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Minnesota House debates child care bill but delays final action

Posted by: Jim Ragsdale under Gov. Mark Dayton, Minnesota legislature, Democrats, Republicans Updated: May 19, 2013 - 1:08 PM

The all-night showdown over whether to allow child-care providers and home-care workers to vote on unionization turned out to be just the first act.

The Minnesota House took up the bill in the wee hours of the Saturday night-Sunday morning session and debated it for about five hours. The bill was then laid on the table and the House adjourned until noon Sunday.

The sponsor, Rep. Michael Nelson, DFL-Brooklyn Park, said the when the House returns, it will take up whatever budget bills are ready for final action.

The debate on the unionization bill will resume at some point Sunday or Monday, he said. It can be taken up for further discussion at any time. The session must end by midnight Monday.

Nelson was cheered by union activists as he left the chamber early Sunday. He said he was able to defeat all hostile amendments and continues to hope he can pass the bill and send it to Gov. Mark Dayton, who supports it.

"The plan right now is to go home and get some sleep," Nelson said after the all-nighter. "We'll resume it some time tomorrow. We've got budget bills that will be coming forward, that we've gotten back from the Senate. We'll take the priorities up first, take care of the priorities for the state of Minnesota, get our budget passed.

"At that time, when we can, we'll take up this bill again."

Asked if he could pass the bill, Nelson said, "I hope so. I wouldn't do all this work if I didn't think so."

The bill stirred the Senate to a  17-hour debate last week that broke records for length. The Senate passed the bill by only three votes.

Both sides had members outside the House chambers throughout the all-night debate, and said they would return Sunday afternoon.

Earlier on Saturday the House passed the K-12 education and environment-agriculture funding bills, while  the Senate passed the environment-agriculture bills. Among budget bills still to be acted on are transportation finance, state government finance and taxes.

In the unionization bill, opposition has focused on the child-care portion because providers run their own small, private businesses, and the application of the union model to such work is a stretch even for some Democrats.

Based on years of field organizing by two unions – the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU – the bill would allow union votes among two groups: In home family child care providers, both licensed and unlicensed, who care for children receiving a state subsidy; and Personal Care Assistants, or PCAs, who are employed by the person they care for, generally a relative, and who also work in the home.

Estimates of the total number of workers vary. The unions estimate the total for both groups at 21,000. The state Department of Human Services says the number of child-care providers who would be affected at 12,712 – a number that does not include affect PCAs.

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