Parties spar in Legislature over proposed 24-hour rule on amendments

by T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol reporter

A rules fight broke out on the House floor on Monday, Feb. 12, over a proposal by House Democrats to place in the permanent House rules a provision requiring members to submit amendments to bills 24 hours in advance of floor debate.

This may seem trivial, but not to House Republicans who view the provision as an attempt to squash them.

 

Cutlilne: Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, indicated her interest in legislation dealing with chemicals and children in part comes from being a grandmother. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Cutlilne: Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, indicated her interest in legislation dealing with chemicals and children in part comes from being a grandmother. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

“Leadership has plenty of power,” Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington, argued on the House floor.

Garofalo, like other Republicans, depicts the provision as snapping a chain of good governance going back to statehood.

If lawmakers must file amendments a day early, this alerts the special interests and allows them 24-hours to muster their resources to defeat amendments they find objectionable, he said.

Beyond this, it lessens the creative power of House members to craft compromise on the House floor, Garofalo said.

Other Republicans blasted the provision.

“We are looking at changing 154 years of state history,” said Rep. Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth.

Days later, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, was still denouncing the 24-hour rule.

“I didn’t fall off the turnip truck yesterday,” he said of falling to notice the perceived motives lurking behind the rule.

Democrats are afraid to vote on the amendments Republicans would offer, he said.

“And that’s what this is really about,” Daudt said.

House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, argued the 24-hour rule was a step toward orderliness.

“We need to come to the floor better prepared,” she said.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said no one was attempting to muzzle debate — the provision provides additional transparency, he argued late week.

It permits Minnesotans to weigh-in on the issues, he said.

But Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said the goodwill in the House had been “shattered” by debate over the 24-hour rule.

This may all seem like inside baseball, but actually, if House Republicans are truly miffed, this could affect the likelihood of a bonding bill this session.

That’s because though Republicans are deep in the minority, Democrats cannot pass a bonding bill, which requires a super majority, without some Republican votes.

The day after the lengthy rules fight, House Health and Human Services Policy Chairwoman Tina Liebling, DFL-Rochester, said her committee would not follow the 24-hour rule.

Republican members thanked her.

In other action, the Democratic House and Senate approved an expansion to Medicaid, an option under the federal Affordable Care Act. Democrats argued it would save the state billions of dollars and cover 35,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans.

Republicans countered by arguing the federal government was broke and warned of empty promises.

A number of area lawmakers signed onto legislation pushed by the group Healthy Legacy to remove perceived harmful chemicals from products that children use or come in contact with.

One bill, carried by Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, would require personal care products intended for children to be formaldehyde-free within a year.

Other legislation, to be carried by Sen. Chris Eaton, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, requires manufacturers to report the presence of certain chemicals in their children’s products and gives state agencies the authority to require a phase-out of certain chemicals and their replacement with safer alternatives.

She was interested in the legislation, Eaton said, because she’s a grandmother.

Winkler, when asked whether the legislation would cause product shortages or prices to rise, said the legislation could be tweaked in upcoming sessions.

Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, spends a lot of time “managing expectations” of people trying to secure additional state spending, he said.

Bakk reminds them that Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton’s proposed state budget is based on the tax reform.

“You can’t have one without the other,” he said of the additional spending and tax reform.

“Everyone wants to pay less,” Bakk said of taxes.

House Speaker Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, and Bakk kept their distance from the issue of same-sex marriage — a large crowd rallied last week at the State Capitol demanding passage.

“I’m not going to guarantee that a bill will pass this year, because I don’t know,” Thissen said.

Legislative leaders, Republican and Democrats alike, say they haven’t yet discussed same-sex marriage in their respective caucuses.

“This is an issue that’s deeply divisive in Minnesota,” House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, R-Crown said.

The minority leader indicated he did not support same-sex marriage.

Tim Budig can be reached at tim.budig@ecm-inc.com

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