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Hot Dish Politics: If at first you don't succeed, try, try again to pass your bill next year

  • Article by: Jennifer Brooks
  • Star Tribune
  • June 15, 2013 - 5:33 PM

There’s always next year.

That’s the mantra that consoles anyone who backed a bill that didn’t make it through the Legislature this year: the antibullying bill, or Sunday liquor sales, or an increase in the state minimum wage, or the bonding bill that would have funded the new civic center or bridge project in your hometown. If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.

“I’m confident we will get that bill done next year,” said state Rep. Jim Davnie, DFL-Minneapolis, sponsor of the Safe and Supportive Schools Act. His bill would have changed the way school districts handle, report and prevent bullying — had it made it to the Senate floor and passed there before the session ended.

To supporters, the bill was a desperately needed change to the state’s current 37-word bullying statute. To opponents, it seemed unnecessary, intrusive and expensive.

In a letter to his constituents, Davnie said the DFL-controlled Legislature accomplished many of its goals in its first year back in the majority, but not all of them.

“I want to provide some insight into the disappointments of the session, and the steps that will be taken moving forward,” he wrote as he invited constituents to a town hall meeting this week where he and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray, DFL-Minneapolis, will discuss the things accomplished, or not accomplished, in 2013 and start planning for 2014.

Davnie’s list of disappointments includes not only his Safe and Supportive Schools bill, but legislation that would have imposed tighter background checks on firearms, new funding for state transportation projects, and a bill that would have raised the current state minimum wage of $6.15 an hour. Every member of the Legislature has his or her own list, as do plenty of Minnesotans.

Sometimes, groups want to make sure that a bill that failed one year fails again the next.

At Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life (MCCL), spokesman Bil Poehler said the group is ready to team up with unions and other activists to fight any return of a bill that would put interest groups under new scrutiny at election time. The electioneering communications bill would have required such groups to file reports with state elections officials, documenting how much they spend when, say, they send out mailers about a candidate’s voting record on abortion (or labor issues, or the environment, or gay marriage) in the weeks before an election. The MCCL fears the reporting requirements could be “onerous,” Poehler said.

There are advantages that come with a do-over session. Davnie’s bill had to clear five committees on its way through the House this year. In 2014, he said, it will bounce back to the last committee to hear the bill, which should return it to the floor for another vote.

The same goes for the groups that lobbied for these maybe-next-year bills. The Minnesota Safe Schools For All Coalition is adding new members, including advocates for students with disabilities and recent immigrants. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts are the coalition’s newest members. “We were disappointed it didn’t pass. We just ran out of time,” said Monica Meyer, executive director of OutFront Minnesota, one of the groups leading the push for the new legislation. But in 2014, the clock resets. “We’re confident we can get this bill passed.”

Coming up

Rep. Jim Davnie and Sen. Patricia Torres Ray will hold a town hall meeting from 5-6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Corcoran Park Recreation Center, 3334 20th Av. S, Minneapolis. Check with your hometown lawmakers to see when they’ll be holding a similar forum in your area.

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