105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

May 22, 2007

CAPITOL REPORT: The day after
"The process" broke down at the St. Paul Capitol

        "It's the sleaziest thing I've ever seen," commented an officer of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce yesterday to the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper. "We are very concerned about the process," she continued, "that something like this would come up during the last 18 hours of the session." She was referring to an additional 3-percent sales tax on food and alcoholic beverages sold in the city's bars and restaurants, slipped into a final tax bill with no notice and no public testimony in the waning hours of the 2007 legislative session. That's the way laws were being thrown together in St. Paul.

        "The process" broke down. While putting on a cheery public face, the closing hours were quite the opposite. Leaders of the majority party abandoned all pretense of abiding by their own rules. New omnibus bills were hastily cobbled together in the Senate in the middle of the night, appearing suddenly for votes on the House and Senate floors. In many cases, new provisions suddenly appeared in hundreds of page bills with staff and members scrambling to uncover what they were voting on. 

        One incident demonstrates the slip-shod nature of the business being conducted by legislators bleary eyed from days of sleep deprivation. Shortly before midnight when the session was constitutionally required to close, Rep. Tom Emmer (R-Delano) asked about some specifics in the more than 500-page Health and Human Services spending bill that had suddenly materialized on their desks. Emmer inquired of Rep. Carolyn Laine (DFL-Columbia Heights), the author of the expanded home visiting policy, whether this massive HHS legislation expanded state home visiting to pre-natal visits. No, Rep. Laine assured him, prenatal visits were removed from the bill "a long time ago."

        It turns out Laine apparently did not remember her own bill. Expansion of home visiting to prenatal visits has been in the bill since the beginning, and in the closing chaos, no one was able to set the record straight.

        As the time grew short, procedure fell apart, efforts to speak were overruled and motions were ignored. Last night was reminiscent of the Senate close in 2004, when then-Senator Michele Bachmann's microphone was unplugged as she refused to be ignored on the marriage amendment and the new social studies standards. Again, legislators who claimed their right to speak were cut off.

Rep. Paul Kohls (R-Victoria) is shown with his mouth taped shut to protest the cutoff of debate. [Enlarge picture here.]

        After careful analysis, EdWatch will follow up in a few days with a full report of what's in and what's not on education. Comprehensive Sex Education, for one, was removed from the final education bill, thanks to the outpouring of protest by the hundreds of people who called into the legislature since last week. TeenScreen survived in the education bill, disguised as  "voluntary, opt-in suicide prevention tools" in the Safe Schools Levy.

        The expansion of state control over early childhood was switched from the education bill to the HHS bill that was sent on to the Governor for his signature. The new entitlement for early childhood was pared down to cover only low-income families, but proponents telegraphed their plan to institute the program for every family in the state in the original legislation, authored by Sen. Tarryl Clark (DFL-St. Cloud).

        In short, the bills that passed the 2007 legislative session gave little funding to K-12, but expanded state education into early   childhood and all-day kindergarten, as well as welfare without work and larger state government. Many legislators and the Governor deserve our thanks for their hard work, speaking up and holding the legislative body accountable for the direction they are headed. More details will be forthcoming.

105 Peavey Rd, Suite 116, Chaska, MN 55318
952-361-4931 www.edwatch.org - edwatch@lakes.com

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