Senator Steve Cwodzinski: The 2018 Session Serves as a Teachable Moment

The 2018 legislative session ended at midnight on Sunday, May 20. During the past several weeks, I spent a lot of time reflecting on what happened.

Political pundits are framing the session as a failure in which everything came crashing down and nothing got done. Depending on who you ask, some would blame Republican legislative majorities for the dysfunction, while others would attribute it to DFL Governor Mark Dayton. An “us vs. them” narrative overlooks members of the public who for months poured their hearts and souls into the causes they care about.

I met with hundreds of people and organizations this year, and for some to say that the 2018 session was a failure would be a disservice to the efforts that they have made. Sometimes it takes a couple tries to achieve a goal. That is both the beautiful and sometimes frustrating thing about our system of government.

Casting blame, getting caught up in partisan name-calling, and focusing on the session’s messy end is expedient for some, but I would rather celebrate the positives and provide a hopeful perspective about the future we can build together. For example, legislation to prevent gun violence and distracted driving did not get signed into law this year. However, We the People moved the needle in a significant way.

The large volume of comments I received about these two urgent public safety issues indicate that Minnesotans are sick and tired of the status quo. Grassroots organizations and civic leaders did an incredible job laying the groundwork needed to make meaningful change. The seeds they planted will germinate into next year’s collective priorities. I would like to see lawmakers tackle these issues right out of the gate in 2019.

Instead of defining the 2018 legislative session as a failure, I am choosing to talk about what happened as a teachable moment.

For example, our state Constitution directs lawmakers to only pass “single subject laws” (Article 4, Sec. 17). Many unrelated laws got packaged together at the last minute even though lawmakers knew the 990-page proposal was headed for a certain veto. As a result, ideas with broad bipartisan agreement to address the opioid crisis, elder abuse, and school safety died. My hope is that everyone learns their lesson and does a better job following our Constitution next time.

To some, our Legislature appears to be transforming into Washington, D.C., mired in partisan gridlock. To me, I see an opportunity for Minnesotans to set ourselves apart and become a beacon of good governance for the rest of the country. We can stay mired in the negative, or we can turn our attention to the positive as a roadmap for the future. For the sake of our state, I hope we choose the latter.

 

This commentary was originally published in the Lakeshore Weekly News.

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Steve Cwodzinski represents District 48 in the southwest Twin Cities metro.

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