Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The Rituals of Spring

The arrival of spring means many things to many people. It means that the honeysuckle in our backyard is showing orange, it means it's time to put road tires on my bike, it means my wedding anniversary (eight this year!), and of course, it means the final days of the legislative session.

Constitutionally, the Legislature has to adjourn sine die (literally, "adjournment without a day") by May 22. So here we are, about 5 days from the end. But we can't actually pass bills on those final couple days before the end, so really, the work of the House and Senate must be completed by early Sunday morning, and since we bungled the end of session last year, leading to a partial government shutdown and an ugly special session, legislators, facing re-election, want to get out of Dodge at least a day or two early.

So here we are, trying to fund (or not) important programs for health care, public safety, education, child care and the environment, maybe spending a few million (or billion) on new stadiums for the Minnesota Gophers, the Minnesota Twins and even the Minnesota Vikings, borrowing upwards of $900 million for our public infrastructure like universities, mass transit and parks, and trying to figure out how much we should restrict a woman's access to legal abortion.

And we have to do this in three days. Three looooong days.

As a legislative staffer, it's interesting to see how much the hands on the clock have been moved around. When we started things, back on March 1st, there was serious talk of wrapping things up by May 5th. Wouldn't that look great--see how effective we can be. Committee deadlines were set at the middle of April--that is, all committee work had to be completed by April 11th--so it wasn't out of the question. Until we got to April 11th, and saw that there was still a lot of work to be done. And then May 5th came and went, but the leaders were still hopeful, and said we could be done by Syttende Mai (May 17th, for all you non-Norwegians out there). Ok, nice goal. But by this time, the stadium forces had regrouped and Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life were plotting ways to make abortion illegal and unsafe, and it was clear that adjourning by May 17th (tomorrow) was a pipe dream.

So I have a pillow and a blanket in my office, I've kissed and hugged my kids and wife, filled the freezer with frozen dinners, stocked up on pretzels, licorice and lots of coffee, and am watching the focus grow more and more on professional sports and abortion, less and less on the environment and early childhood development, and hoping but not expecting that the 2006 Legislature will do some of the wonderful things we could and should be doing.

But hey, it's spring, and along with the roses blooming and the grill getting used again, this ritual is one I expect and look forward to every year.

No comments: