Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Laws and Sausages

I've mentioned them several times in the last couple of weeks. There's an old adage, "There are two things you don't like watch being made -- laws and sausages". The recently concluded legislative session confirmed this adage in spades. I don't think I've seen a session where the process was more convoluted and distorted. Normally, bills are introduced in the Senate and House, pass both bodies, and if there are differences, resolved in a conference committee then sent to the Governor. This year, with the governor's veto of omnibus bills, the same bills would be placed on another bill and go through the same process. Some of these omnibus bills were debated three different times on the Senate floor.

Also, these omnibus bills were "rewritten" in the Rules Committee in the Senate, not by the actual members of the conference committees. This gave extraordinary power to Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller who chairs the Rules Committee. For instance, in one of the omnibus E-12 education finance bills they basically rewrote the bill, sent it to the floor and then to the House. The way the process works, when those bills passed the Senate and went to the House, the House had to vote for them up or down which means they couldn't add amendments. So Pogemiller was setting policy for both the Senate and House in some instances.

When the education bill passed yesterday, the biggest gripe was the financial disparity between Minneapolis and outstate school districts. In some instances the gap will grow by $1,000 over the next two years to around
$5,000 per student. The disparity worsened thanks to the ability of Pogemiller to have a direct hand in the writing of the bills.

Pogemiller, a senator since 1982 and previous chair of the Senate Tax and Education Committees was known for using the system to his advantage and wearing down and cajoling his opponents to get what he wanted. Well, his
modus operandi now impacts the entire legislature.