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FINDING COMMON GROUND: Minnesota lawmakers seek to compromise after tense forum

Minnesota State Capitol in Saint Paul

(FOX 47) -- Citizens are not the only ones disagreeing in this tense political climate, the leaders they elected are having trouble doing that too.

Monday, an online state legislative forum where lawmakers answered Minnesotans' questions quickly turned into something less productive.

There was certainly nothing Minnesota nice about Monday's zoom forum. Tense in the beginning, House Majority and Minority leaders were disagreeing from the start.

That was before Senate Majority leader Paul Gazelka reiterated claims of election fraud. It went south from there.

"The Minnesota way of doing things is still stable," said Gov. Walz last week. "We disagree on certain things but our values are the same."

Last week's events shocked all Minnesotans.

"I was just in contact with Senate Majority leader Gazelka, a man of honor and a friend," Walz said after the capitol invasion last week.

Yet Walz and Gazelka were not on friendly terms Monday.

"Senator, you didn't need to come to Minneapolis, St. Paul to find out what was happening at that time. There were folks from Brainerd there," Walz said about last week's protest in St. Paul. "This is all of Minnesota. This is what we're talking about. Quit trying to divide us."

They certainly were not the only ones in disagreement.

"A lot of people didn't think it was a fair election. Any time you have a very, very, very close election, you're going to have a lot of frustration," said Gazelka. "I think it's important that we listen."

There was not much listening at the legislative forum which quickly became little more than an argument.

"It's really time for the minority leader to quit lying," said House Majority leader Melissa Hortman to House Minority leader Kurt Daudt. "We were on Minnesota Public Radio together. I'm speaking."

"If I hear that it's only one side, I'm going to stand up and point out all the violence and lawlessness of months of months," said Gazelka, referencing last summer's protests after the death of George Floyd.

"Well I'm just going to weigh in and then sign off because I'm incredibly disappointed in this conversation," Walz said after the arguing continued for several minutes.

The governor stayed on the call but was critical of Republicans.

"How do we find common ground when we have people who will not say the election is fair," Walz asked. "How do we find common ground when basic medical facts are disregarded?"

"If this becomes nothing but a political circus, I'll be disappointed but I know it has the potential," Gazelka said.

With little common ground, how do both sides expect to move forward and compromise in a year where Minnesotans are looking to their representatives?

"It's unrealistic to think that we're going to agree all the time. we certainly do have disagreements with the governor. I don't think that means we can't work together," Rep. Barb Haley, a Republican from Red Wing, said Tuesday. "That's the responsibility of leadership. We have to find common ground for the best of all Minnesotans."

"I think there is a way to get work done. I'm willing to work with anyone who is willing to work with me. I think we have significant challenges however," Rep. Liz Boldon, recently elected DFL member from Rochester, said Tuesday. "It's really difficult until we can have a mutually agreed upon reality about the validity of the 2020 election, the science around COVID and what experts are telling us to do. I think there's challenges there for sure."

Both Haley and Boldon say priority one is helping Minnesotans financially recover from the pandemic as well as making a vaccine available to them as soon as possible. Both things you can imagine will require bi-partisan agreement.

Alex Tejada

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