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Car bills getting totaled

Posted at 3:43 PM on May 15, 2008 by Michael Marchio (4 Comments)

Today wasn't a good day for car-related legislation. This afternoon, the Senate Business, Industry and Jobs Committee took up SF481/HF863, the California emissions standards bill, carried by Sen. John Marty (DFL-Brooklyn Park) and Rep. Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park). The bill would model Minnesota's emission standards after the state of California's which have been adopted by 14 states already and are stricter than the federal standards. It was amended in committee to make exceptions for the ethanol industry and farm machinery, and won the support of the Minnesota Farmers Union.

Sen. Jim Metzen (DFL-South St. Paul), chair of the committee, had the solemn look of an executioner as he called for the role, which he more or less was for this bill. Any committee chair can request to see a bill if it falls in any way under their committee's jurisdiction, and Sen. Metzen requested to see this one. Minority Leader Seifert suggested in his press conference last week that if it got a hearing here, it probably wouldn't pass, and he was right.

It was voted down 7 to 8. Here's how members of that committee voted.

Ayes - Sens. Terri Bonoff, Jim Carlson, Ron Latz, Geoff Michel, Steve Murphy, Mary Olson, and Linda Scheid.

Nays - Sens. Metzen, Tom Bakk, Dick Day, Chris Gerlach, Joe Gimse, Amy Koch, Julie Rosen, Rod Skoe, Dan Sparks and David Tomassoni.

So if the DFL has a majority on every committee, how can a bill be stopped? The answer is easy: committee makeup. Sens. Bakk, Skoe and Tomassoni all hail from the Iron Range, and three of them on one committee are a formidable voting block. If a bill doesn't pass muster with them, it probably can't get through. Switch their votes and this thing passes 10-7. Last year, the smoking ban, another bill that enjoyed more support from city lawmakers than rural ones, was almost killed in this committee, too.

They weren't the only ones who crossed over. Sen. Geoff Michel, a Republican, voted for the California standards.

Here's what Sen. Metzen said after the vote was taken.

"Let me just make a statement that there's nobody in this room who not for clean air and clean water and all these things we're discussing. So we're on the same page on that. It's the island effect and some of the other issues like that," referring to the fact that Minnesota would be the only state in the Midwest to adopt the standards. Most states that do are on the East and West coasts.

The primary offense for seat belts also looks like a long shot to make it into law. Rep. Paul Thissen (DFL-Minneapolis) tried to attach the provision to an animal husbandry bill. Animal husbandry, for all the city dwellers, is the breeding of livestock. Are you thinking there might be a germaneness issue there? Your lawmakers were. Rep. Gene Pelowski (DFL-Winona) was in the Speaker's chair, and turned the question over to the body to decide whether to call it germane or not. Rep. Bud Heidgerken (R-Freeport) said told the body if they rule this germane, there's an amendment for smoking shacks he'd like them to meet. They voted 78-55 to rule seat belts not germane to animal husbandry. This one probably wasn't that close of a call, but I like it when its turned over to the body. It saves an appeal of the speaker's ruling.

The Senate is pretty much done for the day, but Majority Leader Pogemiller announced that they'll be meeting tomorrow for a rare Friday session. The House is in recess right now but they may decide to take up some whoppers, like the transportation policy bill, now sans the primary seat belt law, or maybe the budget bill when they reconvene around 6:00. Check back tonight, if the House tries anything crazy, the Commish will let you know.

We've had some great comments speculating on end-of session strategy, and I'd like to keep it going here. If MFL managers were majority lawmakers, what would you be trying to turn the session into a triumph of policy strategery.


Comments (4)


I'd send a bonding bill with three items, Central Corridor, VA nursing home, and Vermillion SP to the gov. There's no reason why the bonding proposals need to be part of the "global agreement," as they happen in a different budget. It's too late for this, since it would have been better as a strategy last week, but use the gov's bonding wants to eliminate a source of leverage. Remember, he's publicly favored all three of these projects.

In the end, the more leverage you can take off the table for the governor and the legislature, the better off the legislature is. His leverage is limited to an unallotment threat and the Central Corridor at this point, IMO. The first is a hollow threat, and the second might have been better dealt with earlier.

Another thing I was thinking about is how to tap the HC Access Fund in ways that would be palatable for both sides. For example, propose an 80 million dollar or so expansion of Minnesota Care and an additional amount of shifting from general fund revenue to HCAF funding - then use the GF money to buy down the deficit. It's sleight of hand that would only be palatable if DFL leaders could claim that they got increased coverage out of the shift, but there's over 200 million in that account, and as long as it paid for something in addition to simply substituting for GF money, it might sell.

Posted by Aaron | May 15, 2008 8:41 PM


I'm confused by your 7 - 10 count, since the names listed with the Nays numbered eight instead of 10. [by my count]

Posted by Nancy | May 16, 2008 12:02 AM


Oops, thanks for pointing that out Nancy. I added the other two lawmakers who voted nay, Sen. Dan Sparks and Sen. Dick Day.

Posted by Michael Marchio | May 16, 2008 12:39 PM


Thanks Commish. You're doing a great job with all this tracking, but once in awhile even we dizzy blondes can catch you coasting.

Posted by Nancy | May 16, 2008 8:21 PM