ST. PAUL — How successful of a job did Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk of Cook do for the Iron Range while also being a key player in making split government in Minnesota work?
Well, some digruntled DFL liberal legislators from the Twin Cities area tried to unseat him in caucus as leader of the majority party in the Senate.
Their attempted DFL coup in the early morning hours of the Saturday finale of the 2015 legislative special session fizzled like a bad fuse on an unexploded firecracker.
Bakk’s support within the caucus was unwavering.
The Senate majority leader told the Mesabi Daily News Saturday afternoon that while he preferred not to comment directly about the caucus dust-up, he was pleased with the intra-Senate DFL backing he received and also his role in a session that relied for success on bipartisan partnerships with the GOP House majority.
Bakk was able to enjoy a double victory by playing a major role in the session’s outcome and also privately raising a beverage in a toast to his DFL Senate colleagues who remained steadfast and loyal to his leadership.
There seemed to be some disarray in the closing hours of the special session when an amendment proposed by liberal DFL Sen. John Marty of Roseville was tacked onto the agriculture and environment bill, which defeated the measure by a single vote.
That extended the special session a couple more hours into early Saturday morning.
But Sen. David Tomassoni, DFL-Chisholm, said the Marty amendment would not have passed and the session could have adjourned on Friday night if lawmakers had been in their usual digs in the State Capitol.
The special session had to be moved to the State Office Building. Senators were without the big board that registers votes as they come in and change. The board goes “Green” for yes votes and “Red” for no. And the rolling vote total is always real time and in front of the lawmakers.
But in their temporary surroundings, votes were made and recorded the old-fashioned way — taking pen to paper.
Votes would have been changed to pass the bill as it was presented as a compromise measure, Tomassoni said.
“It would have passed on the first vote,” the Chisholm DFLer said.
And the agriculture and environment bill also would have been approved on the first vote if Sen. Marty had not broken the agreement reached between Senate and House legislative leaders and Gov. Mark Dayton before the special session was called.
That deal called for no amendments to be brought forth and voted on. It was just supposed to be up-or-down votes on the three major bills that Dayton had vetoed, which prompted the session’s overtime.
But Marty wanted to remove provisions in the agriculture and environment measure that he deemed unfriendly to Minnesota’s environment.
So, a promise was broken. And celebratory toasts to a session finally ended had to wait a few more hours.