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Early Leaders

Posted at 3:55 PM on February 21, 2008 by Michael Marchio

We're just shy of two weeks into the session, but a few lawmakers have already highlighted some good strategies for racking up MFL points. One strategy is what I like to call "score by attrition."

In this, lawmakers file dozens bills with the words "Capital Investment" or "Capital Improvement" in the title. These are basically requests for bonding money to bring back to their district for community centers, historical preservation of buildings, environmental cleanups and infrastructure repairs, among other things. The Range lawmakers seem to be particularly fond of these.

Picking up lawmakers with this strategy is a good way to earn some sure points; all a lawmaker needs to do is file them, and they get 1 point, and if they can get the bill in front of a committee, that's another 5 points. There's a ceiling on this strategy, because if the request isn't very persuasive, its not likely to get passed and rolled into the bonding bill. But at this early stage in the session when there have been relatively few committee hearings, it's a way to vault into a quick lead.

Another way is best exemplified by the lawmaker sitting at #3 in our power rankings, Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley). Elected in 2006, this is Winkler's rookie biennium, and along with the more typical policy bills and capital investments, he's sponsoring HF2553 the I-35W bridge victims relief bill. Picking up lawmakers like Winkler is the "lightning rod strategy." This is when you pick up a lawmaker sponsoring a bill that's either unusually controversial and a lot of committee chairs want to kill it, or because (like the I-35W bill) it will falls under a lot of jurisdictions. These bills get bounced around to a half-dozen committees, and provided they don't get stopped before finally being sent to the floor for a vote, they just keep adding up 5 points for each committee and 10 for each passage. Last year, the smoking ban did much the same thing.

Since we've only had about two weeks of committee hearings, we'll just have to wait and see what kind of other strategies emerge. Tomorrow, I'll be doing a weekly recap, and maybe by that time the House will finally be done debating the transportation bill (still going with no end in sight as of this posting).

So what are your thoughts? We've got a comments button, let's put it to good use.