Legislation can be done right or wrong
Don Davis Forum Communications Two issues show how the Minnesota Legislature does things right and does them wrong. First, the way the Legislature should work: Legislators came to St. Paul on March 1 with a news story fresh on their minds about m...
Two issues show how the Minnesota Legislature does things right and does them wrong.
First, the way the Legislature should work:
Legislators came to St. Paul on March 1 with a news story fresh on their minds about members of a Kansas church protesting at military funerals, including one in the Twin Cities suburb of Anoka.
Many of the 201 legislators came to the session wanting to ban the protests. Lawmakers made quick work out of the idea, with the House and Senate overwhelmingly passing their bills by March 16.
A major difference in the two versions was that the House wanted to keep protesters 1,000 feet away from a funeral or related activities. The Senate did not list a number of feet, deciding instead to prohibit interference with funeral-related events no matter how far away protesters may be.
That difference and other minor ones sent the bill to a conference committee. Although it took a while for the committee to meet, because lawmakers were busy on other bills, when it did come together little time was needed to find a compromise (no protests within 500 feet of funerals).
The compromise easily passed both chambers and headed to the governor.
While that is the way passing bills should work, how the Senate handled stadium construction proposals provides the opposite story:
Sen. Geoff Michel, R-Edina, introduced a bill funding a University of Minnesota football stadium. It would cost the state $7.4 million a year, with the university raising other money privately.
The bill sat untouched last year and most of this year. Then in late April, Senate Tax Chairman Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, ripped the issue from Michel.
Pogemillers bill advanced to his own Taxes Committee, where he tried to tack a 13 percent statewide sports memorabilia tax onto the measure as his way of funding the stadium. It failed on three tie votes.
Then Pogemiller promised to let the committee vote the next day on Michels Gophers stadium proposal, but abruptly canceled the meeting when the vote was to take place. A day later he again promised a vote on the Michel bill; instead, he took a vote on his own proposal with the tax and immediately adjourned the meeting after it passed.
On Twins and Vikings stadium construction proposals, Pogemiller joined with Sen. Steve Kelley, DFL-Hopkins, to push a half-cent Twin Cities sales tax increase to help build Twins and Vikings stadiums.
Pogemiller needled two women Republican senators who objected to weekend meetings, telling one who is known for missing meetings that he was helping her because there would be a lot of roll call votes (hinting that if she was gone, roll calls would be used against her). Pogemiller told the other senator that she needs to learn Sunday meetings are vital for anyone who wants to be a player.
With the committee Democrats and Republicans seriously split, Senate leaders took the Twins and Vikings stadium proposals away from Pogemiller after six days of stalemate. The Rules Committee merged the Vikings and Twins proposals into one measure House Republicans and Gov. Tim Pawlenty said they cannot accept.
Senate Minority Leader Dick Day, R-Owatonna, decried political moves initiated by Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, to advance the bill with little testimony and little debate.
Minnesotans are going to be watching, an angry Day said. I see such a mucking up of this.