Our view: Two states, two cases of leadership vacuum

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Dec 16, 2009 No Comments ›› admin

December 16, 2009

Heaven help us. Or, if not, maybe Santa Claus? A line from Tuesday’s La Crosse Tribune: “The bill coming up for amendment Wednesday is thought to contain …”

To wit: Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle will convene a special legislative session today to discuss toughening Wisconsin’s drinking and driving laws.

Doyle’s pursuit is noble, if poorly executed. We should be tackling the problem of drinking in our area communities.

The legislators are being called back to Madison, but no one has seen this bill, and what’s worse little — and probably no — public input will be gathered.

Strange that a government of the people wouldn’t so much as ask for the people’s opinions.

But that’s pretty much standard in these states lately.

In Minnesota, one man — Gov. Tim Pawlenty — decided the fate of the entire state budget. And we thought 2008 was bad when he was joined by two others, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Sen. Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller.

No matter which side of the Mississippi you live on, your state leaders have failed you.

As the economic crisis has ratched up pressure on state and local governments, our local legislators have not quite risen to the challenges; instead they’ve played games and lost sight of priorities.

So, today, area lawmakers, including Rep. Chris Danou, D-Trempealeau, and Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, will be forced to make a decision on a bill they likely have not seen and with little chance to collect feedback.

Good luck on that.

And in Madison’s haste to fix a problem that has plagued the state for decades, it might also undo the excellent work of La Crosse County’s OWI courts, which have been a model of rehabilitation and diversion for folks who’ve made poor decisions about drinking and driving.

Folks close to the Capitol wink and assure officials there’s nothing to worry about, but two of the scariest words in politics are “trust me.”

Or are the scary words “special session”?

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the state’s deficit continues to grow, and the starry-eyed Pawlenty continues to galavant across the nation with ambitions of his own presidential bid.

Minnesota House and Senate leaders have offered precious few hints about solving this financial crisis. That’s probably because so many members are also enamored of the idea of rushing to fill Pawlenty’s soon-to-be-vacant chair.

For its part, the Minnesota Legislature continues to hold meetings that seem to accomplish little other than to lament the abysmal economy and wax hopeful about jobs that might be created, despite the fact there’s little seed money to start such programs.

For both Minnesota and Wisconsin, it’s not too early to start thinking about next year.

Instead of having conversations about bills never seen or convening pointless meetings across the state in an effort to look busy, we can’t help but wonder why legislators are not starting the hard work that sits before each state?

How are we going to pay for the essential services we need with no new funds? What happens when there’s no stimulus funds? How can we promote consolidation, collaboration and innovation?

Here’s our Christmas wish for both Minnesota and Wisconsin: legislatures that work, legislatures that have their priorities in the right order.

By Darrell Ehrlick, editor, on behalf of the Winona Daily News editorial board, which also includes publisher Rusty Cunningham and deputy editor Jerome Christenson. To comment, call (507) 453-3507 or send e-mail to letters@winonadailynews.com


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Voters for Vinehout

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