Session looks to be unproductive
Don Davis Forum Communications Minnesota House and Senate leaders are laying groundwork for accomplishing little this legislative session. House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, long has said once the bonding bill which funds public works project...
Minnesota House and Senate leaders are laying groundwork for accomplishing little this legislative session.
House Speaker Steve Sviggum, R-Kenyon, long has said once the bonding bill which funds public works projects statewide passes, the House immediately will adjourn for the year. Lately, he has backtracked slightly and said the House will adjourn soon after the bonding bill passes.
Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, joined Sviggum recently when he said all budget proposals being debated could be left behind, which would leave the state more money for the 2007 legislative session.
The two leaders and most of their members say they must do nothing other than pass the bonding bill this year. They approved a two-year budget last year (after going into overtime) and there are no policy changes considered mandatory.
Budget changes lawmakers propose are tiny compared to the $30.1 billion budget from last year, so affect relatively few people.
Sviggum removed one potential stumbling block late last week when he decided to merge the House spending bills into one big one, much like the Senate already had done. Without that move, meshing the two spending and tax bills would be so difficult that it could get ugly under the great marble dome.
Johnson and Sviggum needed to reach a deal that would prevent the ugliness that has highlighted the past couple of years.
It is quite possible that leaders like Johnson and Sviggum will decide it is better for their members re-election chances to skip passing bills maybe many bills than for the session to turn ugly. But ugly still is possible.
With that in mind, negotiators need to hurry to beat the bonding deadline.
For an example of what could happen, take the Twins ballpark proposal.
The Twins stadium appears to have the support of most lawmakers. However, there is a split over whether Hennepin County voters should be asked at an election whether they should raise their sales tax slightly to help fund the ballpark.
Most observers say the voters would not agree to raise their own taxes, which would kill a stadium. So ballpark supporters strongly oppose a voter referendum on the tax question.
Some key lawmakers, including a couple committee chairmen, could hold up the Twins bill until the bonding bill gets through both houses. If leaders hold true to their word, the Legislature would adjourn and the Twins plan would be left undone.
Johnson gave stadium supporters some hope when he said in an interview that he wants to vote on stadium issues after the bonding bill passes, because bonding is more important than stadiums. However, that plan could backfire if the Twins fail to get House support.
It is quite possible that a conservative representative probably Rep. Phil Krinkie, R-Lino Lakes will move to adjourn for the year right after the bonding bill passes. There are so many legislators who fear big legislative fights this year that the motion may pass.
If the House adjourns, there is little the Senate can do other than pass any bills the House passed before heading home.
The Krinkie scenario is possible. That is why supporters of any other bills need to work hard to get them passed now, before the bonding bills final votes. Otherwise, it may not happen until next year.