Friday, May 4, 2007

Term - "Domestic Partnership" removed from state employees provision in omnibus bill

At MFC's Legislative Luncheon last February, Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he would veto any legislation that contained domestic partnerships for same-sex couples. According to the Star Tribune, "DFLers bowed to the threat of a veto by Gov. Time Pawlenty on Thursday," and removed the domestic partner language from the omnibus bill.

At this time it is not clear whether the provision, or just the term "domestic partner" has been removed. More later.

MFC recognizes that the Governor's veto is the catalyst behind eliminating efforts to redefine marriage. "We thank Governor Pawlenty for his commitment to protecting marriage from OutFront's strategy to achieve same-sex marriage via incremental steps. I encourage supporters of traditional marriage to let the Governor know they appreciate his support and encourage him veto every bill that would enable same-sex unions, domestic partnerships, civil unions or vague language designed to create a loophole, " said Chuck Darrell, director of communications.

(Star Tribune article and link)

Domestic partner benefits are nixed
Yielding to a veto threat, legislators dropped health care benefits for state employees' domestic partners for this session.

Norman Draper, Star Tribune
State health insurance for the domestic partners of state employees appears to be a dead issue, at least for this session.

House and Senate DFLers bowed to the threat of a veto by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday, eliminating language in one of their major spending bills that would have allowed domestic partners, including same-sex partners, of state employees to be eligible for health care benefits.

Instead, members of the state government finance conference committee called for a study to determine how much it would cost the state to insure "significant individuals" who live in the same house as a state employee. That designation could cover same-sex couples, but could also include "two elderly siblings who live together and so forth," said Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, co-chair of the conference committee.

Kahn's original bill would have extended health insurance coverage exclusively to gay and lesbian couples.
"It's a disappointment," said Scott Cooper, lobbyist for OutFront Minnesota, which advocates for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender causes. "I do understand their desire to accomplish something and to somehow accommodate the governor's wishes in the hopes of avoiding a veto."

Cost also a concern

Pawlenty had threatened to veto the entire state government finance bill because both Senate and House versions originally had a provision that would have allowed same-sex partners of state employees to get health insurance benefits.

"That was one of the reasons why we changed the language," Kahn said of the veto threat.
Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said "we really haven't had a chance to review" the new conference committee language on a health insurance study, but added that "generally, the state government finance bill has a lot of question marks."

Health insurance coverage for state employees currently includes only spouses and dependent children.
Tom Prichard, president of the Minnesota Family Council, and a prominent opponent of same-sex marriage and civil unions, said he feared that even the study approved by the conference committee might continue to advance an agenda intended eventually to lead to approval of same-sex marriage.

"It's a bit curious that they would need a study," Prichard said. "I think they're trying to move in that [same-sex marriage] direction. I'm a bit wary of that."

Sen. Don Betzold, DFL-Fridley, the other co-chair of the committee, said that while the threat of a veto was an important reason to strike the same-sex coverage provision, he was also concerned about the potential cost of the House version, which would expand coverage to "significant individuals."

The Senate version of the bill would have required the "domestic partner" of a state employee to be eligible for state health insurance, but that person would have had to pay the entire insurance premium, costing the state nothing. The House provision split the payments between the state and the insured.

The state government finance bill funds such state operations as the Legislature, the attorney general's office, and the governor's office. The conference committee approved spending $552 million over the next two years, an increase of five percent over current spending.

Norman Draper • 612-673-4547 •