Ten days. Ten days is all we have left until the clock runs out on the 2013 legislative session. We are constitutionally mandated to end our work for this session on May 20th, and yet here we are without final budget targets or final budget bills to review.
This late in the game with such little time remaining, the public will have less than 200 hours (even if all budget targets and bills are released by Monday, which I find unlikely) to examine and offer input before their final passage by the House and Senate. This process is neither open nor transparent with negotiations going on behind closed doors to determine what exactly the largest budget in state history will look like.
I will do my best to keep you informed and updated on the progress of the budget bills once we receive them back from conference committee.
Energy Bill Passes House
On Wednesday, the House had a long and spirited debate on HF956, the Omnibus Energy Bill. This bill is loaded with excessive, costly mandates which ignore market conditions and will make energy more expensive and less reliable. For example, local electric cooperatives are currently mandated to purchase more than 70 million dollars annually more energy than they are able to distribute. This cost is reflected in the monthly surcharges attached to consumers utility bills.
The most startling part of the long debate was an amendment to the bill that essentially carved out the Iron Range, allowing them to be exempt from some of the most damaging parts of the bill. It was thought that Iron Range Democrats would have voted "no" on the bill without this provision. I don't think it's fair to ask more Minnesotans to pay more for their energy bills to pay for these costly mandates all while exempting entire portions of our state. This was simply a bad piece of legislation, and I was disappointed to see it pass.
Yesterday, the House took up legislation concerning same-sex marriage which was promised both by House Speaker Thissen and Majority Leader Murphy to be only addressed after the budget issues would be resolved. This issue has proven to be highly divisive for all Minnesotans. The Senate will be taking up this issue on Monday and I predict that the Senate will approve and the Governor will sign this legislation in to law next week. This issue will soon become the law of the land here in Minnesota.
Two years ago, it was decided to let the people, not politicians define the definition of marriage by presenting an opportunity to codify the proposed definition into the state constitution. Yesterday, politicians decided what the definition of marriage is and will be codifying a revisionist definition of marriage into law.
While I have not ever opposed those who prefer to have committed same-sex relationships, I have also been very strong advocate for not redefining the definition of marriage. I supported an amendment to the bill yesterday which would have deleted all language in the bill and replaced it with the Kelly amendment providing for civil unions between same-sex couples.
I felt this compromise would have done the most for protecting the definition of marriage for many, grant the same benefits to same-sex couples, while protecting religious liberties guaranteed in our constitution. The amendment was not adopted by the majority.
This issue having been decided and soon to become law, I hope that the majority will move forward with the fiscal issues which were promised to be resolved first, rather than those issues which have proved to be divisive.
Have a great weekend,
Rep. Jerry Hertaus