House Speaker Kurt Zellers cannot understand why everyone is so interested in the Right to Work shenanigans on the House floor Thursday night.
“By no means is it shenanigans,” Zellers assured reporters Friday morning.
For those who missed the video, Rep. Doug Wardlow, a first-term Republican from Eagan, made an abortive attempt shift a proposed constitutional amendment that would make union membership optional in Minnesota, into to a different and possibly more receptive committee.
The maneuver – a breach legislative protocol, since Wardlow wasn’t the bill’s author – brought floor action to a grinding halt. Zellers read the motion, then turned expectantly to the chamber door, waiting for Wardlow to appear. Several awkward minutes of silence followed, before Zellers concluded the session without acting on the motion.
Wardlow put in a brief appearance as the session was ending but left without commenting. Zellers declined to say what the GOP caucus had to say to the freshman lawmaker behind closed doors that evening.
“It’s a simple motion on the floor that happens every day. I haven’t noticed such interest in the past,” he said.
The proposed consitutional amendment, known as Right to Work or the Employee Freedom act, depending on who you ask, draws intense interest every time it moves in the legislature -- or doesn’t move.
The bill appears stalled in the Senate, where it barely passed out of committee after a contentious hearing that drew more than a thousand pro-union protesters. Afterward, Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem said he doubted whether there are enough votes in GOP caucus to pass it this session.
So the focus turned to the House, where Right to Work has yet to have a hearing. Zellers said there’s stil time in this session to act on the bill, but his legislative priorities for the moment are on other issues.
“We had a big, big week this week. Went through a lot of things. We had Voter ID, tax relief and healthcare reform. I think that’s a pretty good week,” he said.
Beer and football fans will also be pleased to know that the House omnibus liquor bill last week that includes a bill that would allow alcohol sales in every level of the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, not just the skyboxes.
Senate Minority Leader Paul Thissen said Zellers’ big week was “a bad week for middle class Minnesotans in the legislature, but a good week for rich corporations.”
As for Thursday night’s floor show, he said: “You saw, on the House floor, the Republican caucus basically imploding.”