Why Procedural Motions Sometimes Matter

When making a judgment on legislators, most individuals and interest groups focus on the “big votes”. In other words, the vote on an entire bill rather than an obscure amendment, or a vote to override a veto rather than a procedural motion. Most often, votes on procedural motions are split down party lines, and usually ignored by parties and interest groups. However, when Minnesota’s version of the debt laden porkulus bill was considered this past week, there were very important procedural motions in the House and Senate that should speak very loudly and clearly about how the Democrat majority in both Houses of the Legislature are playing games with the taxpayers’ credit card.

On Monday, February 22, 2010, the debt bill came back to the House from the House-Senate conference committee for repassage. Republican Leader Kurt Zellers moved to reject the conference repoert and return the bill to conference committe. The motion failed, mostly along party lines, and the conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Senate. In the Senate, Sen. Warren Limmer (R – Maple Grove) made the motion to reject the conference report and return the bill to the conference committee. Again, the motion was defeated mostly along party lines. The conference committee report was adopted and the bill was repassed and sent to the Governor. 

Or so we thought. That’s what usually happens to a bill that passes both bodies of the Legislature. However, the Democrat leadership, re-thinking the prospect of a borrowing bill at the Sham-wow price of $999,999,000 getting vetoed in its entirety by the Governor, then hung onto the bill and put the conference committee, now known as a “working group” back to work.

Capitol insiders don’t remember this kind of maneuvering happening since early statehood days when a bill to move the capitol to St. Peter mysterously disappeared.

Democrat leadership could have just listened to the minority concerns that the bill was too large and would be vetoed by the Governor. But they instead opted to defeat the motions by Republicans to reject the conference report. Rather than admit that Republicans are right, Democrat leadership chose to be the ones in control and use a procedure rarely, if ever, used to keep their debt bill from getting vetoed.

This cannot be good for House Speaker Margaret Anderson-Kelliher’s (DFL – Minneapolis) reputation as a leader as she seeks her party’s endorsement for Governor.

Representatives from the East Central Minnesota area voting with Democrat leadership were Tim Faust, Jeremy Kalin, and Gail Kulick Jackson.

Rep. Bill Hilty joined Republicans in voting to send the bill back to conference committee and voting against final passage of the bill. Let’s not kid ourselves. Rep. Hilty didn’t suddenly become a fiscal conservative. He voted ageinst final passage because the bill did not contain the tens of millions of dollars for the Moose Lake Sexual Offender Program expansion in his district.

Rob Eastlund (R – Isanti) was excused from this late evening session and did not vote.

In the Senate, Sen. Lisa Fobbe and Sen. Rick Olseen, both Democrats, sided with their leadership on these votes. Sen. Tony Lourey (D – Kerrick) sided with Republicans, presumably for the same reasons as Rep. Hilty.

Democrat leadership can talk bipartisanship all they want, but if they continue to stonewall the minority, even when they know they’re right, their talk of bipartisanship will fall on deaf ears.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an employee of the Minnesota House of Representatives with the Republican Caucus. This website is not paid for nor operated by any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party. Opinions expressed herein are strictly those of the website administrator, and not necessarily those of any legislator, legislative caucus, candidate or political party.

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