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A staggered Senate?

Posted at 2:29 PM on April 7, 2008 by Michael Marchio

The House debated it this afternoon on the floor. Rep. Laura Brod (R-New Prague)offered a constitutional amendment on an election provisions bill that would stagger Senate terms, starting in 2012, so that half the Senate would be up every two years. The language in the bill, though, is a bit tricky.

The underlined sections are the proposed changes:

"Sec. 28. CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.
An amendment to the Minnesota Constitution, article IV, section 4, is proposed to
the people. If the amendment is adopted, the section will read:Sec. 4. Representatives shall be chosen for a term of two years, except to fill a vacancy.
Senators shall be chosen for a term of four years, except to fill a vacancy, and except as otherwise required by this article. There shall be an entire new election of all the senators at the first election of representatives after each new legislative apportionment provided for in this article, and at that election, senators elected from odd-numbered districts shall be elected to two-year terms. The governor shall call elections to fill vacancies in either house of the legislature.

Right now, representatives serve two-year terms and senators serve four-year terms except for the final two years of each 10-year legislative apportionment, when the Senate serves only two. So the Senate's term in 2010 will only be two years long.

This amendment would change this so even-numbered districts would serve four-year, four-year and two-year terms, and the odd-numbered districts would serve two-year, four-year and four-year terms each decade. Hence, every two years, half the senate is up for reelection.

Rep. Dan Severson (R-Sauk Rapids) had this to say about it:

"If you take a look back to 2004, when we were doing a bonding bill and it was tied up, the Senate leadership said "We don't have a bonding bill, that's fine, we're not up for election. True, And right now, we have a Senate that's not up for election...We in the House stand in mercy of the Senate."

Rep. Severson raises a good point. Senators can put up to three full sessions of buffer time between passing (or failing to pass) legislation on a certain issue, while the House at most has one session. In a way, it does insulate the Senate more from the results of the most recent session, just because "most recent session" happens more seldom for them.

The vote on Brod's amendment failed on a razor-close 64-65 vote, but even had it passed, I doubt the Senate would have been jumping at the opportunity to stagger their terms.

A few other notes:

SF3139, known as the "Hannah Montana" bill, was passed by the Senate. Sponsored by Sen. Ron Latz, it makes using computer software to buy up all the tickets instantly for a show a misdemeanor crime. Last year, you'll remember many Twin Cities parents paid a king's ransom for Hannah Montana tickets because of this software. The bill passed on a voice vote.

A bill to create a new "Minnesota Miracle" was proposed in both the House and the Senate. The first Minnesota Miracle legislation, passed in 1971, shifted education costs from local governments to the state so that the quality and funding of education in wealthy areas and poorer areas was more equitable.

The chief authors of the bill Rep. Mindy Greiling and Sen. Terri Bonoff, said in a press conference they hope to see it pass next year.

Here's an interesting piece on how the old Minnesota Miracle has eroded.

And the governor made his decision on the bonding bill. He decided to line-item veto some big ticket items, including the Central Corridor light-rail line. Check out the list of vetoed projects here.