Republican plans to send Gov. Mark Dayton a voter ID bill on Friday were thwarted at the last minute when Democrats claimed authors had violated open meeting rules.
In a letter to Speaker Kurt Zellers and a speech on the floor, Rep. Ryan Winkler said leaders of the conference committee resolving two voter ID bills did not properly notify interested parties they were meeting last Saturday.
Normally, a relevant committee will send a listserv e-mail alerting staffers and the public that there is a conference committee scheduled. That never happened, according to DFL lawmakers and Sherri Knuth with the League of Women Voters.
Winkler added that the committee adopted some additional language days later without having a public discussion or taking a formal vote.
One of the conferees, DFL Rep. Denise Dittrich, said on the floor that she was "a little suspicious of some of the activity that had just taken place" after signing the conference committee report. Dittrich was one of two Democrats at the Legislature to vote yes on the original bill.
Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer, the bill's author, maintained that the conference committee played by the rules. She noted the meeting time was posted online.
“My belief is that I have done everything that I could in regards to the process of the conference committee," Kiffmeyer said. She then said she would support a motion to delay the vote until Saturday afternoon.
The issue is now being reviewed to see if any rules were broken. If they were, the conference committee could reconvene and re-sign the bill.
Joint Rules of the Senate and House state that: "As much as practical, meetings of Conference Committees shall be announced as far in advance as possible, with the intent to provide a 24-hour notice, and actions taken shall be agreed upon in an open meeting."
Knuth, a close follower and opponent of the bill, said it was resolved in an unusual fashion.
"To amend the bill out of the public eye and not reconvene the committee to approve of the amendment is abnormal," Knuth said. "Often committees will do some negotiating outside of the public eye, but then they reconvene in public to announce the change and approve of it."