Several Legislative Issues Could End Up In Voters’ Hands

By Pat Kessler, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A key Republican lawmaker wants voters to curb lawmakers’ spending by amending the Minnesota Constitution.

Senate Taxes Committee Chairwoman Julianne Ortman outlined a constitutional amendment Tuesday that would require legislative supermajorities to approve spending above 98 percent of projected revenue in a given budget period.

Extra money would go into a rainy day fund.

“We have limited government,” said Ortman, R-Chanhassen. “But you can see by the state spending history there are very few limits. In fact, we have had uncontrolled spending.”

Ortman’s amendment is one of a slew of constitutional amendments introduced in past weeks by majority Republicans.

Republicans have proposed a series of constitutional amendments including:

  • Requiring voters to show a photo ID at the polls.
  • Making Minnesota a “right to work” state.
  • Banning gay marriage by defining marriage as the union between one man and one woman.

Democrats say the amendments are one way for Republicans to get around DFL Gov. Mark Dayton because amendments bypass a governor’s signature and go directly on the ballot.

One DFLer said it’s a violation of a GOP promise to focus only on budget items.

“None of that has anything to do with this budget,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.  “They might deal with things in future years, but they don’t happen unless the voters approve it in 2012. So none of these amendments have any bearing whatsoever on the budget that we have to deal with right now.”

The Minnesota House and Senate did pass separate budget bills, but they haven’t agreed on a final budget and they haven’t sent their budget bills to the governor. That’s creating friction in the session’s final days.

“We’ve got a whole slew of folks who want to introduce constitutional amendments,” said GOP Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers. “Which isn’t also new around here.”

But Democrats, in the minority for the first time in 38 years, say the legislature is heading toward a special session if there is not a budget deal soon.

“Instead of worrying about things that are going to be on the ballot until 19 months from now,” said DFL Minority Leader Sen. Tom Bakk. “We oughta be worried about the next 19 days.”

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