It’s been a week since I started at the Brainerd Dispatch as their politics/government reporter. The idea is for me to take over for Mike O’Rourke, who retired this year after about 30 years of covering the political beat. By comparison, it’s been three years since I graduated from college- so I figure if I can do things about 1/3 as well as Mike did them, I’ll be sitting pretty.
It turned out to be a heck of a time to start. It’s been raining seemingly nonstop since I moved- I had to pull off the highway while driving to my new apartment for the first time, and yesterday I had to take refuge in a gas station when another rainstorm caught me while I was out biking. Their power went out, but they gave me a trash bag to make into a handy poncho.
Observers have already used the weather besieging Minnesota as a metaphor for the tempest raging inside the State Capitol. Gov. Dayton has chosen $150 million for public preschool as his line in the sand, repeatedly threatening to veto the entire E12 education funding bill if the Legislature doesn’t add the money. If he follows through and forces the Legislature to go into special session, that could mean some nasty political ramifications for Democrats extending as far as the elections next year. Regardless of whether he actually gets his way in a new funding bill and the additional money is put in during the special session, “Democrat governor Mark Dayton vetoed the bill that gives our kids an education” is going to have too nice a ring to it for Republicans to pass up. Dayton may be “unbound” but his fellow DFLers certainly are not.
Dayton is already getting criticism for the perceived heavy-handedness of trying to compel the Legislature to sign off on legislation without giving them enough time to consider the details. Dayton put forward the idea when he first released his budget proposal near the beginning of the session this past winter, however, which takes away from that argument somewhat. The pre-K proposal took heat even back then, though.
If there is a special session– and it’s looking more and more every hour that there will be– Dayton has floated the idea of meeting on the Capitol lawn, which would put the state’s government at risk of storms both metaphorical and literal.