State Officials Really Can Get Along

This year will go down as one of the most contentious in Minnesota government history, so exceptions to that attitude are notable.

The first exception started out as yet another controversy.

Several days ago, news reports indicated that the state had stopped paying for military honor guards at veterans’ funerals. The funding cut apparently slipped by all the top officials as political leaders this spring and summer debated a $34 billion, two-year budget.

Sen. Mike Parry, R-Waseca, was one of those incensed, but also was involved with the change since he is chairman of the Senate State Government Innovation and Veterans Committee.

Parry, not afraid of speaking his mind, blamed the Dayton administration.

“In putting together our final budget, our committee heard testimony from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the honor guard program was listed in the programs and services of the governor’s budget,” Parry said. “This session an earmark was not specifically requested, and although we appropriated the full amount of the governor’s request, I was shocked to learn of reports that this program would not continue.”

After the honor guard lapse came to light, Veterans Affairs Commissioner Larry Shellito promised to find funds to continue the service. On Friday, Parry announced he has written a bill that would give Shellito’s office a new avenue to fund the program, which gives $50 to honor guards.

Shellito and his boss, Gov. Mark Dayton, immediately praised Parry.

“I commend Sen. Parry for his leadership in restoring this important funding, and will do whatever I can to support it in next year’s session,” Dayton said.

The Dayton-Parry kumbaya came a day after law enforcement leaders and prosecutors praised legislators’ efforts led by Rep. John Kriesel and Sen. Katie Sieben, both of Cottage Grove, to make synthetic drugs illegal.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, a two-time governor hopeful and former legislator, spoke for others at a panel discussion called by U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar when he said that this year’s Legislature may have been dysfunctional when it came to the budget but it did well when it came to outlawing the new wave of dangerous drugs.