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 Response Page - Graba - Sabo - Triplett  Interview -      

These comments are responses to the questions listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Joe Grabe, Martin Sabo & Tom Triplett Interview of


Three guests with deep history in elected office and state government describe times in their experience when the interim periods following legislative sessions were used for productive bipartisan work. Tom Triplett, with his history in the state planning agency, is close to the executive branch. Martin Sabo and Joe Graba have broad experience in the legislative branch. Many interim sessions did produce valuable results, they say, and it is possible, even desirable, to do this work when elected officials and staff have more time to work with those from outside of government.

For the complete interview summary see:

Response Summary:  Readers have been asked to rate, on a scale of (0) most disagreement, to (5) neutral, to (10) most agreement, the following points discussed by Graba, Sabo and Triplett.  Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

1. Bi-partisanship possible. (7.1 average response) The Republicans and Democrats can work together on ideas for restructuring incentives in public systems.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. (8.8 average response) The ‘interim’ period between the first and second years of the biennium should be used to work on problems that did not have time while the legislature was convened.

3. Begin work now.  (8.5 average response) Legislators should begin working on ideas for the coming session immediately, instead of waiting until a special session is finished.

4. Governor should lead. (3.5 average response) The legislature should defer to the executive office for policy leadership.

5. External ideas important. (9.1 average response) The legislature and governor should look ‘outside’ for policy ideas, including organizations and individuals.


Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree


Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Bi-partisanship possible.







2. Focus on unresolved issues.







3. Begin work now.







4. Governor should lead.







5. External ideas important.







Individual Responses:

R. C. Angevine  (2.5)  (10)  (10)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. While I agree that both sides need to work together to make any progress I see very little indication at the moment that either side, in particular the right, seems willing to actually do that.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. I agree but am afraid much of the time will be spent on trying to resolve issues (i.e., the budget) that were not resolved during the past legislative session.

4. Governor should lead. I believe that policy leadership can come from any quarter and that all parties should work on it.

David Broden  (7.5)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. Yes, they can work together if each side makes a commitment to good government in Minnesota. This will require breaking from the Minnesota GOP and DFL party leadership, from some special interests, from groups such as (that) lead by Grover Norquist and others. The potential is there. Now is the time for members of both sides to make a break from the party lines for good of Minnesota.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. The wording of the above statement does not reflect a good thought--there was perhaps time but no commitment and more focus on other issues. The interim must be used for the "big picture" needs of Minnesota.

3. Begin work now.  The redesign and reform approaches must be viewed as an on-going process and should not be delayed for any reason. The rate of activity may change but the (momentum) must remain and (the work must) start now.

4. Governor should lead. The thought of deferring the leadership to the executive office is not appropriate. Anyone in the state and particularly in state government elected office should have the opportunity to lead.  Perhaps even multiple paths and leaders. Whoever thinks the executive must lead does not get the whole idea of where ideas come from. Lets encourage leaders from all corners of the process.

5. External ideas important. Neither the legislature nor the governor has a lock on new innovative policy ideas.  Lets encourage main street Minnesota to bring ideas. We have built a culture of “St. Paul knows best” rather than listening to anyone who has a good a positive idea. Let’s encourage people from across the state to bring ideas forward.

Peter Hennessey  (2.5)  (5)  (5)  (2.5)  (7.5)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. A house divided cannot stand, not for very long. The issue must be and will be decided at the ballot box. One side must win; the other side must lose. It should be all too obvious even to casual observers that "compromise" is impossible.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. Is this to be a special session, or what?  Are the participants going to be working without pay, or what?  Or are you just turning the job over to lobbyists?

3. Begin work now.  Same as previous question

4. Governor should lead. Depends on who has the better ideas.

5. External ideas important. They should not put limits on where good ideas come from.

Don Anderson  (10)  (7.5)  (10)  (7.5)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. They can work together and should work together. The question is, given the present “my way or nothing” will they be willing to work together?

2. Focus on unresolved issues. Only if there is a willingness to work together.

5. External ideas important. The state is made up of more than legislature and governors. All organizations and individuals should have input.

Chris Brazelton  (7.5)  (10)  (5)  (5)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. They can work together if cooperative problem solving is the goal.  As long as political power and "solidarity" is the goal, there is little incentive for cooperation on the hot button issues. Instead of highlighting report cards from interest groups that work to keep us divided, let's put some energy and focus on bipartisan partnerships and winning ideas.  Perhaps we need a boot camp experience ŕ la "Remembering the Titans" that removes elected officials from partisan pressures and works to build rapport and cooperation.

4. Governor should lead. Good ideas can come from anywhere.  Early bipartisan support and co-sponsorship may help them get somewhere.

5. External ideas important. No one is an expert in all things.  We must be more willing to listen to the experts and hear ideas presented with a constructive view of the pros and cons.  We need working groups that help policy makers conclude for themselves what good ideas have merit, and with full knowledge of the negatives to be overcome.

Rick Krueger  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. It's not a matter of R’s or D’s; it's more a matter of pragmatists versus ideologues.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. But more for oversight and fine-tuning what is being implemented.  Going into that second year of the biennium with big ideas for reform (unless under a crisis situation) usually goes nowhere.

4. Governor should lead. This is a complete default of responsibilities.

W. D. (Bill) Hamm  (7.5)  (7.5)  (7.5)  (0)  (7.5)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. The present hyper/partisanship and enemy camp mentality between the two combatants makes this all but impossible.

2. Focus on unresolved issues. For the most part this is an outsider’s view of what should be done. This will not happen unless present leadership sees it in their best interest.

3. Begin work now.  Again very much an outsider view point that must be sold to the ruling party as in their best interest. In the present state of affairs Minnesota’s citizens’ best interest is taking a backseat to the best interests of the political leadership.

