Other’s Opinion: Serve Minnesotans, not divisive political interests

Published 6:30 am Wednesday, September 9, 2020

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The Free Press, Mankato

The interests of Minnesotans seem secondary in the latest political dustup between Gov. Tim Walz and the Republican majority in the Senate and the GOP minority in the House.

Last week, it became apparent Democrats and Republicans couldn’t even agree on if they were meeting and what constituted a meeting.

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It started with GOP Sen. Majority Leader Paul Gazelka penning an open letter to Walz asking the governor to define criteria for ending the state of emergency and saying “there is no longer an emergency.”

Walz chief of staff Chris Schmitter fired back a blistering letter calling Gazelka “shockingly absent” from meetings, including 10 COVID-19 Response Commission meetings, a private meeting with health commissioner Jan Malcolm, and a meeting with White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx.

Gazelka described the meetings he was invited to as governor staff meetings where decisions had already been made and he wasn’t likely to attend such meetings.

Schmitter took issue with Gazelka’s “no emergency” statement, saying 14 more Minnesotans died on the day Gazelka issued his letter.

Schmitter also argued emergency orders remain in effect in every state and at the national level, noting President Donald Trump and Walz issued their emergency orders on the same day in March.

Wrote Schmitter: “It is a rare thing when the President and all 50 governors agree on something, but they agree on this, and they all disagree with you.”

Walz and Gazelka met the day after the Schmitter letter and told the press after the meeting they re-established their respectful working relationship and are looking for common ground.

We hope that vow is sincere.

Another special session is expected to take place Friday and Gazelka says he favors the $1 billion plus bonding bill that was nearly passed in July. In fact, it was only the minority in the House GOP caucus that said they would not agree to it unless Walz give up his emergency powers.

Gazelka recently said the House was moving more favorably on that issue. These pages had earlier put 90 percent of the blame for the bonding bill’s failure on the House GOP minority.

It’s not unreasonable for the Walz administration to consider criteria for ending the state of emergency. To some extent, Walz’s “dial” system for safety measures versus outbreak numbers addresses that directly.

It’s also very reasonable to approve a bonding bill that was 95 percent to the finish line in July.

Both Walz and Gazelka have said they’re committed to finding common ground. To do so, they should put Minnesotans first before their political interests.