Remember when then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi infamously said of federal health-care legislation, "We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"? She roundly was blasted, and rightly so, and still is being blasted, not only because she obviously hadn't read the bill but because she didn't seem to have an understanding of its impacts.
Her statement typified some of what's wrong with government and politics today.
Late Monday, Minnesota state representatives opened themselves up to deserved criticism by voting to approve a health-care spending bill even though they didn't know how it would affect hospitals around the state. According to reporting by Forum Communications' Capitol bureau, Republican lawmakers repeatedly asked how an amendment would affect funding to hospitals. Several times Rep. Will Morgan, DFL-Burnsville, answered, "I don't know." He even said he only had a "rudimentary understanding" of the amendment -- though it was his own amendment to change how money is distributed to hospitals.
With questions unanswered, representatives approved the bill anyway, 70-64.
Amazing. Minnesotans have to be able to expect better from their elected state leaders. They can expect better-informed decisions. There's nothing wrong with a lawmaker admitting he or she doesn't know something if they then seek out the answer -- ideally, before a vote is taken.
As with Pelosi and federal health-care legislation, Minnesota lawmakers on Monday weren't taking up and voting on something that was small or inconsequential. They were deciding how $13 billion would be spent over two years for health care, especially for the health-care needs of the elderly and people with severe disabilities. At least 600,000 more Minnesotans were to receive subsidized health care under the bill, according to its chief sponsor, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth. That's critical, big-time spending. Of our money. It demanded complete understanding prior to an intelligent and informed decision.
Rep. Morgan assured his fellow House members that the money would be divided more fairly among hospitals as a result of his amendment to Huntley's original language. "But Morgan could not say why it would be better," Forum's Don Davis wrote.
Perhaps now that it has passed we'll get to find out.
-- Duluth News Tribune