It’s pretty rare that we get to discuss Rep. Michele Bachmann in any context other than as a shrill voice of opposition to whatever the Democrats are currently up to (case in point: her telling radio host Chris Baker that Americans could sue if the health care reform bill gets passed), or, occasionally, as a cheerleader for whatever the Republicans are currently doing. (Her anti-census activism prompted this tweet this morning: “Census form complete. Take THAT Bachmann!”) Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Bachmann actually represents a specific Minnesota district, and every so often a writer ponders what she has accomplished for that district, as MinnPost’s Derek Wallbank did in February; he couldn’t pin down many specifics. When asked about it, Bachmann reminded her interlocutor that she was “a fairly new freshman,” which she isn’t.
Well, them were the old days. Bachmann is now championing a cause that’s actually in her district. Specifically, she wants a new bridge built across the St. Croix River in the vicinity of Stillwater. What’s stopping it? The Sierra Club. The Pioneer Press’ Mary Divine tells us that a U.S. District chief judge ruled last week that the Sierra Club’s complaint was right: The proposed bridge violates federal law, because the river is officially designated a Wild and Scenic River. The designation was the result of “legislation championed by Sens. Walter Mondale of Minnesota and Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin,” and Bachmann is now thinking of taking it to Congress to overturn the designation, at least for the area the bridge would be on. Mondale doesn’t seem too concerned; according to the PiPress, the former vice president “said he was ‘almost positive’ that nothing would happen to Bachmann’s bill.”
He’s got good reason to think that: While Bachmann is a popular spokesperson for her causes, her actual bills have tended to go nowhere. If you want raw, undeniable power over bills, you have to look to Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who wields the line-item veto like a Tommy gun. Let’s take the recent bonding bill, as an example. Pawlenty wanted it to be $685 million, and threatened to veto anything larger. The Legislature went ahead anyway and passed a bill that came in at about a billion dollars. And, as the Associated Press reports, RAT-A-TAT-TAT, Pawlenty went and line-item vetoed it back to $686 million — a million more than he had demanded, admittedly. This is, apparently, what compromise looks like in Pawlenty’s world.
What came out? Minnesota Public Radio’s Elizabeth Dunbar and Tim Pugmire have a list, and it includes a lot of money for the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system — he rejected three-quarters of its proposed projects totaling $133 million.
Of course, when somebody has a Tommy gun and likes to use it, sooner or later questions are going to pop up about how wisely he’s using it, and why the heck does he have a Tommy gun in the first place. And so Monday saw a protracted dialogue in the Minnesota Supreme Court about the Governor’s unallotment powers. WCCO offers a tidy summary: Pawlenty is being sued for overstepping his bounds in defunding a nutrition program for the poor. His lawyers argue that he did not overstep his bounds, and if people don’t like it, they can just not vote for Pawlenty in the next election (it may be worth mentioning here that Pawlenty won’t be running in the next election, effectively obviating that particular check and balance).
MPR’s Tom Scheck has a larger summary of the events, describing the Supreme Court justices as constantly interrupting the lawyers with questions, and some of the most pointed were directed at Pawlenty’s lawyer. And example, from Chief Justice Eric Magnuson: “If you look at what the governor did, he just said, ‘These people don’t get any. Never.’ Why isn’t that pure legislative authority?”
Of course, fighting over the budget isn’t the only thing that Pawlenty does. As the AP reports, the governor declared a state of emergency is 28 counties that might be affected by flooding. Tom Crann of MPR informs us of a sort of mixed blessing: that while flooding isn’t expected to be as bad as last year’s record-levels, it’s not going to be much better. The National Weather Service’s prediction is for a 38-foot crest, which is just 3 feet short of last year’s levels. Crann interviews Riverview residents, who are sandbagging and bracing for the flood.
Denny Hecker is experiencing a bit of a mixed blessing himself, but, at this moment, even mixed blessings are better than no blessings at all — the embattled car dealer has been down so long, it’s probably starting to look like up to him, to quote Richard Farina. Hecker was looking at losing his lawyers a few days ago, because he can no longer pay them; the mixed blessing, according to Dee DePass of the Star Tribune, is that while Hecker will lose one of his two at attorneys, he’s keeping one, thanks to the fundraising efforts of friends.
In sports, there was something of a mixed … well, not blessing. The Pioneer Press reports that thanks to Brett Favre, the Minnesota Vikings nearly recruited running back NFL Most Valuable Player Award-winner LaDainian Tomlinson; Favre apparently recruited Tomlinson pretty aggressively. Tomlinson eventually decided to sign with the New York Jets instead. Why? “[H]e wasn’t sure whether Favre would return next season.“
Well, what you gain on the swings, you lose on the roundabout, it seems.