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< Confessions of an arm-chair legislator | Main | The Turtle Award >

Omnibus bills and controversial bills

Posted at 3:14 PM on March 21, 2007 by Bob Collins (2 Comments)

The question of omnibus bills and their role in MFL scoring has come up in recent weeks and today, as I was watching the House K-12 Finance Committee, I'm even more confused and maybe you will be too when you listen to the audio I'm going to put up in a few minutes. (Listen here) (Audio fixed from earlier)

The question was over HF989, Rep. Deb Hilstrom's bill which seeks to undo the rule the Minnesota High School League adopted Friday on open enrollment. Under the new rule, a student who transfers has to sit out for a year. It was heard in a subcommittee the other day and advanced on a 3-to-2 vote.

The committee was voting to accept subcommittee report (as opposed to voting on the bill), and that set off a bit of a controversy over what was going on, that eventually led to Rep. Mark Olson giving -- what to me seemed like -- an interesting civic lessons on why controversial bills should not be in an omnibus bill... which is where, I guess, this one is heading.

That would put lawmakers in the position of voting against all of the funding in the bill if they don't like the idea of overruling the High School league. Tough task,considering that, according to one lawmaker, this transfer issue has generated more e-mails to him than any other issue.

That makes sense to me. About the only part of the discussion that did.

One of the reasons I've always hated omnibus bills is for the same reason I hate the way Congress does business, sticking Arctic drilling and equipment for troops in Iraq in the same bill. Obviously, Minnesota has a law that mandates that elements of a bill relate to a single issue. Fine, but the first thing I found when I developed Votetracker was the omnibus bill makes it virtually impossible to properly track controversial pieces of legislation and, thus, hold legislators accountable for that particular component.

One way I'm going to get around that this year is, track the legislator's vote on the amendments. So when they go to take this provision out of the omnibus bill that comes out of K-12 Finance, that will constitute a vote on the issue, rather than their vote on the omnibus bill as a whole, even if this provision survives to be included in that bill.

Comments (2)

Audio is bad? recreate and post again?

Posted by brian hanf | March 21, 2007 4:12 PM

Maybe MFL can inspire some legislative reform.

Posted by Nancy Gertner | March 21, 2007 9:48 PM