Crowd of around 80 fills Cofé for 90 minutes on Saturday as part of governor-elect’s ‘One Minnesota’ tour
Perhaps feeling emboldened because he won’t be working with two legislative bodies controlled by Republican majorities, as DFL Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has in recent years – the Minnesota House will be led by a DFL majority when it convenes in January 2019 – Minnesota Gov.-elect Tim Walz told a crowd of around 80 people in Crookston on Saturday that as long as he’s governor, the days of lawmakers scrambling to the last second in the waning moments of a legislative session will no longer be forced to vote on bills 800 pages thick that they’ve barely had time to skim.
Speaking at a packed Cofé coffee bistro as part of his “One Minnesota” tour he and Lt. Gov.-elect Peggy Flanagan have embarked on leading up to them officially taking office in January – she was in another community – Minnesota’s soon-to-be 41st governor noted that Minnesota is the only state in the nation that has doesn’t have one party leading the legislative and executive branches. But even with its unique, supposedly “divided” government, Walz said his election, when added to Senate still led by a Republican majority and a House to now be led by DFLers presents a “unique opportunity” to “reset” Minnesota’s government so that it’s more efficient, accountable and, therefore, effective.
Walz kept a pad of paper and a pen in his hand for most of Saturday’s session, scribbling notes as people in attendance asked him questions about mental health issues, health care, gun violence, the opioid crisis, immigration, care for the elderly and other vulnerable adults, transportation/transit, energy, education and agriculture. At his own request, he was also peppered with recommendations from the crowd on people he should appoint to various commissioner posts in his administration. The recommendation that generated the most enthusiastic cheering from the crowd came from none other than District 1 State Sen. Mark Johnson, a Republican from East Grand Forks who ran and was elected after longtime DFL District 1 State Sen. LeRoy Stumpf decided to retire from the legislature.
“I keep going to all these meetings and LeRoy is always there,” Johnson said of Stumpf, who was standing a few feet behind him. “I think you need to give him a job in St. Paul.”
Walz said that he will work to instill a mindset in St. Paul that it’s not about one party winning and the other party losing. And, he said, he wants the many state agencies that will be led by commissioners he appoints to work in tandem with the legislature. A big part of his “One Minnesota” tour is learning from Minnesotans from every corner in the state not only what they want to see his administration and the legislature accomplish, but how they can be best served by state agencies like the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, Department of Natural Resources and others.
Minnesota is a national leader in so many positive ways, Walz said that should also coincide with a government that isn’t reduced to near chaos in the final moments of every legislative session with seemingly everyone frustrated when the gavel sounds to end the session. It’s time for the governor’s office and the legislature to work together throughout the entire session – Walz said he’s already reached out to Republican Senate leaders – and accomplish things that make Minnesotans proud, not flabbergasted and angry.
“When we come together, we very often don’t talk about the planes that land, we talk about the planes that crash,” Walz said, adding that the way the legislature goes about its business and gets things done needs to be something positive that Minnesotans also talk about. With Minnesota’s unique two-party control of state government, the governor-elect said the state is “well-positioned to show the country what true compromise and true government look like.”
District 1B State Rep. Deb Kiel was invited by Walz near the end of the Saturday’s session to offer her thoughts, and the Republican from rural Crookston who was elected to a fourth term in November said she knows that she and Walz will face “great challenges” but that she looks forward to working with him.