Today at Minnesota Public Radio, Tom reports on the decision by the Minnesota House Republican Caucus to continue to stoke their displays of outrage--yes, outrage--over a rule change. Sheck writes in In light of new rules, House GOP proposes avalanche of amendments:
Republicans in the Minnesota House are proposing more than 150 amendments to four noncontroversial bills that are scheduled to be on the House floor today. The action comes after Democrats who control the Minnesota House passed a set of rules that require floor amendments to be submitted 24 hours before session. GOP House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt complained that the new rules will limit debate and that Democrats are trying to "muzzle" the minority. . . .
Oh, the horror.
But looking around at rural newspapers, particularly down in Winona, the home of the 24-hour amendment filing's intellectual father, Bluestem concludes that this pearl clutching is getting about as much traction in the home districts as our friends out in the western border blizzards are gaining on the hazardous road.
Since MNDOT would prefer that we stay off the roads across the prairie paradise of Swift and Big Stone Counties, we head instead to sunny Winona, where the Daily News first praised the rule change over a week ago in an editorial accompanying a news article about the proposed change, then published a straight news article noting that the rule had gone through.
The latter article curiously made no mention of the bitter nine-hour debate one week ago.
So how is the Republican view playing on the Big River? In the February 5 article, No more business as usual: Pelowski seeks changes to House rules to stop practices he says leave public in dark, Mary Juhl reports:
State Rep. Gene Pelowski is pursuing changes to the way the House does business that he said will make the process more transparent and effective.
Pelowski, DFL-Winona, and House Speaker Paul Thissen from Minneapolis detailed the changes in interviews Monday. They include outlawing the practice of amending bills on the House floor and requiring all amendments to be filed at least a full day before a bill reaches the floor.
The idea, Pelowski said, is to avoid the kind of situation lawmakers found themselves in two years ago when they were scrambling to pass a state budget to end the government shutdown. Because of last-minute amendments that were often complex and added during marathon late-night sessions, many lawmakers ended up voting for a budget they didn’t fully understand, he said.
The article notes how Pelowski and Speaker Thissen were dealing with potential Republican resistance:
Pelowski and Thissen both said they expect some blowback from House members, but that they’ve already begun gaining support by meeting individually with members to explain why the new rules are needed.
“I think it’s essentially an issue of culture change,” Thissen said.
Pelowski said he hopes to bring the proposal —which is not a formal bill, but a request for House members to change the rules of how the chamber works — as early as Thursday.
Bluestem wasn't surprised by the rule, since advanced posting of bills and amendments shows up fairly frequently as a recommendation by open government advocacy groups. Here's a discussion of the Sunlight Foundation's ReadTheBill recommendations for Congress, which urges a 24-hour amendment deadline.
The conservative corporate bill mill, American Legislative Exchange Commission (ALEC), recommends a 24-hour amendment rule for any tax or budget bill (State Budget Reform Toolkit, page 22). One wonders if ALEC members like The Draz understand that his own conservative club is into muzzles.
GOP lifted so-called 'gag-rule' in sign of good faith in 2011. DFL re-imposes it. Sets bad tone for 2013 session. #mnleg— Steve Drazkowski (@SteveDraz) February 11, 2013
The Winona Daily New editorial board endorsed the change in House rule changes would bring transparency:
Chances are you haven’t given much thought to the rules that govern the Minnesota House of Representatives.
But rules are important — especially when it comes to elected officials doing public business in public. . . .
As it stands, House members can propose legislation at the end of session, in the middle of the night, with little notice.
It gives fellow representatives precious little time to read and understand the proposed legislation and the potential impact on the state.
Worse, it provides the public with virtually no opportunity to review and comment on proposed bills. . . .
An open government means citizens have every right — and, we’ll argue, every responsibility — to participate in and scrutinize the process. . . .
It’s a move we should all support.
Read the whole thing at the WDN. On Saturday, the WDN reported in Pelowski leads changes to House rules for more efficient, clear lawmaking:
The Minnesota House of Representatives made rule changes this week that advocates say will lead to cleaner legislation and avoid late-night floor sessions with lawmakers changing bills on the fly.
The new rules will no longer allow House members to substantially amend bills on the floor, and will require all amendments to be filed at least a full day before a bill reaches the floor. . . .
“I’m hopeful that 10 years from now, people will look back and go, ‘They ever did it a different way?’” said Rep. Gene Pelowski, DFL-Winona, who led the effort to make the changes. “This seems the best way to do it.”
The changes will also give legislators and the public more time to read and understand any bill amendments before a final vote . . .
Pelowski said the rules will be tested for the first time Monday.
Just like on the other articles, the only reader comments support Pelowski's rules. But instead of testing the rules, the House Republicans are having a publc temper tantrum featuring over 150 nuisance amendments.
How special. But at least the Republicans appear to be planning on holding a few seats in the House after the 2014 election by engaging in little-noticed procedural game-playing. As a ballot-box winner, this certainly beats the implied threat nearby Preston Republican Greg Davids' made about the bonding bill.
Rachel Stassen-Berger at the Star Tribune reported in Capitol rule change touches off partisan spat:
. . .For hour after hour Monday night and early Tuesday, GOP members argued that the rule smacks of tyranny, shenanigans and mistrust. "The only thing that the minority can do is talk," Rep. Greg Davids, the House's most senior Republican, said afterward.
During the debate, Davids even suggested to colleagues that Democrats might find passing a borrowing bill for capital projects particularly tough this year. Borrowing bills require a supermajority, so DFLers cannot pass one alone.
After a night's sleep, Davids said his suggestion had not been a threat and that moods at the Capitol are "very fluid." He said he would not guarantee that a bonding bill would go nowhere, but added that in the wake of the rules debate, if he had to vote now on a borrowing bill, he'd vote no. That would leave the fate of potentially $500 million worth of statewide building projects uncertain.
Davids needed a few hours to moderate his bellicose rhetoric. Bluestem suggests that Davids is leading by example here--and it's an example that underscores the wisdom of the 24-hour-rule.
Photo: Snow job, or the Republican vision of the rule changes as a "super mega ultra gag rule." They do make a fetish out of catch phrases some times.
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