelings are so important they override the need to behave within acceptable bounds.

Democracy has proved to be an audacious but durable experiment in self-governance, much copied across the world since its birth in this country more than two centuries ago. But it does rest on a few pillars. One of those is that the self-governed must forgo violence and intimidation as a means of achieving their ends. The peaceful passage of power, whether at the smallest local school board or with the presidency itself, is foundational to our way of government, and it rests on the willingness of some citizens to take on responsibilities that most would rather not.

Effecting change in this system is hard, and it’s meant to be. It’s much harder than just shouting down someone you disagree with, or setting fire to a plastic bottle and pitching it at someone. It takes organizing, persuading and persistence.

There are groups across this country doing that hard work of civic engagement. Some of them met in Minneapolis earlier this week, searching for new ways to get underrepresented Americans engaged in the system, to find positive ways to make that system work for everyone. They take their victories where they can and press on.

They know the path to change that improves lives is not violence and intimidation, but numbers. If everyone who grumbled about Trump turned out at GOP primaries, he would not be the presumptive nominee. If low-income voters were as reliable a bloc as seniors, their voices would ring louder.

The late Walter H. Judd, a congressman from Minnesota in the 1950s, noted that “people often say that in a democracy decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing.”

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St. Cloud Times, May 24

Legislature fails again to deliver

To be clear: It’s not that legislators did nothing in the 2016 session. They did make some important changes and derail some bad ideas.

However, the frenetic, final and failed effort to reach reasonable compromises on two hugely important issues - long-term transportation funding and an every-other-year bonding bill - should spur all voters to seriously consider why any incumbent seeking re-election deserves to return to St. Paul.

Republican or Democrat, it does not matter. These lawmakers have failed in consecutive years to legislate the state’s biggest issues in a responsible, respectable manner.

Certainly, Gov. Mark Dayton deserves some blame. But the bulk of it goes to key leaders in the Republican House and DFL Senate. Their procrastination - wrapped in partisan finger-pointing - is no way to legislate.

Last year, the most important work on the state’s two-year budget plan did not begin until the final week of the session. And then it happened behind closed doors, with the result forced through votes with no real time for transparency.

This year legislators had good problems to solve. How else can you define $900 million in surplus funds to spend? Or agreement in advance that Minnesota needs to spend $6 billion in the next 10 years to bolster its statewide transportation system? Not to mention the biannual statewide bonding bill, which funds upward of $1 billion in public works projects statewide?

Yet the same legislators, especially key leaders, left final negotiations on those three top priorities until the 11th, even 12th hours. And while they did agree on a $260 million package of tax cuts and a $300 million budget bill, they failed miserably in compromising on transportation funding and passing a bonding bill.

Most certainly, Dayton should stand firm with his statement from Friday that a special session should not be called.

Force these legislators, all of whose seats are on the fall ballot, to explain why the potholes they promised to fix two or four years ago are bigger; why dangerous places like the intake area of the St. Cloud prison are more dangerous now than in 2015; why - unlike legislators dating back to the mid-1980s - they could not pass a bonding bill.

Sure, these legislators got some things done this session. But for the second straight year they failed miserably to punch the biggest-ticket items. Voters, what say you?

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The Free Press of Mankato, May 25

Legislature: Special session needed for roads, transit, bonding

Minnesota House GOP and Senate DFL leaders need to take another swing at passing a bipartisan bonding bill and a comprehensive transportation bill and do it as soon as possible in a special session called by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Agreement on bonding between the House GOP and Senate DFL majorities came together in the waning minutes of the Legislature and it seems a miscommunication or misunderstanding derailed the bill.

It wasn’t perfect and it wasn’t pretty, but it would have provided a lot of needed funding for maintaining infrastructure around the state, including funding critical road and bridge work.

The Mankato region would benefit from passage of the failed bonding bill in a number of significant ways. The St. Peter Security Hospital needs about $70 million for an upgrade that would, in part, make the environment for workers and patients safer in a place that has been rife with horrific violent incidents.

The failed bonding bill also included money for completing Highway 14 as a four-lane road from Rochester to New Ulm. The bill allocated money for buying needed right-of-way along the route for about $85 million. The purchase of the right-of-way is critical to any expansion project, and there were not state funds previously dedicated for this purpose.

The bill also included bonding for the Corridors of Commerce program of almost $200 million. That would likely provide much of the yearly funding Highway 14 needs to make a push to complete the road that has for decades been delayed.

But many other projects in Mankato - the Minnesota State University’s clinical sciences building and South Central College’s classroom upgrades - would also receive funding.

The bill also would fund many small-town, outstate water treatment plant upgrades that are badly needed to ensure residents have clean water. So there was something to help every Minnesotan in the bonding bill.

Gov. Dayton would do well to call a special session to get agreement on a separate long-term transportation funding bill as well. Incorporating the transportation funding in the bonding bill will only serve to give a false sense of security that we’ve solved our road maintenance and expansion program that is costing us $3.75 million a month in inflationary costs.

And we agree with the GOP-leaning Minnesota Chamber of Commerce that metro transit funding must be part of a comprehensive transportation bill.

The bonding and transportation bills are critical. Projects are needed and interest rates are at the lowest level in history. There may never be a better time to invest in Minnesota’s infrastructure, so we should make those critical and urgent investments without hesitation.

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