John Harrington and Dick Day

Minnesota State Senator Dick Day and St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington both announced that they are resigning – but the circumstances are very different.

Harrington announced Wednesday evening (12/9/09) that he will resign at the end of his term in June. That gives the city plenty of time to search for a new chief, and to praise the departing chief. In a press release this morning, Mayor Chris Coleman said:

“Chief Harrington has served our City honorably for more than three decades. Under his leadership the police department has kept crime low and made great progress in community policing and addressing domestic violence. During my time as mayor he has become a trusted advisor and partner as we have worked together to keep Saint Paul safe.

Harrington’s future plans are not clear, but the Star Tribune reports that he has a BA from Dartmouth, an MA from St. Thomas, and some doctoral work. He is also listed as an adjunct faculty member at Metropolitan State University. Harrington has served in the St. Paul police department since beginning as a patrol officer in 1977. Now 53, Harrington says that he looks forward to “overseeing implementation of the department’s Blueprint for Safety domestic violence response protocol, along with further enhancement of our gang prevention and intervention efforts” in the remaining months of his term.

Senator Dick Day (R-Owatonna) is leaving a lot more quickly, departing on January 8, in the middle of his term. He’s headed off to lobby-land, planning on registering as a lobbyist for gambling interests on January 10. The Star Tribune notes that the “legendary revolving door between politics and business seldom spins faster.” As a legislator (since 1990), Day has been an advocate of a casino at Canterbury Park, and a critic of Indian casinos. He also got headlines for his opposition to ramp meters on freeways.

Canterbury Park announced that Day will be heading up Racino Now, which will lobby for slot machines at both Minnesota horse-racing tracks.

According to the Star Tribune, some 31 states have restrictions on how quickly a legislator can jump ship and become a lobbyist. So does Congress.

A legislator who quickly turns lobbyist has an edge in pressing an agenda, said David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University.

“It’s taking all of the knowledge and friendships and immediately cashing them to the advantage of one particular group,” Schultz said. “Which means that group has more advantage than other groups or general citizens in pushing an issue.”

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