One week in, partisan divide is deep at the State Capitol

10:27 PM, Jan 31, 2012   |    comments
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ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The gloves are off. University of Minnesota political analyst Larry Jacobs says "we're seeing the sharp knives coming out."

Just a week into the legislative session and the partisan divide at the State Capitol is deep. Lawmakers on the left and right are still very far apart several months after the historic government shutdown.

"They are unfit to govern the state," DFL Governor Mark Dayton said after GOP'ers decided not to confirm his head of the utilities commission. He also mentioned cuts to DFL staffers in the same speech.

"We're going to move on. We want to have a short and productive session," Republican Senator Geoff Michel said after introducing a bill that contains no DFL signatures. "How many times do you hear legislators say we can walk and chew gum at the same time? You can have a dispute or a fight in one committee, and in the Senate, there are 15 other committees hard at work," he added.

"In the last year the Minnesota legislature has been more dysfunctional than a Kardashian marriage," House DFL'er Ryan Winkler said. Winkler was also introducing a proposal that contained no GOP signatures. "It's been a tough first week in the legislature from a partisanship perspective and I'm hoping that we still have time to turn something around and do something positive."

While Jacobs isn't surprised about the mood at the Capitol, he did say this kind of partisan divide is more common towards the end of a session, not at the beginning.

"The shutdown seemed to send a message from Minnesota of don't do it again, mind your manner, do your work. Instead we're back to the squabbling," Jacobs explained. "Unfortunately, the venom that we're seeing in Washington has now radiated out and has landed in Minnesota."

But Professor Jacobs says all hope is not lost, noting partisan cultures can change. While political moderates are gravitating further to the left and right, voters can weigh in with disapproval. This is an election year and new political district boundary lines are on the way.

"My hunch is the good people up at the capitol, and there are plenty, are going to take a deep breath, hit the reset button, and get back to work," Jacobs concluded.

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