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Wright County News

Posted on: June 19, 2020

Wright County Dental Clinic Caught in the Middle of Political Fight

Time is ticking down on the special session of the Minnesota Legislature (set to end today) and whether or not a bonding bill will come out of it. For Wright County, there is a vested interest in the bonding bill because the funding of a dental clinic in the new Wright County Government Center is tied into approval of the bill.

Wright County Commissioner Darek Vetsch said that, while there is no certainty that a bonding bill will be approved later today, he remains confident that it will be so the clinic can be funded, constructed and ready for use when the new Government Center opens in the fall of 2021.

“I’m hopefully optimistic about it,” Vetsch said. “If we get a bonding bill, I feel quite strongly that the dental clinic will be part of it. I feel very optimistic on that side of it. Getting the bonding bill through right now isn’t guaranteed. Political tensions are pretty high, so we’ll just have to wait and see how that plays out.”

The reason for Vetsch’s positivity is that, while the House of Representatives and Senate have greatly different bonding bills they are pushing through, one thing they have in common is the inclusion of the Wright County dental clinic.

“Our request for the dental clinic is in both the House bill and the Senate version,” Vetsch said. “We’re included in both sides. The only difference is that the House bonding request is substantially larger than the Senate’s. The Senate doesn’t want to have a large bonding bill.”

There is no guarantee that an agreement will be reached before the special session is scheduled to end today. A primary sticking point is the rift that has emerged between Republican senators and Democrat Governor Tim Walz over the governor’s declaration of a peacetime emergency that provides the governor with powers typically not in his purview.

The Senate wants Walz to end the peacetime emergency declaration and take away the increased power to unilaterally make decisions. Walz declared the state of emergency March 13 and has extended it through July 12. That argument may result in a bonding bill not being approved before today’s deadline to end the special session. 

“The biggest issue right now is Governor Walz and the emergency powers he has given himself,” Vetsch said. “The Senate is holding the bonding bill hostage trying to get Walz to give up that emergency power. There is a lot of talk that they’re not going to pass a bonding bill if he’s going to continue to use executive emergency powers. There is a lot of political struggle in play right now.”

It seems as if it’s only a matter of time before a bonding bill in some form gets approved. Until then, despite political muscle being flexed by both sides of the aisle, Vetsch remains optimistic that the dental clinic will eventually be part of whatever bonding bill eventually comes through.

“It is encouraging that it is included in both,” Vetsch said. “We’re still going to have wait and see how it all pans out with getting a bonding bill done, but there is reason to be optimistic that something will get done.”

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