Hello from St. Paul,
On April 23, the Minnesota House began the process of crafting a state budget, as comprehensive spending bills that fund all areas of state government began arriving on the House floor.
OMNIBUS BILLS ARE A POOR WAY TO LEGISLATE!
These proposals, often referred to as omnibus bills, are massive. Omnibus bills are comprised of a large number of smaller bills that are generally related in subject. The health and human services finance legislation alone is more than 1,100 pages. It is believed to be the biggest committee bill in the Legislature’s history.
Both sides of the aisle use these giant bills to either try to force legislators to vote for what they judge to be bad legislation (by putting the “good and the bad” together in one bill), or to hide their own member votes on controversial issues which makes legislators’ votes less transparent to the public. This is not fair to the public who deserve to know how their representatives vote on important issues.
I detest omnibus bills and do not believe they are a good way to do legislative business. Because of this, I coauthored a bipartisan bill that would limit the use of omnibus bills in the Minnesota House. Sadly, the bill did not get a hearing this session.
When you are dealing with legislation that is this immense, it is inevitable that you will find provisions that you want to support and others that you won’t support under any circumstances – and that’s the dilemma facing every lawmaker when these bills are before the full House. Each representative must ask themselves if the good outweighs the bad.
Take, for example, the House E-12 Education Finance omnibus bill that was approved on Tuesday. I love the fact that this bill would increase funding for our schools, and I support that. The bill also contains two of my provisions, one that would make government spending more accountable for education related grants and the other provides for schools that hold vocational tech classes outside of the school day.
However, this bill also adds more than 30 new mandates on our local schools, taking away local control from both parents and school boards - including a comprehensive sex education mandate that would drive concerning sex education requirements down to the preschool level.
The bill also guts Early Learning Scholarships intended to give parents choices for their child’s early education, as well as starts and expands expensive new long term programs while we have current financial obligations that our state has not adequately funded.
The same could be said for the giant health and human services spending bill. There are a number of provisions I could have supported in this mammoth bill, but the bill also raises the cost of health care on all Minnesotans as well as cuts funding for our nursing homes. I fought for and helped win increased funding for our nursing homes four years ago so they could stay open and our loved ones could remain close to us. How can I now vote to cut that funding, putting our local nursing homes in jeopardy of closing?
In the end, I felt I had to vote against both of these bills, even though there were a number of individual provisions in each that I could have supported.
Omnibus bills are a poor way to legislate. They force legislators to vote against things they would normally support and vote for things they would not support. They also create an incredible lack of transparency for the public. This practice must end.
CONCERNING SEX ED CURRICULUM
As mentioned above, during the K-12 debate there were concerning provisions regarding sex education that will take away parental and local school board control. If you’d like to learn more, watch my House floor comments here.
CHAPLAIN FOR THE DAY
It was such a pleasure to have Pastor David Engman of Breakthrough Ministries in St. Paul lead our opening prayer for session this morning.
Pastor Dave and Breakthrough Ministries work extensively ministering to the homeless people in the Twin Cities, as well as serving families and individuals who are impacted by substance abuse. I have gotten to know Pastor Dave the last number of years during the mutual homeless ministry that my local church in Albert Lea and his church in St. Paul work on together. We had a wonderful opening prayer this morning. Thank you, Pastor Dave!
Have a good weekend,