5. External ideas important. All organizations and individuals have built in or structural biases and while looking at those ideas one must keep this in mind. I support the return of a State Planning Agency as a way to facilitate the influx of new ideas.

Will Shapira  (10)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. They not only can work together, they must. Witness the current wasteful deadlock leading to a special session. But how do you remove politics from public purpose work?

2. Focus on unresolved issues. One I'd suggest is: those applying for large grants of state funds must agree to disclose their net worth and open their books or it's “game over”. The public must know before any legislation even is written if the applicant needs state funds or is trying to extort it.

3. Begin work now.  Why wait?   Tempus Fugit.

5. External ideas important. Why not? Can't have too many ideas for input on public problems.

Jan Hively  (10)  (8)  (10)  (6)  (10)

Terrific team of resources

David F. Durenberger  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)  (na)

Interesting conversation.

Politics and Mark Dayton will likely drive public policy in Minnesota for the next two years.  Republicans aren't the policy wonks of "once upon a time" and can't break the grip of the problem near term.  Mark needs to focus on one or two policy issues critical to our next 3-4 years, including tax reform, determine what he can do with executive orders, some of the commissions Wendell and others used in the past (excluding anyone who represents an organization with a registered stake and influence), and with the bully pulpit.

With all due respect, CC might better use its time focusing on the intergovernmental issues involved in the kinds of issues Bill Frenzel, et al, are focusing on in D.C. and the impact of major entitlement reform on state policy in states like ours.

Joseph Mansky  (10)  (10)  (8)  (0)  (5)

4. Governor should lead.  Just the other way around – it’s time for the legislature (and the legislative body sitting in Washington DC) to reassert itself. Both have progressively surrendered their constitutional authority to the executive over the past 40 years and it’s time to put an end to that.

John Milton  (na)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (8)

1. Bi-partisanship possible.  I hope so, but no sign from Republican leadership. 

4. Governor should lead. But we need grownups in both branches. 

5. External ideas important. But not just those who agree with the leadership

Fred Zimmerman  (10)  (10)  (10)  (6)  (10)

Many of us applaud the efforts by the current legislature to control governmental costs in Minnesota, which are clearly growing at an unsustainable rate -- particularly the poorly structured retirement programs for public employees. Minnesota also has way too many overlapping functions, agencies, and units of higher education.

Bert Press  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

Margaret Donahoe  (7)  (9)  (5)  (4)  (9)

Wayne Jennings  (8)  (9)  (8)  (4)  (10)

Redesign is hard to think through and implement. Nonetheless, it often leads to breakthroughs. Pilot programs and waivers are a useful approach.

Robert J. Brown  (5)  (5)  (10)  (2)  (10)

1. Bi-partisanship possible. They should work together, but it is unlikely as long as small extreme groups dominate many of the precinct caucuses that ultimately determine who the party nominates for public office.

2. Focus on unresolved issues.  The big mistake was going to annual sessions and creating a class of full time legislators. Most of us who worked for passage of the flexible session legislation realized too late that this would create a different kind of legislature that is more concerned with re-election than with constructive public policy.

3. Begin work now.  Legislators, the executive branch, and public policy organizations should be working on ideas throughout the year.

4. Governor should lead.  While the governor should be developing policy ideas it would be beneficial if the legislature developed alternative ideas so that the best could emerge from an ongoing competition of ideas.

Carolyn Ring  (10)  (10)  (6)  (6)  (10)

When former legislator Rep. Ernie Lindstrom first proposed annual sessions it was the intent the second session be for further study of issues that needed it and for policy study.  It worked a bit at first, but soon it become just another session of the legislature.

Al Quie  (5)  (10)  (10)  (0)  (8)

Tom Spitznagle  (5)  (5)  (7)  (5)  (10)

The current legislature/governor structure for managing a large multi-level enterprise like Minnesota (i.e. - state, county, city, etc.) seems to be very outdated and inefficient.

Shari Prest  (3)  (10)  (5)  (8)  (8)

1. Bi-partisanship possible.  Not in the current partisan climate. Setting blame and taking credit far surpass any ideals for the common good. If someone steps outside of the party framework to compromise or present a new concept they are punished by their party leadership. It is about politics, not the state.

3. Begin work now.  I was once told by one or our representatives that no real work is done in the first few weeks of the actual session. There was a wine-tasting, social things, speakers, etc. The interim period might be used to kick-start the process.  There is absolutely no reason that we should have to schedule special sessions on a regular basis. Unfortunately they are necessary because our lawmakers spend so much of the session posturing instead of problem solving.

Very frustrating as a citizen. The system operates for politicians and reelection, not for the citizens of Minnesota.

Shirley Heaton  (10)  (10)  (10)  (5)  (10)

This session causes me to check to see what our legislators do with their interim time.

Bright Dornblaser  (6)  (10)  (8)  (8)  (10)

Chuck Lutz  (6)  (9)  (9)  (6)  (9)

Bill Kelly  (7.5)  (9)  (9)  (5)  (8)

George Pillsbury  (3)  (10)  (8)  (3)  (10)

They must work together and get the Party leaders out

Terry Stone  (5)  (5)  (10)  (0)  (10)



The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Core participants include persons of varying political persuasions, reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

   Verne C. Johnson, chair;  David Broden, Charles Clay, Marianne Curry, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje,  Jim Hetland,  Marina Lyon, Joe Mansky, John Mooty,  Jim Olson,  and Wayne Popham 

The Civic Caucus, 01-01-2008
8301 Creekside Circle #920,   Bloomington, MN 55437.
Verne C. Johnson, chair, 952-835-4549,       Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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