Big week ahead at State Capitol

/ 9 March 2012 / jennifer

T.W. Budig, ECM Publishers, March 9, 2012 –

The spotlight will focus on several area lawmakers next week at the State Capitol.

On Monday (March 12) morning the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee chaired by Sen. Warren Limmer, R-Maple Grove, is scheduled to hear the proposed Employee Freedom or so-called Right to Work constitutional amendment authored in the Senate by Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville.

House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, listens to Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, at press briefing this morning (March 9).
Zellers indicated today that he would not advocate for a Vikings’ stadium. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

This is a high-voltage piece of legislation that unions and many Democrats vehemently oppose — Democrats derisively call the amendment Right to Work for Less.

Although constitutional amendments move outside the sphere of the Governor’s Office, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday argued the provision has served to weaken the economies in the states that have it on the books.

Why would we want to “mess up” Minnesota’s economy? Dayton rhetorically asked.

A Minnesota AFL-CIO spokesman said today they expect 500 union members to appear at the State Capitol on Monday for the hearing.

Senate sergeant at arms have been busy today preparing the hallways for the expected crowd.

Among criticisms unions have of the proposed amendment is that they must, under federal law, represent and negotiate for all workers in a bargaining unit whether the workers are union members or not.

Passage of the amendment would make it illegal for them to collect their “fair share fees” from nonunion members to cover the cost of their representation, they argue.

The constitutional question proposed to be put before voters reads:

”Shall the Minnesota Constitution be amended to guarantee all citizens the individual freedom to decide to join or not join a labor union, and to pay or not pay dues to labor union?”

Thompson at a recent press conference said the proposed amendment should not be confused with recent labor unrest in Wisconsin.

“This in no way changes collective bargaining in Minnesota,” said Thompson.

“Zero,” he said.

Another area lawmaker about to catch media glare is Senate Local Government and Elections Committee Chairman Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake.

Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Lakeville, is expected to see his controversial proposed constitutional amendment go before a Senate committee on Monday (March 12). Hundreds of union members are expected at the State Capitol for the hearing. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

Senate Majority Leader David Senjem, R-Rochester, indicated today (March 9) that Sen. Julie Rosen’s Vikings’ stadium bill out today would make its first stop in Vandeveer’s committee.

The legislation contains a series of stadium puzzle pieces — extension of Minneapolis’ local sales taxes, funding channel for the Minneapolis Convention Center and other city projects, charitable gambling expansion as state revenue source, others.

It gives Vikings’ owners exclusive rights to establishing a major league soccer team at the stadium.

It contains language committing team owners to sharing the profits in the event the team is sold, but the obligation over 15 years slowly decreases to zero.

Senjem has signed on as a co-author of the stadium bill — Senate Minority Leader Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, has signed on in the No. 3 slot.

But Zellers, who’s been cool towards the stadium all along, said today that he does not believe in funding for stadiums and that he would not sign onto the House stadium bill as a co-author.

“He’s (Zellers) entitled to his position,” said Dayton, who has complained in the past that he has been left alone to do the heavy lifting on the stadium.

Apparently, Dayton can expect no future help from Zellers.

When asked this morning whether he would serve as a stadium advocate, Zellers gave a one-word answer.

“No,” he said.

Zellers would not say whether he would vote against a stadium bill — he never says in advance how he’ll vote, he explained.

First stop for the Senate Vikings’ stadium bill is expected to be the Senate Local Government and Elections Committee, chaired by Sen. Ray Vandeveer, R-Forest Lake. Vandeveer indicated a hearing will take place this coming week and that he would like to see a vote. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

But Zellers, by officially distancing himself from the stadium, raises questions in terms of legislative procedures.

Theoretically, bills need to meet certain deadlines to remain alive.

One such deadline is coming up next week.

In actuality, legislative leaders sometimes sidestep deadlines if political demands render such niceties impractical.

Senjem has suggested the Senate will not be sticklers in terms of deadlines in regard to the stadium bill.

But things are less clear in the House.

Rep. Morrie Lannings’s Vikings’ stadium bill first stop is expected to be the House Commerce and Regulatory Reform Committee.

It could also make a stop in the House Government Operations and Elections Committee, chaired by Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers.

Dayton, as he had in the past, argued today the stadium bill should have been dealt with during a special session.

Now, in the regular session, the initiative gets gummed up, he explained.

“That’s the reason the legislature and (Minneapolis) city council should support this,” Dayton said of the perceived job creation value of building a new stadium.

In another gubernatorial tidbit, Dayton this week suggested lawmakers should first look to revitalizing the Permanent School Fund Advisory Committee in order to wring more dollars out of school trust lands before taking control away from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

If an upgraded, investment savvy advisory committee fails to gain more funding, at that point attention can shift to the DNR, Dayton explained.

But lawmakers should first look to themselves, he said.